Christmas Exhibition 2005

28 Nov 2005 in Highland, Visual Arts & Crafts

Kilmorack Gallery, by Beauly, and Castle Gallery, Inverness, until 24 December 2005

Unbound Love, Leonie Gibbs. © Kilmorack Gallery

WITH CHRISTMAS FAST approaching and the cold weather upon us, Kilmorack and Castle Galleries provide a great excuse to head indoors to view and purchase some exceptional work.

Kilmorack Gallery is true to form in its representation of its regular artists and the introduction of striking new work. Included in the Gallery’s Christmas show are works by Allan MacDonald, Lotte Glob, James Hawkins, Michael Forbes, James MacCallum, Leonie Gibbs, Eugene Vronskya, Peter White, Ronald Rae, Shona Leitch, Angus Clyne and Helen Denerley

Denerley as always displays amazing ingenuity and skill in her transformation of reclaimed mechanical parts into sculpted animal forms. ‘Douglas’, a lemur sculpted from motorbike and industrial parts, is no exception and is the form and essence of this animal brought to life.

Glenfinnan artist Angus Clyne’s large ‘Elm Vessel’ is a stunning piece with a sandblasted surface that has all the timeless form and presence of an ancient ceramic dug from the earth. There is something very elemental about the way this artist works with the natural shape and grain of his hardwood materials.
‘Maple Bowl’ is another example. The pale coloured wood contrasts with the blackened rim reminiscent in shape of a mountain range encircling the bowl. There is a sense of the monumental in this work that is seldom seen in the art of woodturning.

Eugene Vronskaya’s solo show next summer at Kilmorack promises to be one of the most exciting exhibitions scheduled for next year.

Shona Leitch’s large white ceramic vessels ‘River Flow’ and ‘Pebble Washed’ are characterised by their sensuous, organic curves that evoke the forces of nature, particularly the element of water. They have a grace and purity about them as well as the simple beauty found in nature, the smoothness of a pebble rounded by water both in its shape and tactile quality.

Leonie Gibbs has a number of works on display including oil on canvas, bronze sculpture and mixed media on paper. The poetic and idealised ‘Unbounded Love’ and ‘Chased’ are two sculptures in bronze that are deeply romantic in sentiment but no less affecting.

‘Chased’ depicts one figure turned from the other with the plinth on which they stand stretched out between them in an evocation of yearning, while ‘Unbounded Love’ fuses two figures together in the line of their mutual vision, one winged, the other human.

Both the oil on canvas ‘Oh My Ass’ and series of mixed media works ‘Highland Line’ 1,2,3,4,5 and 6 are reminiscent in style of ‘The Blue Rider’ group of German Expressionists, both in colour and loose handling of brushwork. After a successful show in London I hope we may see more of Gibbs’ painting exhibited in the Highlands.

The oil paintings of Eugene Vronskaya in this exhibition have a quiet but intense psychological impact that is achieved not primarily with colour but in the grey focus on everyday familiar objects. Vronskaya seems to merge the familiar with a shadow of violence and the macabre, then just as quickly diffuses this sinister quality with the humour in her painting titles.

This quality comes to the fore in a work like ‘Morning Massacre, a black glove slung over the taps of a familiar kitchen sink, an eerie shadow cast by the toy soldiers on the table, and the only real colour in this grey world the bright green of the washing up liquid and a bloody suggestion in paint on a dead bird’s neck.

‘The Baron’s Flying Machine’ (oil on board) and ‘Preparing For Take Off’ have a child-like playfulness which is somehow denied by the artist’s palette. Similarly, ‘First Snow’, a window ledge still life of black gloves, a grotesque mask and child’s toys, has a chill in it that has nothing to do with the weather depicted outside as the first flakes of snow begin to fall.

Her work has great strength as well as ambiguity and her solo show next summer at Kilmorack promises to be one of the most exciting exhibitions scheduled for next year.

Ronald Rae, an artist normally associated with his large scale sculptural works in granite, has three mixed media works exhibited at Kilmorack that evoke the primitive both in style and in their reference to indigenous and ancient cave art.

These are powerful drawings that for me relate to a timeless desire to create which is an intrinsic and defining part of human nature. I hope too to see more of this artist’s work in future exhibitions.

THE CASTLE GALLERY’S latest show is an Aladdin’s cave for anyone looking for a unique gift for someone special.

In addition to regular artists such as Blandine Anderson, Ian McWhinnie, Karolina Larusdottir, Trevor Price, Eoghan Bridge and Alilsa Hyslop, there are new surprises and a well chosen selection of seasonally themed pieces on show.

Glass decorations by Sioban Johns, metal gold and red decorations by Sharon McSwiney and small angel glass panels and bowls by Julie Langan are examples of festive adornment for the home at its best.

Lyn Antley’s finely engraved earring designs of mermaids, climbing tigers, and hares and stars meld folklore into copper and silver.

In a High Street full of ‘3 for the price of 2’ offers, Castle Gallery offers the opportunity to purchase something individual for someone individual in a friendly atmosphere not normally associated with Art Galleries.

There are many smaller affordable pieces in this exhibition that dispel the myth that handmade equals outrageous expense. A wide range of media are represented in the exhibition including textiles, prints, glass, woodwork, jewellery, prints, paintings, ceramics and sculpture, and amongst this work there are many unique and beautiful works, both functional and aesthetic.

Kate Allsop’s small bowls and porcelain spoons with simply drawn decoration are appealing both for their fineness and naïve simplicity. They have a nostalgic, childlike quality to them that is quite beautiful.

Fife artist Hilke MacIntyre’s unusual ceramic reliefs such as ‘Cat and Bird ed 3’ and ‘Castle and Garden ed 14’ reminded me of the various stages of a linocut retained and fused together in a new medium. These small plaques are intriguing new pieces and I look forward to seeing more of this artist’s work in print and ceramic.

Jewellery is a particular strength in this show with each artist displaying a distinct style. Elegant contemporary silver spoons and earrings by Anne Lindsay, Anna DeVille’s whimsical ‘Spotted Bird’ brooch and necklace, or the mythic designs of Lyn Antley are all excellent examples of fine craftsmanship and strikingly original design.

Antley’s finely engraved earring designs of mermaids, climbing tigers, and hares and stars meld folklore into copper and silver. Edinburgh artist Colin Duncan uses cross sections of scrap metal to create unique pieces of jewellery from the unlikeliest of source materials to great effect.

Another highlight of this exhibition for me is the work of Scott Irvine, which brilliantly combines fused glass and wood in bowls and abstract sculptural forms. His ‘Arc Sculpture – Abstract Purple’ is a superb example in fused glass and sycamore wood. The vivid luminous colour and shape of the glass is successfully integrated into the dominant curved design in wood.

The surfaces of glass and wood are extremely tactile and the unlikely combination of them together greatly enhances the unique sensuous qualities of each material.

David Carson Shaw’s vibrant acrylic paintings ‘A Message From Syracuse’, with its vibrating dreamlike layers of colour, and ‘Flight in September’ in vibrant purple are small scale delicate works with great presence.

Castle Gallery will present mixed exhibitions in January and February of the new year, and their first solo show of 2006, The Art of Shazia Mahmood, opens in March.

Both Castle Gallery and Kilmorack are part of the Scottish Arts Council’s ‘Own Art’ scheme.

© Georgina Coburn, 2005