Gallery owner John McDermott tells Jan Patience why he gave up a successful law career to sell art online.

The year 1999 was filled with possibilities. A brave new world was opening up as a new millennium dawned and the excitement in the air across our global village was palpable.

Against this backdrop, John McDermott was feeling the seeds of dissatisfaction creep into his working life as a successful Glasgow-based criminal defence lawyer. He’d always had an interest in art and, in his logical, forensically trained mind, he couldn’t understand why talented artists whose work he saw at degree shows faded into obscurity after a few years.

McDermott decided to leave the law behind and harness the looming power of the internet to an art gallery business called scotlandart.com. As he admits now, scotlandart.com has moved through rocky stages of evolution, but the idea of providing continuity of representation for its artists through the platform of a website attached to a bricks-and-mortar gallery was way ahead of its time.

“We evolved very quickly away from new graduates,” he admits. “It was too limiting, and we started to get approached by older, more established artists. The web has always been a shop window for the work. We wanted people to view the work in the flesh in our galleries in Glasgow and Edinburgh. In a way, I couldn’t have picked a more difficult business to do online as every item we sell is unique. We’ve always had a mission to introduce people to original Scottish art.”

The opening of its gallery in Glasgow’s Bath Street moved McDermott’s business to a new phase and, this week, this bright new space near Glasgow Art Club plays host to a new solo exhibition of work by Scottish artist Peter Nardini, whom McDermott describes as “something of a favourite with gallery customers”.

Billed as “a celebration of the gallery’s 10th year”, Nardini’s show, which runs until October 30, will not disappoint fans. This new batch of work returns to familiar themes and places, such as Tuscany – Nardini’s family are from the Barga area – and Santa Monica in southern California, where his daughter now lives.

Nardini’s work is a mix of modern folksiness and pure visionary colour alongside just-so composition. If anyone was suited to being a poster boy for an art gallery which specialises in breaking down barriers and introducing new viewers to original art, then it’s him.

Well-known as a musician and songwriter, Nardini’s painting and music walk hand in hand through his work. The poet Donny O’Rourke describes him as “a man who can paint stories and sing pictures” and there is real harmony in the way in which all the elements of a Nardini painting come together, right down to the titles in this new collection, such as Still Waters, On The Rocks and Instant Karma. There is a softness in his paintings too, which blends subject matter with technique. He uses a dry brush approach to applying acrylic paint, which gives his paintings a soft, almost pastel-like quality.

Although quick to point out he doesn’t have an art background, McDermott is passionate about the artists whose work he sells. Having got to know Nardini’s work well through representing him over the last nine years, he confesses that, on a personal level, the artist’s music and paintings blend to resonate deeply in his own psyche.

“One of his songs sticks in my mind from years ago. It has a line, ‘Blew a kiss fae Wishaw Cross to send my love to you/Santa Monica’s awfae far – I hope my aim is true’. Having a daughter myself, the idea of her ending up on the other side of the world struck a chord.”

Scotlandart.com

193 Bath Street, Glasgow

0141 221 4502

2 St. Stephen Place, Edinburgh

0131 225 6257

www.scotlandart.com

Tue-Sat, 10.30am-5.30pm (Sat from 10am in Edinburgh); Sun, noon-5pm