The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

Modern One

Some years ago I blogged about the art installation that has been added to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh. I thought it was just a temporary thing, a reaction to the financial melt-down of 2008 but obviously it isn’t. In Alexander McCall Smith’s recent Scotland Street book The Bertie Project he mentions this installation. He’s not happy that the word ‘alright’ is there instead of ‘all right’. He has his character Domenica complaining of the use surmising that it must be deliberate as Kingsley Amis desribed ‘alright’ as ‘gross, crass, coarse and to be avoided,’ and Bill Bryson, hardly a fuddy-duddy describes its use as ‘illiterate and unacceptable.’

Domenica admits that she feels very old-fashioned in expecting people to be able to spell. It’s one of McCall Smith’s meandering conversations that often bring in modern morality or ethics.

But a more recent installation in the gallery across the road and several years on from the melt-down is taking a much more pessimistic and possibly Calvinist attitude to our situation.

View from Dean Gallery

It seems we’re done for!

View from Dean Gallery

Modern Two, Edinburgh – True to Life Exhibition

A few weeks ago we visited the True to Life art exhibition at Modern Two in Edinburgh. It’s realist art from the 1920 and 30s. We went to the preview evening but that was so packed out we could hardly see the artworks so another visit was needed. Below are just a few of the paintings that I particularly liked.

Hiking by James Walker Tucker. It reminds me of the ‘scraps’ I used to collect as a schoolgirl. I wonder what happened to them.

Hiking by James Walker Tucker

Still Life by Edward Baird. I have a jug exactly the same as the one in this painting. It’s a Scottish pottery jug about 130 years old and was used for beer or wine.

Still Life by Edward Baird

This is James Bateman’s Haytime in the Cotswolds.

Haytime in the Cotswolds

Blackpool by Fortunino Mataria. This was used as a railway poster. Blackpool was always a popular destination for Scottish holidaymakers.

Blackpool by Fortunino Mataria

Beyond Caravaggio Exhibition, Edinburgh

One day a couple of weeks ago we went to the Beyond Caravaggio exhibition in the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh. It’s part of the Edinburgh Art Festival. I have to say that it’s not my favourite era in art as those 16th/17th century artists were often a bit too keen on the gory side of religious scenes for my liking. But I do love Caravaggio, he was amazing dealing with light, although I was a wee bit disappointed that there are only three of his paintings in the exhibition. The others are by his pupils or by people who were trying to emulate his style, such was his influence.

I love the one below, – A Man Singing by Adam de Coster.

Adam de Coster

It was painted around 1625-35.

You can see some of the exhibits here. And some more of them here.

There are many more in the actual exhibition.

Unfortunately this is not a free exhibition. We joined the “Friends of the Gallery” earlier in the year so we didn’t have to pay. Otherwise it would have been £12 each – but there are a lot of paintings to see, five or six rooms’ worth.

A Chasm in Time by Patricia R. Andrew

 A Chasm in Time cover

A Chasm in Time: Scottish War Art and Artists in the Twentieth Century by Patricia R. Andrew is a beautifully produced book and a great read. Anyone interested in art and history will find it fascinating I’m sure, you don’t have to be Scottish!

I was most interested in the World War 1 art which features such images as warships in Scapa Flow and the Firth of Forth, but it isn’t only war and weaponry that feature in the paintings. I particularly like James McIntosh Patrick’s Tay Bridge painting, but I hadn’t realised that this was the view from the front of the artist’s house. The government had commissioned art which showed the civilian side of life during the war.

The Tay Bridge from my Studio Window

Tay Bridge
The domestic scene below is of the view from the back of the artist’s house, showing his wife hanging out the washing and their wee daughter helping.

A City Garden
a city garden

There was only one thing that annoyed me about this book – it should have been proof read more closely. I know, I know, you could say that for almost any book nowadays. I think people run a spell checker and think that will sort things out but it doesn’t weed out such things as abroad when aboard should have been printed, or panting instead of painting. There were also quite a lot of hyphenated words where no hyphens should have been, such as wit-nessed, com-bination and Cran-ston. I think these must have come about when the book was being set out differently and not corrected when the design was changed. But that’s me being nit-picking, it’s just that I know that if I had written such a lovely book I would have been furious at these mistakes.

I borrowed this from the library but I intend to buy a copy of it as I know I’ll want to dip into it now and again.

Good Evening, Mrs Craven by Mollie Panter-Downes

 Good Evening, Mrs Craven cover

For a week now our home has been a bit of a centre of misery as we’ve both had rotten colds. Jack got it first and generously passed it on to me – share and share alike! With explosive sneezing bouts occurring frequently we’ve both been too exhausted to do anything much, but when I’ve had the energy I’ve been reading.

But decisions, decisions – what should I read? I tried The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson. It’s on my list of Scottish books to read for the Read Scotland 2017 Challenge. But I only got a couple of pages into it before realising that my brain was not going to cope with the medieval style of English that it seems to be written in. I gave it up intending to go back to it when I’m back to normal.

I then picked up A.J. Cronin’s The Citadel, but the subject matter of medicine and Harley Street doesn’t appeal to me at the moment. So I put it down again.

I couldn’t find my copy of The Young Pattullo by J.I.M. Stewart – so opted to start reading Good Evening, Mrs Craven: The Wartime Stories of Mollie Panter-Downes. It had just dropped through our letterbox a few days before. It turned out that these short stories – often very short were just perfect for my mood.

They were originally published in The New Yorker magazine, giving people in America a flavour of what life was like for women in wartime Britain. There’s a date at the beginning of each story, presumably when it was originally published, the first one being 14 October 1939, so just a month or so into the war. The early stories are quite light-hearted and amusing but towards the end of the book nerves are getting frayed as food shortages and changes in life-styles begin to bite.

This is the first book by Mollie Panter-Downes (I can’t help it but her name always makes me smile) that I’ve read, and I’ll definitely be reading more. This one just hit the spot exactly.

I know that a lot of people prefer the original plain grey Persephone covers but I was particularly pleased that this one has as a cover which is one of my favourite World War 2 paintings, capturing what must have been the reality for people, women in particular, standing in queues for hours on end in an effort to get enough food to feed their family. The painting is by Evelyn Dunbar.

Evelyn Dunbar

Bridget Riley Exhibition

One day last week we went to Modern Art 1 in Edinburgh, this time to see the free Bridget Riley exhibition. Her canvases are massive, I must admit I’m not a huge fan of her Op Art work as some of it is just about guaranteed to bring on a migraine. I admire it though as I can’t really imagine how she managed to actually get it done so precisely as it has to be.

There’s information about her works on the walls and Riley says that she had to work her way through the black and white before going on to colour. You can see images of her work here.

It didn’t take us long to go around that exhibition, so as there was a blizzard going on outside we decided to look around the rest of the galleries. If you’re in Edinburgh and you like art it’s well worth taking the time to visit. You can see what else is on view here.

Most of downstairs has been taken over by Karla Black and Kishio Suga works. This is the sort of art that makes you think – I could do that! In fact anybody could do it, given a pile of cotton wool and powder paint, or some rocks from a beach and rope. I can’t tell you how unimpressed I am by that so called art.

In the old days whenever Jack and I saw something that made us almost speechless with disdain we would say – Oh my God Sadie in a sort of homage to a woman we knew who always said that when she was shocked at something. Nowadays though we seem to have updated it to – What would Freya say?! – an homage to a discerning twelve year old.

One thing that really impressed me was an early Francis Bacon painting. I’ve seen a lot of his work recently as when we went to The Guggenheim in Bilbao there was an exhibition on of his work, none of it really spoke to me, but the one below that I saw in Edinburgh did. The image below doesn’t do it justice as the actual painting is so detailed with the herringbone material of the coat really seeming three dimensional.

Francis Bacon

Guardian links

Spookily – just as I have started reading Shirley Jackson’s books, up pops a biography of her called Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin. You can read a review of it by Sarah Churchwell here.

There’s also an article by Frances Spalding about the Joan Eardley exhibition at Modern Art 2 in Edinburgh – the one we went to a couple of weeks ago, you can read the article here.

There’s also an article about Doris Lessing’s books by Nick Holdstock, and you can read that here.

In this article Nick Holdstock writes that he had been asked to make an inventory of Lessing’s over 4,000 books. He had hoped that Doris Lessing’s books might have notes in the margins, clues to her work maybe, but very few of her books had been written in.

How do you feel about writing in books? I have to admit that I don’t write anything in books, not even my name, although when I was first married I did do that on bookplates that I stuck in my books. I think that was because I was putting both my own name and my married name on them. I had a friend who used to write her name and the date and place that she bought the book on the inside cover. I thought that was quite a good idea but I’ve never done it myself.

I buy a lot of old books and often they were originally gifts, in fact I’m just about to start reading Miss Mole by E.H. Young and I noticed that it was given to Evelyn Heaton-Smith from Rodi – in July 1937. I love that, I want to know who they were, what sort of lives did they have?

Partly I think that it’s because I have so many books that makes me not bother to write even my name in them. I can’t really understand why anyone would want to write notes in books – to themselves. But I do have just one of my dad’s books and he wrote his name in it, it’s one of the very few examples of his handwriting that I have. Mind you people tend not to write anything at all nowadays, everything’s done on computers.

Children’s illustrated books

I still find myself eyeing up children’s books even although there are no wee ones in our family now, and sometimes I just have to add a few more to my collection. My most recent purchases have been:

Wenceslas cover

WENCESLAS by Geraldine McCaughrean and illustrated by Christian Birmingham. It’s obviously just a re-telling of the traditional Good King Wenceslas fairy tale but the illustrations are lovely and give a real sense of the falling snow. You can see for yourself here and can also see some of the other books he has illustrated, more for me to look out for!

And another book I bought recently is:

Minou cover

Minou – it’s a book about a cat called Minou whose ‘owner’ dies, so Minou ends up on the streets having to learn how to fend for herself. Minou lives in Paris and it was really the beautiful illustrations of Paris that attracted me to the book, but the story is a way of teaching little girls to be independent and confident, to rely on themselves. It was written by Mindy Bingham and illustrated by Itoko Maeno. You can see some illustrations here.

Some people on the internet are trying to sell this book for silly money – such as £88 but I bought a perfect copy (1st edition) for all of £3.

Guardian links

I didn’t find an awful lot to interest me in this week’s Guardian review, but I’ve read and enjoyed a few Michael Chabon books in the past so I enjoyed reading this interview with him.

I also enjoyed reading this article about Vanessa Bell, but I won’t be going to the exhibition of her work which is on at Dulwich Picture Gallery in London. She is of course famous as being one of the Bloomsbury Group and sister of Virginia Woolf.

I’ve gone right off doing any road trips in England for the moment, after they voted for Brexit – I think it’s fair enough that I spend money holidaying in Scotland instead and doing something for the Scottish economy – hopefully.

I read on a blog recently that the Brexit vote could be described in Austen terms as 48% voting for Sense and Sensibility and 52% for Pride and Prejudice. That just about sums it up.

Joan Eardley Exhibition

Joan Eardley

On Thursday afternoon we went to Edinburgh to visit the Scottish artist Joan Eardley’s exhibition at the Modern Art Gallery 2 Sadly this exhibition isn’t free, I think it cost £9 but we became ‘friends’ of the galleries which is well worth the money if you enjoy visiting art exhibitions. Firstly we parked the car at the wrong gallery and had to walk across the road to Gallery 2. Then when we did get there I was quite disappointed because there was just one small room with her Glasgow children paintings on display and I nearly left a comment saying I was disappointed that it was so small. Just as well I didn’t as it turned out that there are four more rooms full of her work upstairs. lots of them are landscapes of the wee village of Catterline that she stayed in for years, travelling between her cottage there and her studio in Glasgow. Catterline is north east of Aberdeen, and in the 1950s when she was painting there they still had a small salmon fishing business going on. She bought a cottage there for £30, it had no running water or anything but even so, I wonder how much those cottages cost nowadays!

It’s fair to say that Eardley’s paintings of the Samson children who lived in a flat beneath her studio in Glasgow are not things of beauty. They were living in abject poverty – a family of twelve children who were all models for Eardley, but when you see the actual paintings you see the detail in the background and she captured the essence of a time and place that no longer exists. There are three short films in the exhibition too where you can see her at work and old Glasgow of the 1950s in a film about renewal plans.

The Catterline paintings were my favourites though and there were a couple that I would happily have hung on walls in my home. Unfortunately as usual the gallery shop didn’t have any prints of my favourites.

The exhibition also has a lot of photographs of the Samson children and letters from the artist to friends and her sister. It’s so sad that she died of breast caner when she was only 42, especially as one of the letters says that she is going to the doctor because her bosom was giving her such a lot of pain. Obviously she should have gone to the doctor a lot earlier than she did.

If you’re interested in seeing images of her artwork have a look here.

You can see images of Catterline here.

Catterline