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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)

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Margot Sandeman & Parents (and the Joan Eardley Connection)


From top:
Untitled 1960 (Joan & Margot) by Margot Sandeman

High Corrie by Margot Sandeman

Goatfell by Archibald Sandeman

Cioch na Hoiche Cir Mhor, Caistel

Margot Sandeman as a young woman

Honey, by Margot Sandeman with Ian Hamilton Finlay

(all images courtesy of the Sandeman Estate)

Lillie Art Gallery
Station Road, Milngavie
0141 578 8847
Until March 16


The title of this exhibition conjures up a more twee, suburban picture than the reality actually presents. Bearsden, as many readers will know, is a prosperous suburb to the north of Glasgow’s urban sprawl, while Corrie is a small village on the east coast of the island of Arran, a favourite holiday destination of Glasgow’s business classes in days gone by.
Both places played their part in shaping the art of the three artists celebrated in this quietly stunning exhibition in Milngavie’s Lillie Art Gallery.
The bulk of the work in this show is by Margot Sandeman, who died two years ago at the age of 86. Sandeman was a protege of influential tutor Glasgow School of Art tutor Hugh Adam Crawford during the early years of the Second World War.
Other ‘stars’ included Joan Eardley, one of her closest friends until Eardley’s premature death at the age of 42 in 1963, and artist/poet Ian Hamilton Finlay, who was in the year below, but who only spent one year at the art school before enlisting.
Eardley and Finlay feature prominently in this exhibition, as does the work of her parents, Muriel and Archibald Sandeman.
But the show belongs to Margot Sandeman, whose unframed, pared down canvases hit you squarely between the eyes the minute you walk into the main gallery space.
The key to her work is its lyrical simplicity, be it in the beautiful elongated tribute to her long dead friend, Joan Eardley, The Poet (Poet and Words) from 1978 or in the simple yet, yet beautiful Anna, Jonathan and Michael, painted in 2002.
In between times, there is an outpouring of creativity during the 1980s when she worked on a series of still life paintings with texts selected by Ian Hamilton Finlay, subsequently published as A Concise Classical Dictionary.
Some 30 years after teaching Sandeman, Hugh Adam Crawford spoke of the ‘inner structure’ in her paintings ‘which is not an optical thing.’ Looking around at her life’s work, this is a constant in her paintings.
In a letter to her friend from France in 1951, Joan Eardley wrote: “The thing is that I never produce anything which has anything like the intensive complete feeling which your paintings have. Mine are much more only just scrappy sort of notes - sort of journalistic.”
This exhibition, brainchild of Joan Hughson of the Hughson Gallery in Glasgow’s west end, was due to take place in late 2009, but was rescheduled due to the death of Sandeman in January 2009.
The fact that it has been held now makes it more of an opportunity to examine the work of Sandeman as a whole, starting in the late 1930s and moving through to the first decade of the 21st century.
Her output in the last 30 years of her life was constant, and like many women artists freed from the responsibilities of rearing a young family, seemed to improve with age.
As this exhibition, spread out over three rooms clearly shows, her artistic lineage goes before her. The work of her parents is prominent in Gallery 2, while Sandeman’s early work features in Gallery 3 alongside a couple of works by Joan Eardley relating to the time when they spent summer holidays in Corrie.
Examining the work of her mother and father, it is obvious Sandeman was saturated in a very pure aesthetic from a young age. Her childhood home of Lochend Farmhouse in Bearsden was shaped by the ideals of William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement. Mother Muriel was an acclaimed embroiderer, a Glasgow Girl who studied under Jessie Newberry at the Glasgow School of Art in the first decade of the 20th century, while father Archibald was a self-taught watercolourist whose Scottish landscapes were widely exhibited at home and in London before his early death in 1941.
For their talented daughter there was no escaping her destiny. From both parents, she inherited a clarity of vision well as a sure hand. Probably more tellingly, from her mother, she absorbed the ability to draw on memory coupled with a passionate love of words. Muriel wove self-penned texts into her panels, and even painted onto wood in the house. In one corner of Lochend Farmhouse, she has painted, ‘BREAD FEEDS THE BIRDS BUT FLOWERS THE SOUL’
For anyone passionate about painting, this is a must-see exhibition. Sandeman’s use of oil paint - which she applies sparingly to the point of complete dryness - is the key to her visual punch, but there is also a lyrical quality to all her work which is almost musical and tactile at the same time.


  1. Regarding Ian Hamilton Finlay and Joan Eardley, I know that Joan Eardley was also friendly with Ian's first wife Marion and visited her at her cottage outside Comrie in the very early 60's - probably not long before her death. Marion was a good friend of my late mother and I remember her well, but they lost touch over the years. Do you by any chance happen to know if she is still alive as I've been trying unsuccessfully to trace her? Her maiden name was Fletcher, but I don't know if she remarried. She was also an artist but I don't know how successful she was.

  2. My mum was marion urie fletcher aka finlay. Would love to contact you! June Finlay


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