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I'm an arts journalist & PR consultant living and working in Scotland. I've been a journalist for more than 25 years. I write a regular column for Scottish quality newspaper, The Herald. I deliver a PR service with an arty bent and work on a consultancy basis with arts organisations, including Scotland's leading creative industries festival, XpoNorth & broadcast support body, ScreenHI. I am currently co-writing a book about the celebrated Scots artist, George Wyllie, with his daughter Louise. Instrumental in making a celebration of his life's work happen in 2012. For more information, see www.georgewyllie.com When I'm not being a mum/working, I talk to my dog. He laps it up. Contact me on janpatience@me.com (All work © Jan Patience)

Monday, 9 November 2009

RGI... august Glasgow art institution, as featured in The Herald, Sat Nov 7 2009

(Image, right: Broken Chair, by Anna King. Currently on show at Open Eye Gallery, Edinburgh)

2009 RGI Annual Open Exhibition
The Mitchell
North Street, Charing Cross, Glasgow
Until November 29
Mon, Tue, Wed, Fri & Sat, 10.30am-5pm, Thu, 10.30am-7pm, Sun, 12pm-5pm
Admission £2, £1 for concessions

Taking a walk around an exhibition with an artist is something everyone should do if they get the opportunity. Especially if you are the only viewers and the artist in question is as thoughtful and insightful as Simon Laurie, a key player behind the scenes of long-established art institution, the Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts (RGI).
Laurie, a painter of note whose increasingly bold and carefully observed work carries a deep-rooted fascination with the relationships between form, shape and colour, has been convenor of RGI for the last four years.
In this role, he is one of the figures responsible for the gargantuan task of assembling the annual RGI Open Exhibition, which opened on Thursday night at The Mitchell in Glasgow and runs throughout November.
This year, according to Laurie, more than a thousand entries were received from contemporary artists all over Britain, hoping to win a place in this selling exhibition, or even better, a prize in a hefty awards line-up valued at more than £13,000.
In an economic down-turn, awards such as these ones play an important part in boosting the coffers, as well as an artist’s profile and confidence.
On our early walk-round the exhibition, rows and rows of ‘rejected’ work sits in the middle of the floor in the large gallery space, waiting for collection, which only serves to reinforce what a competitive business it is trying to make a name for yourself in the art world.
This year, the layout of the space in The Mitchell has been greatly improved, taking the basic layout of the Inspired exhibition earlier this year as its marker.
This allows for a certain amount of breathing space which has been lacking in the last couple of years, allowing the sculpture to be viewed more easily and generally taking away the ‘where to look?’ panic engendered by so many nooks and crannies. The large bank of ‘wee paintings’ has been reduced, making it much less of a bric-a-brac affair.
In terms of the work itself, there are some fine pieces to view.
Portraiture seemed to be on fine form, with several fine paintings of well-known and not so well-know faces.
Anne Mackenzie has a nice-looking portrait of the actor Robert Carlyle while Denise Findlay has a small mixed media piece which centres on Carol Smillie and current Aspect Prize finalist, Paul Kennedy was awarded The Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts Exhibition Award for his beautifully contemplative painting, Correspondence.
Helen Wilson is painter in the true sense of the word and she has several outstanding works in the exhibition this year, which show just how quietly fantastic an artist she is, including a small portrait of Donald Findlay, entitled Legal Study.
Perhaps because you can see the sculpture more clearly, several pieces stood out, including Robert Mach’s cheeky take on a nativity scene, entitled, Jesus, Mary and Josef! all wrapped up in wrappers from Tunnock’s teacakes.
There is also fine work from Alastair R Ross and Justin Butcher, who won the N.S. Macfarlane Charitable Trust Award for a first-time exhibitor, with his Glasgow ‘Keys of Life Series: Leap of Faith’ piece.
There are too many artworks to mention here, but most of Scotland’s big-hitters in the contemporary art scene are represented, including Laurie, Charles MacQueen, Charles Jamieson Liz Knox and James Robertson, to name but a few.
Mention must also be made of the inclusion of a quite stunning portrayal of a colourless sea fan by the late Abigail McLellan, who died last month at the age of just 40 after a 10-year battle with MS.
McLellan, an award-winner at RGI last year, painted many sea fans throughout the final years of her life. Sea fans look like plants but are actually nocturnal sea creatures which cannot move.
In her search to convey the unique visual language which sustained her, McLellan manages to capture the restless energy which lies within these beautiful creatures. Although this piece is devoid of colour, it positively radiates with the creative energy this fine artist possessed until the very end of her life.

Open Eye Gallery
34 Abercromby Place, Edinburgh
0131 557 1020
Mon-Fri, 10am-6pm, Sun, 10am-4pm
Until November 24

Anna King has been building on the promise she showed as a surprisingly muted winner of the inaugural Jolomo Awards for Scottish Landscape Painting in 2007. In complete contrast to the colour-saturated palette of John Lowrie Morrison, King’s methodology is to quietly portray the forgotten landscape and interiors which catch her eye in unshowy tones and with an uncannily confident hand.
In this solo show at The Open Eye Gallery in Edinburgh, King - who is still in her mid-20s - has a new body of work featuring works with titles such as Wasteland, Berlin, Factory, Granton and Broken Office Chair.
As well as her trademark oil on board with pencil technique, she has also been experimenting lately by using pieces of material pasted on as part of the interior paintings to make a chair or sofa.
The result is, as always, a confident, understated and quietly beautiful piece of creation, which finds the viewer startled by the fact that such a scene of dereliction can be so movingly transformed.
King, who travelled to Berlin in the last year, has moved to a new studio (previously a squash court) on the Marchmont Estate in the Borders and the environment obviously suits her way of working.
King’s work seldom, if ever, depict figures but their presence is all around her fantastically forgotten places.

The Dick Institute, Kilmarnock
01563 554902
Tue-Sat, 11am-5pm
Until December 9

Fittingly, this critically acclaimed touring exhibition of photographs by Ross Gillespie and Tricia Malley, finishes off its year in Kilmarnock, home of Robert Burns’ famous first edition and is joined by other related projects.
Gillespie and Malley have marked the Homecoming celebration by making a series of portraits of prominent Scots and adopted Scots. Each sitter was asked to respond to a quotation from Burns, and to reflect upon the continued relevance of Burns in modern Scotland.
There are many fine portraits here, with figures such as Peter Capaldi, Denise Mina, Alex Fergusson, Eddi Reader and Edwin Morgan being among those captured for posterity.
Under the banner ‘To See Ourselves’, there are actually three linked exhibitions being held over the autumn/winter season across The Dick’s gallery spaces.
Inspired by the famous line from Burns’ poem To A Louse, the exhibitions examine portraiture and what a portrait can tell us about who we are.
In the Dick’s Main Gallery, Beneath the Surface/Hidden Place by Nicky Bird features a Stills touring exhibition gathering together old family photographs, historical records and oral accounts.
Bird has collaborated with groups across Scotland (including the Doon Valley in Ayrshire) unearthing memories of physical communities on the edge of extinction.
In the North Gallery, alongside ‘As Others See Us’, five key works are on loan from the Scottish National Portrait Gallery while it is closed for refurbishment, including Alexander Naysmith’s famous portrait of Burns and Alan Ramsay’s portrait of that giant of The Enlightenment, David Hume.

Glasgow Print Studio
Trongate 103, Glasgow
0141 552 0704
Tue-Sat, 10am-5.30pm, Sun, 12pm-5pm
Until November 29

If John Byrne didn’t exist, you would be hard-pressed to invent a figure like him in any fictional portrayal of the Scottish artistic scene over the last forty years.
Byrne is a quite simply a one-off. A man as at ease with making the written word do his bidding as he is with a brush in his hand trying to reproduce his own unique vision of the world around him.
In this latest exhibition at Glasgow Print Studio, with which he has had a long association, dating back to its days in St Vincent Crescent back in the 1970s, he is on virtuoso form.
His imagery is instantly recognisable and this new exhibition ties off a few loose ends dating back to the early 1990s, when he worked on a series of Angels prints, and brings matters up to date with a mix of Cornerboy and self-portrait monotypes, which he worked on at the print studio’s old premises in King Street.
There are also a few drawings made with his forthcoming adventure picture book for children, Donald and BenoƮt, a story which he began telling his now 12-year-old twins, Honor and Xavier, at bedtime when they were small.
The methodology may be different in these pictures, but there is no mistaking the man behind them.
Byrne is a consummate draughtsman who has an innate understanding of mark making and this exhibition, which runs at the print studio’s new space in Trongate 103 until just before Christmas is a must-see.


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