Monday, 15 September 2014

Aurora Borealis over Northern Ireland

There have been some amazing photos taken this weekend of the Northern Lights over the skies of some places which are very, very familiar to me - the Causeway Coast in Northern Ireland. (I've been lucky enough to see the aurora borealis myself twice - once in a flight over Greenland, and once on the M8 coming back from Edinburgh - slightly less romantic!)

Here's one, of the colours in the night sky over the teashop at the harbour at Ballintoy on the Antrim Coast - I was there only the other week!

(c) Stephen Wallace

And here is Dunluce Castle - doesn't it look amazing?  When you're there looking out along the Antrim coast, you can see down to the right towards the tip of Southern Ireland, and then out over the sea towards mainland Scotland and the Mull of Kintyre, and the islands of Islay and Jura (on a clear day).

(c) Alastair Hamill

Coincidentally, I've been working today on some paintings of Fair Head, which is a little further along the coast at Ballycastle.  When I was there, the hedgerows were full of flowering fuschia, which is peculiar to that part of the coastline.

I'll let you see the painting when I've finished!

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Today on the Streets of Glasgow

At the start of what will be a defining week in the history of our country, I decided to take my son into town to see democracy in action on the streets.  Always best to see history for yourself.

On the bus on the way in to town, we looked out for Yes and No posters in windows.  We saw only 5 No posters.  We saw a large Yes group at Queens Park, being tooted at by passing cars, plus a Yes volunteers shop.

In town, we walked down Buchanan Street, Argyle Street, George Square and Sauchiehall Street.  Not having met a No supporter yet, I was keen to find someone to talk to and get some of their leaflets, and hopefully some sort of more detailed book or pamphlet of information which went beyond the leaflet which had come through my door saying 'we'll have the best of both worlds' accompanied by a graphs with dramatic plunging lines but no numbers on the x and y axis.  Surely, with something this important, that wasn't too much to ask.

But even looking keenly, it was hard to find anyone from the No side at all.

There were any number of stands with various groups - Radical Independence, Greens for Yes, Yes groups for the NHS, women, anti-nuclear, business and so on.  There were saltires flying, people wearing saltires, and everyone, but everyone, had Yes badges.  

No-one was pushy or accosted me with anything, but everyone was friendly when I approached and spoke to them.  I saw some people having quite animated debates in the street, but certainly no raised voices or shouting.  There were pens, badges, hats, loads of literature from a leaflet to a book, and plenty of people willing to engage and discuss the contents.  It was actually very heartening and uplifting to see so many people out on the streets, actually fired up with enthusiasm, speaking passionately about their beliefs.

Wish Tree, Buchanan Street, Glasgow (c) Photograph Libby Brooks

Eventually, I did find a No person.  "Madam, can I put this on you?" offered the young man tentatively, trying to put a No Thanks sticker on my left breast.  The right one already had a Yes sticker.  Presumably that implied my cleavage was undecided.  I asked if he had any booklets or information he could give me.  He didn't, and then gave up with the sticker and walked off.

Now, in the polls, the No's are slightly ahead.  There are around 10% undecided,  So one in 10 of everyone - theoretically - walking past in Buchanan Street of voting age is a potential new vote for your side, whatever side that is, and every vote counts.

So I was actually genuinely taken aback that there wasn't an equal number of Yes's and No's.  Where on earth are the No's?  Why weren't you out there wearing your T-shirts, with booklets and badges and Union Jacks, shouting the pride in the UK from the rooftops?  Why aren't you out there fighting with the same passion and enthusiasm as the Yes folk?  Why weren't there huge numbers of groups, fired up with their years of being Better Together, out there singing the praises of the Union on the streets?  Bankers Together, Capitalists for the Union, Pensioners for the Empire... I've no idea what, but being serious, why weren't there any sort of groups like the Yes groups?   On the television it always looks like the No folk are packing the streets, fighting one on one with the Yes.  The reality is very very different.

I did see, on close inspection, a handful of people with No badges.  They weren't getting abuse or being intimidated, and neither were the No people with the stickers that I did manage to find.  In fact, contrary to what you might read, I haven't heard abuse of any sort in the 2 years or so of the campaign.  

So if it's 50-50, where is all the No stuff??  Why weren't you out there fighting for the votes?  Why weren't you giving me your vision of the future?

There were a number of tourists excitedly taking photos, and people with suitcases who had obviously just arrived in Glasgow.  If it was me arriving as a stranger, I would draw the conclusion that it looked like a 90% pro-independence win.  It was a complete eye-opener.

Now, I guess the explanation for this is that Buchanan Street isn't a representative sample of the voting population.  The ones out there on the street are the youngest, most energetic and enthused voters for change, whilst the elderly conservative No's are the invisible ones putting their feet up at home with a nice cup of tea.  And that's it's easier to get fired up for a vision of future which has a goal, whether it be a greener, fairer, nuclear-free or socially more just goal, rather than a vision of the future where everything is just the same, thank you.  But what kind of stagnant backwater is that for our grandchildren?

Now, I don't know what's going to happen on the 18th of September  And I certainly don't know what the 19th is going to be like.  Because that's all in the future, and the future, whether Yes or No, is chocablock full of risks, the unknown, the uncertain, and the totally unexpected.  

No-one ever knows all the answers or all the risks or all the facts, so there comes a point where you can't actually base your decision on facts, because the facts simply aren't there.  Most of the facts haven't even happened yet.  They're in the future.  One path is as risky as the other.

So there comes a point where you can't go with logic and your head, you just have to go with your instinct and your heart.  That's what it's there for.  Trust it.

So that's my eyewitness on history, happening on my doorstep.  Our fate, it seems, is in the hands of the silent - very, very silent - majority.  

Or is it?

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

20/21 British Art Fair

In London over the next few days?  Then I'd recommend going along to the Royal College of Art near the Albert Hall to see this lovely art fair with the best of modern and post-war 20th century British art.

I'll be exhibiting there, as usual,  with Duncan R Miller Fine Arts.

Rocks on the Beach, North Berwick (Oil on linen, 12 x 12)

Opening tomorrow until the 14th, for more information about the fair, click HERE.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Lemond Gallery Exhibition

Just to quick you a quick taster of the paintings now on show at the Lemond gallery.  

As you can see, this light and airy gallery gives you a real feeling of how the paintings would look in a domestic setting.

A big thank you to everyone who came along to the preview on Saturday!  The show continues until Sunday 14th September.

To view all the paintings, please click HERE.

You Don't See This Every Day...

Lancaster bombers flying over the Ayrshire coast, Sunday morning.

A low hum of engine noise in the distance.

There they are!

And then they're gone.   They banked over the Prestwick Airport, then headed out over the Irish sea to Portrush, where I was last week. 

The aircraft had been due to appear at the Ayr Air Show the previous day, along with two Spitfires, but bad weather prevented them from taking off.  Because of that, we had a display pretty much to ourselves on Sunday morning.

Once in a lifetime stuff...

Saturday, 6 September 2014

What Makes Us Fall in Love with Art?

Ever fallen in love with a painting?

Here's a short film about why paintings can trigger the same sort of emotions as falling in love with a person.  Ah, those cold, hard calculating artists, playing with the perceptions of the unsuspecting public by detonating their painty emotion-bombs.

In the film, neuropsychiatrist (but not art historian) Eric Kandel talks about how the Viennese Secessionists such as Gustav Klimt shamelessly press the emotional buttons of their viewers.

Gustav Klimt, Judith with the Head of Holofernes (1901, oil on canvas)

Feeling the love yet...?

Now, the most popular paintings in the world are the ones with people in them, because we are social animals (Mona Lisa, anyone?).  

Also, paintings with up to 4 or 5 people in them are fine, because we like to identify with a social group, and feel 'in with the in crowd'.  Any more than that - and we feel excluded from that social group.

So if you want to be a top painter, paint people.  Especially attractive women.  Or a small group of people.  People that you can imagine a story about, because stories are part of the way we understand the world, and therefore understand paintings.

Now whose work could that help to explain the popularity of...?

Jack Vettriano, The Singing Butler

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Glasgow Exhibition Opening on Saturday

I've got a show opening on Saturday at the Lemond Gallery in Bearsden, Glasgow, so last minute preparations are underway!

I very rarely exhibit in Glasgow - mostly it's down in London or the south, so this is very exciting.

I have been working hard at a selection of local paintings, with ones of the Campsies, and my local parks in different seasons.

Gorse, the Campsies (Oil on linen, 32 x 48)

Bluebell Woods, Pollok Park (Oil on linen, 24 x 26)

Paths in the Bracken, the Campsies (Oil on linen, 32 x 32)

Autumn Colours in the Forest (Oil on linen, 12 x 12)

I've also got some of Northern Ireland - where I was only a few days ago, at exactly the same spots along the Causeway Coast! - as well as the west coast at the White Sands of Morar and scenes of Arran and Skye.  The east coast is represented with paintings of Fife and North Berwick.  

Also in the mix are some favourite scenes of Wales, Cornwall and Dorset, with their distinctive rugged coastlines, plus some more reflective pieces, such as this one.

Moon over the Sea (Oil on linen, 32 x 48)

It's a two person show with the artist Jonathan Robertson, and you can view all the paintings HERE.  I'm relieved to see that quite a few have sold already!

The show opens on Saturday 6th September at 11am, and everyone is very welcome indeed to come along.  The gallery is very homely and inviting, and is a wonderful showcase for the work.  

The exhibition runs until 14th September, so not on for long!