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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 firstname.lastname@example.org (All work © Jan Patience)
Saturday, 27 March 2010
Alasdair Wallace - Published in The Herald Arts section 27/03/10
Doves Ate My Brain, Nowhere Near Arbroath and Alasdair in his studio (pic of Ali by Sue Biazotti)
ARTIST PROFILE: Alasdair Wallace
Open Eye Gallery
34 Abercromby Place, Edinburgh
0131 558 9872
Mon-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat, 10am-4pm
Until April 13
There are some works of art which burn their way instantly into your synapses. So much so, that years later, you remember them in vivid detail.
The work of the Scottish artist Abigail McLellan, who died last year at the age of 40 from MS was one such artist. Her vivid, colour saturated canvases are so perfectly composed and filled with light that they are impossible to forget.
In contrast, the paintings of her husband, Alasdair Wallace, leave a quieter, slow-burning, but no less lasting impression.
Days after seeing his work, you find yourself viewing the world through his gently darkened glasses.
Tower blocks stand alongside massive trees as a plane hoves into view overhead. Plastic carrier bags fly off a tree. Pylons stand forlornly in a sparse forest. This is the stuff of a Renaissance painting made surreally modern.
From his early days at Glasgow School of Art in the late 1980s, this deeply intuitive artist has been hugely influenced by medieval and renaissance painting, but like his late wife, whose final work he is finishing off in the adjoining the studio they shared, he has been greatly influenced by a Japanese aesthetic.
The couple made a trip to Japan in 2000, not long after McLellan had been diagnosed with MS, the impact of which is evident in both artists’ work in the last 10 years.
Although not as vibrant as his wife’s palette, there is a subtle richness of colour in Wallace’s work which is offset by note-perfect composition. His world is unsettling, but not in a creepy overpowering way. There is subtlety and there is ambiguity, not to mention humour, especially in titles such as Doves Ate My Brain or Nowhere Near Arbroath, which is a subtle sideways reference to the declaration of Scotland’s independence as a sovereign state in the 12th century.
Working in quick drying acrylic paint, to allow for a build up of successive layers, his paintings benefit from his talent for improvisation.
“Working the way I do means that work can be edited, altered or obliterated by successive layers as the image progresses towards whatever it’s going to be,” he says. “Often this leaves behind an interesting archaeology of the painting’s formation. Sometimes, I start with a definite image in mind, which may or may not survive the process.”
Wallace’s world is bustling with recurring metaphors. There are planes, pylons, city skylines, birds, trees, cars, plastic bags and drums, to name but a few. Ovid’s Metamorphoses also makes regular inroads ’though not in a scholarly way’ says Wallace. All his motifs are perfectly positioned and frozen in the moment, like the man rooted to the spot as a flock of doves gradually obscures his face.
He likens his constantly recurring subject matter to a handy prop box. “There are no big strong messages in my work,” he says. “I’ve collected emblems over the years.”
Wallace’s work can be seen this weekend at Rebbeca Hossack’s stand at the Glasgow Art Fair. He has been with Hossack’s London based gallery since 1995, allowing him the freedom to earn a living from his art just four years after graduating from GSA. His wife followed him to Hossack’s fold and she had her last solo exhibition with her in March last year.
Probably better known in London than he is in his native Glasgow, his second show with the Open Eye Gallery in Edinburgh opens later this week. He last exhibited with them six years ago.
An artist who is a painter to his very core, Wallace sums up his chosen career with a typically visually surreal reference. “I can’t remember contemplating any other job,” he says. “Apart from maybe being an astronaut.”
The starting point for an Alasdair Wallace painting if ever I heard it…