- The story so far
- 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)
Monday, 15 March 2010
From top, Fleet, Painter's Table, Catterline Wall and By The North Sea, all by Stuart Buchanan
This is an unedited version of a piece which appeared in The Herald on Saturday March 13
STUART BUCHANAN: SELECTED PAINTINGS
17 Wellington Street, Montrose,
Until April 10
Some places on this earth have a charisma which defies conventional guide book prose. The small cliff-top village of Catterline, which sits defiantly overlooking the north sea just south of Stonehaven, is one such spot.
The artist, Joan Eardley, first discovered Catterline in 1950 when she was taken there by her artist friend Annette Stephen. “I have quite fallen for it,” she wrote to her mother afterwards. “[It’s] quite different from the west, more rolling, with lovely reddish earth.”
As anyone who saw the Joan Eardley retrospective in Edinburgh a few years ago can testify, it was the late Catterline landscapes which drew the sharpest collective intake of breath from onlookers - many of whom were coming to her work with fresh eyes.
In Eardley’s depiction of the scenes she found at Catterline, be it a boiling sea, a snow-covered cliff top, or even a seemingly pastoral scene of beehives at sunset, there is a passionate blend of energy, freedom, urgency and control which allows the paint to speak directly to the viewer in a way words could never do.
Over the years, artists have come and gone from Catterline, trying to dip into this energy with varying degrees of success.
For Stuart Buchanan, who was born in 1970, seven years after Eardley’s premature death at the age of just 42, Catterline burrowed its way into his visual memory at an early age.
The Glasgow-born artist, who now lives in Joan Eardley’s former home in the village with his wife and young family, first started visiting Catterline as a child during the 1970s.
“I had an uncle who lived here,” he explains. “We’d visit for holidays and it was normal for me to see artists such as Annette Stephen and Lil Neilston living and working in this environment.
“Seeing them inspired me to do the same thing. I could see that it was possible.”
Until four years ago, Buchanan lived in Glasgow, carving out a solid reputation as a figurative painter and running the Mansfield Park Gallery in Glasgow’s west end, which he founded with his wife, Fran.
A turning point came four years ago when he was appointed Artist in Residence with Aberdeen City Council. With a young family now in tow, he felt the time was right to move away from his native Glasgow and settle in Catterline.
As a new exhibition of paintings at Kim Canale’s home-based Montrose gallery, Wall Project reveals, Buchanan’s work has since undergone a gentle sea-change.
Featuring work from a few years back and more recent paintings, the influence of Catterline is crystal clear.
“Previously, my work was purely figurative,” the artist says. “Now the figures have shrunk and they are figures in a landscape.
“That’s me out there painting the scenery in front of me! I spent 10 years in a studio in Glasgow trying to invent a world. Here, you just have to stand outside and paint. Now, my work is much more representational whereas before it was much more memory-based.”
There is something deeper still which seems to have permeated Buchanan’s new work. His use of paint has changed from the smooth, almost disconnected surface of old, to richly textured thick impasto and highly charged brush work. There is colour, depth and narrative buried in and built up over several layers and it as though, in working this way, he has connected with something far more elemental.
These are paintings which pick up on the direct energy of his new home in a subtle, distinctly original way. For the viewer, there is a real sense of passing through the landscape which allows them to engage with it instantly.
Like Eardley before him, Buchanan has absorbed the very essence of Catterline and crystallised it through a prism of paint.