Wild Wild Life at Edinburgh’s Doubtfire Gallery

Sarah Knox, 'Emerald glints on the headland, Colonsay', oil on canvas
Sarah Knox, 'Emerald glints on the headland, Colonsay', oil on canvas

The Wild Bunch

Wed - Sun 12:00 - 16:00 or by appointment

From: 14 Jun 2023

To: 29 Jul 2023

Doubtfire Gallery
28 North West Circus Place
Edinburgh & the Lothians

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This joint exhibition by five contrasting artists depicts their personal vision on a theme of flora, fauna and other wild things. 

Sarah Knox grew up on the North Norfolk coast, which inspired her fascination for the dramatic seashore, the shifting clouds and reflection of light on water. Her medium is oil paint but a masterly technique creates the impression of a watercolour. Pigment is applied to textured watercolour paper, gesso or canvas, creating fluid pools of colour to evoke an abstracted sense of place. 

Sarah Knox, 'Sea drifts and salt spray', oil on canvas
Sarah Knox, ‘Sea drifts and salt spray’, oil on canvas

In Sea drifts and salt spray a wild, watery splash of azure blue blends with shades of sand, ochre and gold, composed with delicate feathery streaks. Empty white gaps on the canvas separate land and sea like a microscopic view of the environment to express ‘the power of the sea and the feeling of coastal erosion’. 

With similar fluid style, Midnight light fades, Isle of Iona, captures the exquisite magical night sky looking over the Sound of Mull at midsummer. The mesmerising mass of cobalt, indigo and Prussian blues washes over the canvas with atmospheric motion leading the eye to the apparent silhouetted coastline of the distant island.  

Sarah Knox, 'Midnight light fades, Isle of Iona', oil on canvas
Sarah Knox, ‘Midnight light fades, Isle of Iona’, oil on canvas

The Hebridean islands offer the ideal expanse of sky and purity of light. Emerald glints on the headland, Colonsay,’ the palette of russet, copper, mustard yellow and grass green depicts the sweep of machair fringing the sandy beach.   

Sarah Knox, 'Emerald glints on the headland, Colonsay', oil on canvas
Sarah Knox, ‘Emerald glints on the headland, Colonsay’, oil on canvas

The lush tranquillity of gardens, woodlands and country estates she knows well is the focus for Esther Donaldson,the brevity of life, beauty, toil, energy, death and rebirth, the seasons of life. I want my art to reflect these seasons’.   

The Pond is a haphazard pattern of swirls and squirls with thick acrylic paint in contrasting olive, forest, moss, pine greens and meandering river of blue – such a calligraphic flow of colour, a vibrant flourish of Springtime growth. 

Esther Donaldson, 'The Pond', acrylic on paper
Esther Donaldson, ‘The Pond’, acrylic on paper

With a more realistic approach, On Reflection is based on the lily pond at Gosford Estate. Here are bright emerald leaves, shimmering sunlight, water lilies and a border of flowers. In Monet’s paintings of his beloved home at Giverny, he saw water lilies as a natural bridge between garden, water and sky to immerse the viewer in the beauty of nature. This is exactly what Donaldson does so effectively here through the verdant greenery and glowing glint of the sunlight on the translucent water. 

Esther Donaldson, 'On Reflection', acrylic on canvas
Esther Donaldson, ‘On Reflection’, acrylic on canvas

‘Working quickly building up layers, the work takes on its own life and often ends up in a way I could never have predicted or planned’. – Esther Donaldson 

 At Cockenzie House there’s a Wild Garden depicted here in a tangled jungle of twigs, stalks and leaves. You can almost hear the buzz of bees and the flutter of butterflies.  

Esther Donaldson, 'Wild Garden', acrylic on paper
Esther Donaldson, ‘Wild Garden’, acrylic on paper

Michael G Clark is renowned for impressionistic scenes picturing the relaxed, romantic French lifestyle of people, streets and cafés as well as everyday objects – a bottle of wine, an elegant Little Black Dress and the natural beauty of flowers.  

‘My painting of flowers started when I saw Paula Pryke’s shop in Islington, walls of flower of one colour rather than the generic ‘garage’ flowers. Her styling really wanted me to paint them. Flower arranging is an art form.’ – Michael G Clark

With a glorious golden explosion of colour, Yellow Lilies, the Artist’s Garden in Summer depicts the glossy green leaves and trumpet shape of the petals. No wonder the artist wanted to capture this moment as day lilies suddenly bloom in late Spring with each individual blossom lasting just a single day. 

Michael G Clark, 'Yellow Lilies, the Artist's Garden', acrylic on watercolour paper on board
Michael G Clark, ‘Yellow Lilies, the Artist’s Garden’, acrylic on watercolour paper on board

Here too are still-life studies of hand-picked flowers arranged in much-loved, handcrafted ceramic jugs brought home from travels in France and Spain. The sweep of broad brushstrokes adds an impressionistic flair to Spanish jug with Garden Flowers, blending the buttercream background across the yellow buds, which defines the contour of the earthenware vase. 

Michael G Clark, 'Spanish jug with garden flowers', oil on linen
Michael G Clark, ‘Spanish jug with garden flowers’, oil on linen

Tulips were imported into Europe during the 16th century via the spice routes and this exotic flower became a status symbol of the wealthy. As ‘Tulipmania’ swept through Holland they became a popular subject in still-life paintings such as Jan Brueghel the Elder’s Chrysanthemums, Narcissi, roses, irises and other flowers in a glass vase (1608-10). The other flowers are very desirable pale pink and striped yellow and red tulips. 

The soft, plump oval shape of a tulip is a thing of beauty indeed and here’s a bunch of five mauve-pink and off-white tulips, the straight and curving stalks with green leaves, attractively displayed in a shiny blue porcelain jug. 

Michael G Clark, 'Tulips', oil on linen
Michael G Clark, ‘Tulips’, oil on linen

Christian Moore previously had an illustrious career in London working as a fashion illustrator for global brands and magazines such as Chanel, Vogue and Tatler, but moved to Scotland to raise his family. The rural environment led to a change in artistic genre in which trees and figures express the connection between nature and humanity. 

The solitary tree in Summer nights is sculpted in a metallic 3D dimensions, the innovative medium of ‘cold cast’ bronze crafted with a fine bronze powder and resin. The background space which frames the tree is akin to smoothly-polished marble accomplished by cracking the painted surface, while the snowy white foreground is a textured layering of sand, paint and plaster. 

Christian Moore, 'Summer nights', cold cast bronze and mineral paint and sand on hessian
Christian Moore, ‘Summer nights’, cold cast bronze and mineral paint and sand on hessian

‘As with fashion illustration, the skill is in making the work feel elegant, fluid and effortless whilst this may be far from the truth. I want the viewer to feel a sense of calm when looking at my pieces’. – Christian Moore

The deceptive simplicity of these paintings is based on a ‘less is more’ approach. Like a charming caricature for a child’s story book, All weather friends is dextrously designed with balance, line, and shape, the rounded curve of the umbrella echoing the bicycle wheels which skim over the ground, the dog eagerly looking ahead, while Moore’s signature sketchy shadow evokes a shaft of sunlight on this rainy day.  

Christian Moore, 'All Weather friends', cold cast bronze with mineral paint and sand on hessian
Christian Moore, ‘All Weather friends’, cold cast bronze with mineral paint and sand on hessian

Most aptly named, The Wild Bunch is a delightful, humorous illustration, the pig and goose protecting their wheelbarrow’s domain from the fox and rabbit, like a modern Aesop’s fable, the silhouetted animals shimmering with the green sheen of the sculpted bronze.

Christian Moore, 'The Wild Bunch', Cold cast bronze with mineral paint and sand on hessian
Christian Moore, ‘The Wild Bunch’, Cold cast bronze with mineral paint and sand on hessian

Having had this sneak peek of his imaginative artwork, the good news is that Christian Moore will be back with a solo show at Doubtfire gallery from 16 October to 16 November, 2023. 

Steven Lindsay presents a line-up of his contemporary classic-style portraits in rather serious sombre mood. However, these don’t seem to reflect the theme of the wild world of animals, flowers, gardens, trees and seashore.

After studying at Glasgow School of Art I embarked on a career in the music industry and also worked as a designer, art director and illustrator before returning to painting. The similarities I found between music and painting are striking, in the composition, subject matter, rhythm, harmony and even choosing a title for a particular piece.’ – Steven Lindsay

Steven Lindsay, 'Riptide', charcoal on paper
Steven Lindsay, ‘Riptide’, charcoal on paper

Two figurative studies capture the joy and freedom of swimming: the charcoal drawing Riptide shows the concentration in the face, extended arms and flexed fingers; perhaps, given the title, she is about to experience a bracing dip, wild-swimming in the sea. 

Steven Lindsay, 'Push the zeitgeist', oil on canvas
Steven Lindsay, ‘Push the zeitgeist’, oil on canvas

Push the Zeitgeist depicts the focused facial expression, eyelids closed, taut muscles and athletic physique of a swimmer as if standing on the diving block preparing for a competitive race. Such a subtle, effective use of dappled light on limbs (well-observed imperfections of skin tone) – and the cool contrast between her white costume and black background evoke the quiet intimacy of classic Rembrandt portraiture.

With thanks to Viv Devlin for this review.

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