Aberdeen Artists Annual Exhibition 2012

Aberdeen Artists Annual Exhibition 2012

I caught Aberdeen Artists’ Society’s Annual Exhibition 2012 just before it ended and was glad I had. As usual it is quite a miscellany of styles and techniques taking in painting, sculpture, photography, ceramics, jewellery, printmaking and not forgetting one video.

As Aberdeen Art Gallery denies visitors from the lasting enjoyment of photographing its exhibits, something I fail to understand as so many fabulous galleries around the world are happy to allow non-flash photography, it means I had to buy the catalogue to have a reminder of the show. At £3 it wasn’t too much of a burden. However, I thought it unfortunate that some artists had more than one illustration while most had none; seems unnecessarily unfair but I suppose being Vice President and Professional Member helped.

Alan Greig’s brooding seascape, Catterline to Tod Head is traditional and impressive. For those who don’t know, Catterline is a coastal village south of Aberdeen which has become a haven of cultural activity with several productive artists living there. Consequently there are many scenes looking out towards the North Sea but this Greig oil is a wee gem depicting a rough swell breaking over gloomy dark rocks hugging the shore. It reminded me of Courbet’s The Wave – with its limited palette, dark and portentous and unlike most of our experiences at Catterline. It took second prize.


 The first prize at the exhibition went to J. Gordon Brown for his curiosity, Night City Jazz. As my accompanying vox pop remarked, ‘It should come with a health warning – like for strobe.’ Exactly. It’s big and blurry pastel blobs. More bubble gum pop than jazz surely?

On a slightly smaller scale is one of Winifred Fergus’s cockerel pictures, Winter Field. She does these paintings so well it is little wonder they are extremely popular and she is exhibited widely. Winifred has an uncanny ability to present her birds and animals sensitively yet unsentimentally.

Les Mackay’s charcoal Three Men in the Dark is an uncomfortable, Max Ernst style surrealist picture from which the aforesaid three men look out at the viewer from deep shadows. There’s more than a sense of threat in the composition. Not one for my sittingroom. The American social realist artist George Tooker painted a similarly disturbing image which, incidentally, included three men but in a different arrangement in a piece called The Subway .

For anyone who’s familiar with Aberdeen Art Gallery you’ll know Guthrie’s The Goose Girl of -well a girl herding geese – a fairly sentimental image. Robbie Bushe’s twist on this iconic image from the gallery is an oil of an elderly woman replacing the girl and it is entitled, Final Journey (Wellington Place). So no happy ending there then.

My vox pop drew me towards Ian Caie’s Tash.A digital image of a moustache which did nothing for me but delighted my companion who revealed she loves false moustaches. And if false tashes are your thing then this picture has it all.

We both enjoyed Peter Goodfellow’s The Decline and Fall of Western Civilization. Featuring Mickey and Minnie Mouse and a whole lot of other accoutrements. The picture is stuffed full of all sorts of imagery. Now I most associate Goodfellow with landscapes which are available from the Lost Gallery which he runs in Aberdeenshire. This picture is a revelation to me. Great fun. Not sure it is supposed to be fun but wins hands down as a conversation piece. Unfortunately it was lunchtime and I had a lot to see. Price tag of £24,000. That’s the joke, huh?

I saw a lot of Rosemary Taylor’s boat pictures some years ago and another is in this show, called No Where to Go. I particularly like Rosemary’s very detailed drawings as part of her paintings and I prefer them a little more colourful than this one. Mixed Media mainly blues with an ochre or two. The image is not the one in the show.

In the first room there is also a sculpted head of a girl. Very simple lines. Nicely worked in ceramic. A beautiful shape and image. Alison Rollo, Portrait of a Young Girl II.

William Reid is an artist with a very distinctive style. This mixed media of trees, Untitled, is typical of his ridged and linear effects. A sombre and smaller piece than many I’ve seen, it has Bill’s careful and exacting detail which belies the first impression of the whole thing, if you see what I mean. I have one of Bill’s works and it is a favourite with its heavy repetitive furrowed pattern.

Nearby is Neil MacPherson’s The Entertainers. You can’t pass this oil composition without smiling. It is bright and cheerful with its monkey playing the bagpipes and a skirt-wearing dog holding a stick with a ball or globe in its mouth. The landscape is Seurat and there’s a cow which is just a cow. No idea what’s going on but as it’s called The Entertainers then it does what it says on the – the canvas.

A 3-D construction called Floating Home by Iain Brady is a nice wee thing.

Polar Journey by Robert Balfour Ward is not the sort of thing which really floats my boat but I was struck by his wonderful drawing of an Antarctic sledge. Just masterful.

Another I wasn’t too keen on as a whole was Ewan McClure’s Encounter. That said the little image that the large image is taken from is exquisitely painted. I love portraits and this is a good one.

By contrast I was fairly taken with Robyn Boyle’s Sleep and Sleeplessness. The dramatic whiteness and the wonderful textures Robyn Boyle has achieved from the wax made me want to touch it. I didn’t. I loved this. That is to say I loved it except for the black oil drawing centre left. That I didn’t like at all. Didn’t see the point. For me it spoilt the purity of the picture.

I seem to remember Chris Wells from last year’s Gray’s graduate show. His Mr Dylan Has Gone Walkabout is on show in the gallery. Wells loves detail and you could spend a long time taking it all in when presented with one of his intricate works.

Keith Byres Return to the Promised Land did nothing for me or my vox pop. It did not escape our notice that this was a male only landscape. Didn’t try to read the message behind the imagery.

Good fun was Jeff Van Weereld’s. Optikum II:Transformation. Peek into the mirror and you see whoever is looking in at the other side – ergo transformation, I suppose.

Donna Briggs, Untitled is a collection of back to front photos, some with captions on the backs. A nice twist on looking at photos with no captions. All in the imagination. Especially where there is no caption.

Third prize winner was Rebecca Westguard for The Housekeeper. This large scale drawing of a nude figure is evocative of Lucien Freud. If you like his work you’ll probably like Westguard’s. Personally I thought this went beyond the call of housekeeper duties.

And finally, the one I might have bought but alas it had been sold. Hannah Thornton’s Sweet Ambivalence is a wee cracker. Described as a 3-D print it comprises wooden discs painted up as lovehearts and one other, projected proud of the background.  All with messages on them.  It has been bought by Aberdeen Hospital Arts so it will be on show to a wide public which is great. It has to be said Aberdeen Hospital has some brilliant art on display all around its corridors. And is it a coincidence that someone called Thornton paints sweets?

There’s a great deal more on show but it closes Saturday 9th June so if you want to see get moving.

Wish I could have shown more images but at the moment they are virtually impossible to get hold of.

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