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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)

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Abby McLellan & The Cat

Abigail McLellan Exhibition in the Midsteeple, Dumfries

The Midsteeple in Dumfries is currently hosting an exhibition of work by the artist Abigail McLellan, whose beautiful painting, Allium on Blue (also above), graces the masthead of his blog. I started this blog up after meeting Abby, who died last October at the age of just 40 from multiple sclerosis.

Abby moved to Dumfries when she was 12 and her mum Ruth still lives in the town. She came to Glasgow at the age of 18 when she started at Glasgow School of Art in the early 1990s and lived there until her death.

She was a painter whose work was defined by her use of intense colour and simple, bold forms. Life-affirming, beautiful and very, very pure, I think her work connects to me as a viewer in the most simple, yet never simplistic way.

Abigail’s old school friend Rachel Reekie now works in the Midsteeple, Dumfries, as a Senior Administration Officer for Dumfries & Galloway Arts (dgArts) managing the new Box Office.

Rachel said: “I absolutely love Abigail’s paintings. I persuaded her to do a portrait of my cat Timothy for me when we were both seventeen and at school together at Dumfries Academy. I think it was her first commission. I paid her £15 for the portrait – money well spent I think! I’m so happy to have been able to help bring this collection of Abigail’s work together for this exhibition. I hope lots of people will come in and see it – and enjoy the gorgeous colours!”

Abigail was born in Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire, in the week before the Apollo 11 moon landing and was the youngest of three sisters. Her father worked for ICI and the family moved to Dumfries when Abigail was 12.

By then she had already revealed a strong artistic bent – rather to the surprise of her scientifically minded family. (Both her sisters are doctors.) At primary school she was a serial winner of the Easter bonnet competition. For the Silver Jubilee in 1977, she created a memorable fancy-dress outfit, transforming herself into a giant commemorative mug.

At Glasgow School of Art, she began to explore the possibilities of painting. It was an extremely rich period of experiment and discovery. She made many friends among her GSA contemporaries, and also met her long-term companion and future husband, the painter Alasdair Wallace.

Although Abigail's early student works ranged from bold portraits to "mixed media" works on canvas, she gradually resolved her own personal vision: taut and economical in design, luminous in colour.

The art school itself proved an important influence. Designed by the visionary architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh, the building's idiosyncratic interpretation of the Japanese aesthetic would find an echo in McLellan's simplified depictions of single flowers and isolated objects. The intense colour that came to be the other defining feature of her art derived in part from her admiration of the work of Craigie Aitchison.

Included in this exhibition are paintings from Gracefield Arts Centre's collection, work loaned by Abby's family and by several private collectors.

The exhibition is open Monday to Saturday, 10am to 4pm, admission free. It's open until November 20th.

• Dumfries & Galloway Arts (formerly Dumfries & Galloway Arts Association) is based in Dumfries, with an office open to the public at The Midsteeple in the High Street – the new Arts Information Hub.
• See www.dgarts.co.uk for more information

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