About Me

My photo
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)

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Quietly Beautiful: The Paintings of Sandy Murphy

This profile of Sandy Murphy appeared in The Herald arts section on Saturday, August 27
The Smithy Gallery
74 Glasgow Road, Blanefield, Glasgow
01360 770551
September 4 until October 16
Woodland Path, Galloway by Sandy Murphy

The expected demise of painting in the wake of changing fashions in the contemporary art world, I am happy to report, has not happened. 

I’m not a conceptual naysayer (I can’t be – I even liked Tracy Emin’s bed when I saw it in Edinburgh a few years back and I loved her films and her blankets), but as I dip in and out of art galleries, large and small, public and private, I see an appetite for painting among those who run the galleries and those who visit. 

Just last year, the Glasgow Boys exhibition at Kelvingrove in Glasgow attracted record crowds of over 120,000 visitors as well as wide critical acclaim during its six month run. 

This summer, in Edinburgh, a retrospective of the work of Falkirk-born Elizabeth Blackadder is packing in the crowds. Even the British Art Show 7, which has just finished in Glasgow included work by several painters, including our own inimitable Alasdair Gray.

Two years ago, the fact that painters were on the Turner Prize shortlist at all made headlines, so clearly there is a will among artists to get back to basics.

Here’s the rub; painting is hard work. To do it well, artists don’t just need natural talent, they have to be totally immersed in it and that takes time and a great deal of effort. 

As the great Scottish painter Joan Eardley said in a letter to her friend and fellow artist, Margot Sandeman, ‘I think to you have to be a bit one track to be a painter.’ 

These are trying times for those who try to make a living from painting, as any working artist will tell you, but there are exceptions to the rule.

At The Smithy Gallery in Blanefield, Stirlingshire, an exhibition of paintings by Milngavie-based, Gordon Wilson (which closes tomorrow) has been a runaway success, with red dots – representing a sale – peppering the walls of this attractive little gallery.

Gallery owner, Natalie Harrison is clearly delighted with this state of affairs, although as she confesses in her insightful and amusing blog (www.smithygallery.blogspot.com), she is feeling a nervous flutter at the prospect of the gallery’s forthcoming exhibition which features the work of the next man in her life, Sandy Murphy, RSW, RGI, PAI.

Speaking in real time, as opposed to into the ether, Harrison bubbles over with excitement when she tries to express how she feels about the work of this quietly self-effacing Ayrshire-based artist, 

“I was a painter myself and Sandy was my inspiration,” she explains. “I was captivated by his natural affinity with paint and the depth of feeling within all of his paintings.

“For Sandy it's about the paint itself. His many inspirations include artists such as Duncan Shanks, David Donaldson, Barbara Rae and Pierre Bonnard – all
of whose work leads with paint. 

“He creates colour, texture, dark and light, working on the painting as it hangs in his studio, with not necessarily a finished result in mind. That's what makes his paintings so special. 

“He is honestly expressing himself through the paint, whether it happens to be a still life or landscape. This honest expression leads to beauty.”

This new body of around 35 paintings (ranging in price from £800 - £7,500), encompasses Murphy’s abiding love of still life and landscape. He has clearly been inspired by the scenes he found around his second home in Dumfries and Galloway, particularly last winter during the heavy snowfalls.

Paintings such as Winter Sun and Woodland Path capture the muffled beauty of being alone in extreme weather, when the light is constantly changing.

Although there is very real and particular beauty in Murphy’s paintings, there is, as Harrison points, something deeper still beyond the subject matter.

The colour is all of his own making and there is a harmony within his colour which comes from a potent mix of instinct and insight. The marks on the canvas are arrived at through a process of alchemy which would be hard to reproduce. The paintings are worked into, scraped down and repainted but the end result is always poetic. 

Winter Sun by Sandy Murphy
The paintings of Sandy Murphy cry out to be seen in the flesh because they catch you unawares with their charisma. Viewing online is one thing. Looking and drinking in what stands before you is another.

Purple Cloth by Sandy Murphy

1 comment:

  1. What a super exhibition. Sandy's work quietly glows in the lovely Smithy gallery.


Blog Archive