And despite the inclement weather it turned out to be a busy private viewing, with people travelling from as far as Aberdeen, Glasgow and Fife for a first look at my latest work.
Over 40 of My Paintings & Prints on Show
With around 40 original pieces hanging across the gallery, it’s a real showcase of everything I’ve been working towards over the past 15 years.
The show is divided into three areas: oils, mixed media and etchings …
… with the pictures hung according to those groupings and in roughly equal numbers.
All in the name
I chose the title Northern Lights as it aptly reflects the nature and atmosphere of the majority of the work included in the exhibition. There are 12 oil paintings in the show, including the 3 above, which feature either Scottish lighthouses or shimmering twilight views across the Firth of Forth.
Glitter Moons – Yellow, Blue and Pink, etching and screenprint – 69x80cm (framed individually)
It’s not all about light and colour, however. In my etchings I focus more on the details, marks and tones that help to give each of the prints something distinctly different from all of my other work. On one wall you’ll find various craggy Scottish mountains and ruined castles, including Ben Nevis and Dunnottar. These are accompanied by atmospheric cityscapes of Edinburgh’s Old Town, Victoria Street and Dean Village …
… while on the opposite wall are more etchings of seascapes, including the old piers at both Culross and Aberdour (both shown below).
I’ll be back at the gallery on 24 February (2-4pm) for an Artist Talk, where I’ll discuss how I made these paintings and prints and also inspirations. I’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have too.
So if you’d like to attend then please get in touch with gallery owner Lesley at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Northern Lights is on show now at Graystone Gallery in Edinburgh’s gorgeous Stockbridge and continues until 10 March 2024. If you manage to get along to see it then please get in touch and let me know what you think at email@example.com
Some words from Graystone Gallery about the show …
“Look closely at the oil paintings in Northern Lights and you can sense a love of Whistler’s London nocturnes. Clive imbues his oils of lighthouses and the darker seascapes with that same feeling of delicate stillness and calm, building it with layer upon layer of transparent glazes …
The ramshackle buildings and highly detailed compositions and colour schemes of Schiele and Klimt’s landscapes have also had a big influence, which can be seen in the watercolours of coastal villages and Edinburgh in particular …
In each of Clive’s works, there is a tangible sense of yearning, of a desire to create something that is beautiful, yet distant or unattainable. It’s there in those city lights twinkling and beckoning the viewer from far across the Firth of Forth …
But there is also a drama at play in these atmospheric pieces that comes from a deeply felt need to create a perfectly constructed arrangement, or a harmonious symphony, out of the interplay between the land, the sea and the elements. Or, perhaps, the essence of Clive’s work is simply his attempt to try to capture and hold on to some long-sought feeling of calm and serenity.”
I was initially told about the Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums (AAGM) Micro-commissions by a studio colleague the day before the deadline. I was in the middle of moving into my new studio and packing for a New Year trip to Crovie the following day. However, as a relative newcomer to Aberdeen and having spent many hours admiring the gallery’s fantastic collection, my interest had been piqued! I downloaded the application form and had a first draft written within an hour.
At the Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums’ (AAGM) Treasure Hub where I gave a talk about my Micro Commission work to the Friends of AAGM
Applicants were asked to say something about their lived experience in the city, addressing themes that might include social justice, climate change, identity, well-being and migration, while responding to something that was already part of the AAGM collection.
I thought it could be a challenge to come up with an exciting print-based project that would test some of my recently acquired printmaking skills, especially in screen and photopolymer printing. And, in the unlikely event my proposal was successful, I might just about manage to complete the rather ambitious project I had put together in my mind, despite having already committed to 2 solo shows and another important commission – all of which were to be fulfilled before the AAGM June deadline!
No holiday for me … not yet anyway!
So the first day of our supposedly relaxing holiday was spent editing my application (with considerable help from my patient and very understanding partner Pam) and it was submitted within an hour of the deadline.
Having never applied for anything like this before, I resignedly put the whole experience down to good practice and relaxed for the rest of our trip.
Around 4 weeks later, having forgotten all about my application and while frantically finishing several paintings and working on the final preparations for my early March solo show, I received an email to say my proposal had in fact been successful!
My initial elation and surprise at this great news were suddenly followed by a gut-wrenching dread that I might just have overstretched myself! But I do love a challenge and that’s exactly what the following 5 months proved to be!
The final 3 prints that make up the triptych: Disintegration, Transformation & Anticipation. I named the triptych with a nod to the 3 institutions that feature in the middle print; namely the Central Library, St Mark’s Church & His Majesty’s Theatre, collectively known by locals as Education, Salvation &Damnation.
In selecting a work from the AAGM collection as an initial reference for my own project, John Piper’s powerfully atmospheric painting of Dunnottar Castle immediately sprang to mind. Like many of his works, it perfectly captures with great drama and deceptive simplicity the beauty that can often be found even in a crumbling old building. This got me thinking about how the disintegration of one thing can lead to something new and possibly even more beautiful in its place (a painting in this instance, but also the castle itself).
Dunnottar Castle by John Piper
From here I travelled north in my mind to Aberdeen city centre and thought of the recently opened Union Terrace Gardens and how they have helped to rejuvenate that part of the city.
Newly reopened and rejuvenated Union Terrace Gardens (January 2023)
I then took a short trip across Union Street to the recently demolished Aberdeen Market and pondered how that has provided an opportunity (and also hope) that something better might arise out of the dust and rubble.
The currently vacant site of the old Aberdeen Market
I decided to produce a triptych of handmade prints exploring the theme of disintegration in relation to those three well-loved local sites. To bring these ideas to fruition I wanted to use three different printmaking techniques, which would reflect the past, present and future in their own way.
Three Different subjects printed three different ways
Disintegration, the first piece in the triptych, is a traditional copper-plate etching inspired by John Piper’s painting of Dunnottar Castle.
Disintegration – 40x60cm – copper plate etching with hard ground and aquatint (including sugar lift and spit bite) on Hahnemüle etching paper
Inking up the plate
Disintegration is signed and ready to deliver to Aberdeen Art Gallery when framed
Transformation – 40x76cm – photopolymer etching with chine collé and watercolour on calendered Hahnemüle etching paper
The middle piece, Transformation, depicts Union Terrace Gardens and contrasts old and new features now present in the gardens and also in the methods used to create the print.
Chine collé tissue cut to shape for adding colour to the etching
It combines very traditional etching techniques like chine collé above to add colour to the print …
An acetate was used to expose the image onto a photopolymer-coated steel plate
… alongside methods employed in contemporary digital photography.
Transformation completed at Peacock Print Studio in Aberdeen and ready for the AAGM collection
Anticipation – 40x60cm – screen print on calendered Hahnemüle etching paper
Anticipation focuses on the Aberdeen Market area and poses the question: what does the future hold for this site?
Making a composite of the various pictorial elements in Photoshop
Photoshop was used to combine a drone-captured digital image with an interpretation of the Herakut mural from the old Aberdeen Market.
A proof incorporating the hand-painted golden question mark
The final image of the triptych, Anticipation, is signed and ready to frame
The Micro Commission Experience
Working on the AAGM Micro-commission has been a fantastic experience as well as a great opportunity to learn. Not only because it has allowed me to develop and test my skills in traditional and photopolymer etching, as well as screen printing, but the funding that was provided by the Friends of Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums has also enabled me to produce an entirely new stand-alone series of prints that are quite different from anything I have done before. It is also wonderful to know that my triptych has been accessioned into the AAGM permanent collection.
Describing the processes involved in producing each print at Aberdeen’s Treasure Hub
I would advise anyone who is interested in applying to the next round of Micro-commissions to absolutely go for it. This has been a hugely rewarding experience and has shown me what I can achieve under intense pressure.
And finally …
Finally, I would like to say a huge THANK YOU to the Friends of Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums for providing the £2500 funding that enabled my Micro Commission, and many thanks also to Shona Elliot and all the staff at AAGM for their excellent support throughout. I’d also like to thank the staff at Peacock Print Studio and, in particular, James Vaas and Struan Hamilton who have both been very generous with their time, patience and expertise throughout this process.
I will put together another post soon where I will go into more detail about the making of each print in the triptych … watch this space!
This is the final week of my solo show Paintings & Prints From Scotland To The Moon at Inverness Creative Academy.
I’ll be on site from 2-3.30pm this Friday 14th July to give visitors a guided walk around the 40 pictures. I’ll discuss the many techniques I use to create the works as well as the inspirations and ideas behind them. I’ll also be more than happy to answer any questions about my practice and experience of working as a full-time artist.
It’s free entry so just show up at the cafe at 2pm and say hello. I’ll look forward to meeting you then!
Paintings & Prints From Scotland To The Moon is on until Saturday 15th July at 4pm.