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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)

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Alan Davie in Falkirk & Grangemouth (The Herald 18/9/10)

Alan Davie @ 90 The Park Gallery
Callendar House, Falkirk
01324 503789
Until October 16
Alan Davie: A Retrospective of Prints, Gouaches and Drawings
4 York Arcade, Grangemouth
07842 031436
Until October 3
(Open Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 11am-5pm)

For the last three months, in a small room deep within the Georgian splendour of Falkirk’s Callendar House, the walls have been bursting to the rhythmic primordial beat of a handful of Alan Davie’s recent paintings.
The show has been split into two sections. The first selection of work was exhibited until September 5, with some 5000 visitors enjoying the vibrancy of Davie’s distinctive palette. These 5000 visitors will have to pay a repeat visit because, there’s now a different selection of work on show until the exhibition closes in a month’s time.
During the last seven decades, the Grangemouth-born modern master has vaulted over the international artistic landscape like a colossus. From the late 1940s until the present day, he has kept up a prolific output of work and although age is beginning to dim his legendary physical capacity (he will be 90 on September 28), he is still producing work with the fervour and focus of a man half his age.
This celebratory exhibition in Callendar House has been a labour of love on the part of Falkirk Council’s Arts Development Officer, Gillian Smith, and her small team of committed assistants, but according to Smith, the original idea was initially mooted by local Davie enthusiast, Robin Brechin.
Brechin, who works as a technician in Forth Valley College, has quietly amassed his own collection of Davie’s work in the last decade of so, and the original plan for this exhibition was that Brechin’s collection of prints, gouaches and drawings would be exhibited in the Park Gallery.
Sadly, citing budget concerns, Falkirk Council decided to close the small but perfectly-formed purpose-built gallery in the old stable block of Callendar House earlier this summer.
Occasionally however, straitened times can lead to unexpected pleasures, and, in a display of creative thinking, Brechin has managed to persuade Falkirk Council to give him a vacant unit in Grangemouth town centre in which to show his collection, which ranges from unique Davie prints made in homage to Picasso, to posters for the Munich Olympics of 1972.
Fittingly, it’s just a few feet away from the 1975 Grangemouth Mural, Davie made in his home town, in collaboration with George Garson. The mosaic sits unobtrusively above a branch of Ethel Austin in York Square – a 1970s piazza-style concrete square - while passers-by go about their daily business.
A typically vibrant example of Davie’s art, with its heavy use of symbols and intense colour, the mosaic brings a burst of energy into the town, which has had its fair share of tough times.
The mosaic binds the two Davie exhibitions together, as back in Callendar House, the original watercolour sketches for the mural have been unearthed and are on display, alongside black and white photographs from the installation period.
Meanwhile, Robin Brechin’s pop-up show has the same black and white images blown up in the shop window of his exhibition. One shows a grinning, moustachioed Garson sparking off a 50-something Davie, resplendent in trademark straggly beard and Afghan coat.
A highlight of Brechin’s exhibition is the recently-published Grangemouth Image, a limited edition Alan Davie screenprint with a run of just 50. Commissioned and published by Brechin especially for the Alan Davie at 90 exhibition, it was made in collaboration with Kip Gresham of The Print Studio, Cambridge. (The print is for sale, at £550, in Callendar House.)
Walk in the door of the shop and it will hit you square between the eyes, in all its clear-cut, vivid splendour.
There are no half measures in Alan Davie’s work, which seems to have become purer, leaner, cleaner and saturated with colour as the decades roll on. The master is dancing to the music of time and incorporating all the symbolic elements with which Davie aficionados will be familiar. If this exhibition was in Edinburgh, they’d be queuing round the block. Go see, before it’s too late.


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