Scottish artists have always been drawn to the sea, pulled along by instinct, like salmon, to the coast. It was a powerful draw to twentieth century artists - Eardley, Houston and Bellany - and it is equally powerful now. Kilmorack Gallery's exhibition 'the SEA' looks at its influence on Scottish artists in 2016 and includes work from Will MacLean, Helen Denerley, Janette Kerr and Lotte Glob.
The sea is not just a powerful force, a sublime monster worthy of Turner, but it is a giver of wealth, knowledge and industry. These gifts invariably come at a cost. Hard and dangerous work, a salty-friction, toughens the bond between man and sea. This is the inspiration for WILL MACLEAN's work. He uses found objects within his constructed sculpture to conjure feelings not just about our times but of what has been lost… as there is to the sea, always.
JAMES NEWTON ADAMS, lives on the remote Elgol peninsula on Skye, where he paints and sculpts islanders working and living from the Atlantic. His work is faux-naïve in style but adult in knowledge. In his paintings an old wisdom-of-the-sea colours dream-like characters that inhabit a hard but real world. JOYCE W CAIRNS is a significant artist who also paints the maritime world, but with her own highly developed language and unsurpassed compositions.
The sea is a place of myth. From it, a seal can emerge from the water, remove its skin and become a woman. Giant leviathans rise and Davy Jones waits. To LOTTE GLOB it is a place of sea-creatures and cliff-birds, a secret world only seen by those who look with youthful eyes. To KATE LEIPER the sea is a place of stories. Imagination is at its most free: Poseidon is a walrus and seals really do turn into women.
To the Sculptor STEVE DILWORTH the sea is a place of unknown depth and geological time. Our existence, humankind's existence, is just a flash and the sea is unfathomable. Dilworth uses the materials he finds around the shore to make work that contextualises our lives by placing it within this deep oceanic-time.
More than anything the sea is energy: abstract and real, quiet and violent, instant and slow. These are qualities that work well on canvas. JANETTE KERR and GAIL HARVEY paint from the Shetland Isles, a place where you are surrounded by stormy water. It is everywhere, in the salty air and the seaweed-splattered windows of Shetland's treeless houses. So much latent energy shocks the newly arrived, but provides endless fascination to the isle's artists and an inspiration for canvases that are as large, and brilliant as can be found anywhere. The power of the sea is also challenge to ALLAN MACDONALD. In 'Rock of Ages' the sea wrestles with a giant stack. Ultimately, even the stack will wear down.
Sometimes the sea rests producing reflections and new patterns, a quietening. Its character changes from random and angry to something more geometric, reflective and benign, a new world of quiet sublime. PETER DAVIS captures this perfectly with his stunningly original watercolours, as does LYNN MACGREGOR with her abstracted west coast landscapes.
Kilmorack Gallery's exhibition 'the Sea' runs from 10th September to the 31st October 2016.