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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, 13 March 2013

Lynda Morris, Audrey Grant & Hardie Affairs

Dear Lynda…
Cooper Gallery, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design
University of Dundee, 13 Perth Road, Dundee, DD1 4HT
01382 385 330
Until April 5

Where to start with Lynda Morris, the artists’ curator, who for the last 45 years has worked tirelessly at the coal face of contemporary art? This new exhibition at Dundee’s Cooper Gallery is drawn from Morris’ vast personal archive and features artworks, artefacts, catalogues, posters, correspondences and ephemera and all relate to key stages of her career.
The black and white preview card shows an impossibly cool-looking young woman in Biba mini-dress and black boots sporting a Mia Farrow-style crop.
This is Morris in 1967 in one of the studios at Canterbury College of Art where the students’ life model was one Robert Wyatt and where fellow students included Ian Drury. 
At Canterbury, Morris was taught by Terry Atkinson a key player in one of the most influential conceptual art movements of the 1960s and 1970s, Art - Language. Other tutors included acclaimed figurative painter Stephen McKenna (also her boyfriend at the time) and Michael Craig-Martin, now credited with fostering the careers of the Young British Artists.
From her days spent working at the heart of the London art scene in the 1970s, when life was one big psychedelic whirl, usually involving her good chums, Gilbert & George, to her most recent major work of curation, ‘Picasso, Peace and Freedom’ at Tate Liverpool in 2010, Morris was always biting at ankles in the art world.
She blames this tendency on her ‘Red Clydeside’ roots. Her father was a cabinet maker from Greenock and the family left for the south of England when work became scarce after the second world war. Morris was just two years old.
Today, Morris is more mother hen than hippy chick. True to form, she has a self-deprecating story to hand for anyone expecting to meet a sleekly-sculpted older version of her younger self.
“I went to an opening of a Gilbert & George exhibition in 1999 in Milton Keynes and they made a fuss of me,” she says. “I apologised for being an old lady now. George took my arm and whispered, ‘We are all old ladies now.’
Morris is refreshingly free from airs and graces and talks about herself as ‘fan’ of artists rather than a high-powered curator who can pick up the phone and talk to everyone who is anyone in the contemporary art world.
Today, officially past retiral age, she lives in Norwich, where she teaches at Norwich University College of the Art. She was curator of the Norwich Gallery from 1980 until 2009. This influential gallery had very close links with Scottish artists from the outset.
One of her early exhibitions featured ‘Seven Poets: An exhibition of paintings and drawings by Alexander Moffat’. Today, she talks warmly of her friendship with Sandy Moffat and fondly remembers the poet Sorley MacLean coming down on the train. 
In 1991, acting on a desire to break free from the boundaries of a London-centred art scene, Morris established EASTinternational, an open submission exhibition in Norwich. EAST became rapidly responsible for launching the careers of many artists, including Jeremy Deller, Matthew Higgs, Hurvin Anderson, Lucy McKenzie, Karla Black and Corin Sworn, and turned Norwich into a recognised international hub for contemporary art.
East established Morris as the Artists’ Curator and this exhibition talks this idea out in spades.
“We decided to do this big project every year and it ran for 19 years,” she says. “The only rules were that there were no rules. There were three strands to it; an international strand, a London-based strand and a regional strand.
“We didn’t want to have people just out of art college. There were no rules about age and I was very keen that we encourage women who had maybe had a career break due to having children to work with us.
“Artists come to live in Norwich for a spell and make the work there, which was quite unusual at the time. It had a real community feel. We’d drink together and go to the beach together on a warm night. Curators used to tell me they’d have to get to East every year to see who they’d take in.”
Dear Lynda... is an exhibition for anyone interested in what has made the international contemporary art world tick over the last four decades. 
From the catalogue for the first exhibition installation she worked on at London’s ICA in 1969, to an angry ‘Dear Lynda’ letter from leading art critic, Peter Fuller, to a half pint glass engraved with ‘For our dear Lynda with love from Gilbert & George 9 July 1973 XX’, there’s a feast of Morris memorabilia here.
I particularly liked a cheque for £12 from major art collector Charles Saatchi, sent to Morris in 2003 when he was looking for a catalogue for East.
Morris explains: “The Clydesider in me thought, ‘why should I send him a free copy?’ So I asked him to send me a cheque for £12 first. He sent the cheque and I put £12 in cash into the till and kept the cheque as a memento!
The exhibition also features an audio interview with Morris by Cooper Gallery curator Sophia Hao, accompanied by an autobiographical ‘zine. 
Opening with a picture of the scrap of paper containing the Rolling Stones’ autographs dating back to 1962, it perfectly illustrates Morris’ ongoing adventure in the art world which, as she put it, “has never been a job, just the perfect way of life”. 

Audrey Grant: New Paintings
Union Gallery
45 Broughton Street
Edinburgh EH1 3JU
0131-556 7707
Until April 1

Last month, I was asked along to Audrey Grant’s studio to meet the artist and look at the paintings she was preparing for her first solo exhibition at Edinburgh’s Union Gallery as a preparation for writing a short foreword for the catalogue.
I’d seen Grant’s work two years ago in The Union Gallery when she last showed in a two-person exhibition. Gallery owner Alison Auldjo had remembered I had been very struck by Grant’s paintings and asked if I’d write about my reaction to the new paintings.
I can’t remember now what I wrote in the visitor’s book that day but I do remember the paintings. Slightly forlorn figures set against a plain, yet painterly background. Grant’s figures were so sensitively rendered that I remember feeling a shock of connection to them. There was texture in the surface; splashes and dashes of colour. The figures were swaddled yet scraped back. It was almost as though you could tell they had a history.
This new collection of paintings, which she has worked on for 18 months, continues Grant’s exploration of the human figure and the painted surface. Somehow, the new figures don’t seem so awkward. The painterliness is still there but they seem to sit better in their selves.
In the twist of a back, or a hand reaching for a heart, Grant is able to render complex emotion on a flat surface. These are intense paintings and her public is loving them. According to Auldjo, 16 of the 25 paintings Grant produced for this exhibition have been sold already. Of that number, 14 were sold at the opening last week.
Go see these paintings before they fly off to the four winds. They connect and they are quite special.

Skin Over Bone
Pathfoot Building
University of Stirling, FK9 4LA
Until May 3 
A new exhibition at the University of Stirling celebrates the work of former Glasgow School of Art (GSA) teacher James Hardie and his two daughters, New York based artist Gwen and Borders-based film-maker Amy.
The exhibition title comes is taken from Neal Ascherson’s book Stone Voices which examines Scottish identity through history and landscape.
The bone under the skin of Scotland’s landscape is explored by the work of James Hardie, now in his 70s and living in Skelmorlie, Ayrshire. Hardie has worked in film and paint since graduating from GSA in 1959. His work includes portraits of family members and his love of flying, showing Scotland from the air.
Hardie and his late wife Ann settled in Fetternear in rural Aberdeenshire. “They lived in a former school house where outbuildings became a painting, sculpture and pottery arts space, doubling as a playground and games hall,” explains Cameron. “The girls remember rushing their tea to follow their parents into the studio to work and create art.”
Gwen Hardie, born in 1962 and a graduate of Edinburgh College of Art, became the youngest living artist to be given a solo exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh.
“Gwen Hardie takes a more literal look at ‘skin over bone’ – focusing on the landscape of the female body,” said Cameron. “There’s fragility about her work which takes us beyond the surface of the female form.”
Amy Hardie, 54, was recently film-maker in residence at Strathcarron Hospice, near Denny. Four excerpts from her acclaimed documentary, The Edge of Dreaming, are also being screened as part of the exhibition.
The film charts how Amy dreamt about the death of her horse, only to find her horse dead. She then dreamt that she would die aged 48. She filmed the year leading up to her 48th birthday, and the worries she had about her own mortality. 

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