Posts tagged ‘art’

Jun 7, 2015

Picture of the Month: Darkened Figure by Anthony Scullion

Anthony Scullion Darkened Figure

Anthony Scullion Darkened Figure

Anthony Scullion’s figurative paintings are ethereal and mysterious. To me his subdued palette emphasises a profound sadness that haunts the people that populate his canvases.

Sketchily drawn figures move silently across his pictures, oblivious to the viewer, intent on activities we cannot even guess at, absorbed in their own worlds, or else gaze out, their stare seldom engaging with us.

His figures are like characters from a play or people inhabiting a parallel universe that seems consumed by conspiracy or anxieties – victimised and vulnerable and to me reminiscent of Goya although he is influenced by the ‘chiaroscuro of Rembrandt and the spirituality of Giacometti and distortions of Francis Bacon’.

This Scottish artist, born in East Kilbride, studied at Glasgow School of Art in 1992.

Darkened figure oil on canvas

This monochrome study of a female drawn entirely in black emerges from a greyish-white background exudes mystery and contemplation. The girl’s downcast eyes suggest her uncertainty, her vulnerability, that makes it uneasy for the viewer staring at her as if we’re intruding into her thoughts.

Apr 10, 2015

Arty Farty Aberdeen: look at me street festival

Rabbie Burns is fitba crazy

Rabbie Burns is fitba crazy

Rabbie Burns in fitba socks in the colours of France and Russia is not an everyday sight, even in Aberdeen. His fitba is the planet Mercury and he’s wearing headphones created by a 3-D printer.

Don’t know if Rabbie was a fitba supporter but he supported the French Revolution hence their tricolor of red, white and blue that makes up his stockings. And conveniently these are also the colours of Russia the nation that took the great poet to their hearts and minds and who celebrate Burns almost as much as here in Scotland. Actually thinking about it perhaps more so in some ways. Wasn’t it the Soviet Union that put Burns on a postal stamp a decade before the British post office did? Yes is the answer.

The Soviets were drawn to Burns’ down-to-earth poetry elevating the lives of the humble Scot and wee creatures alike.

Why Mercury? It appears that there is a crater on Mercury named after Rabbie. Not the Rabbie crater but the Burns crater. Check it out.

The headphones Rabbie’s wearing I’ve said were produced on a 3D printer in Scotland’s and Jamaica’s colours. The colours of the Jamaican flag are a reference to the post of bookkeeper he planned to take up for there was little money in poetry but he never lived to sail to the slave island. That would have been interesting.

Rabbie Burns’ gull was most put out by all the additional attention the poet was getting and watched with a jaundiced eye from the dyke at Union Terrace Gardens as people crowded around to take their pictures. He (or she) occasionally claimed his or her usual spot on the top of Rabbie’s bonce, nudging forward the headphones to get a better perch. He (or she) hasn’t yet discovered the headphones are made out of cellulose, I think, or something like that, and possibly edible.

The Mannie outside the Athaneum, one-time well and water source for people living in the area, spiks Doric to anyone who approaches it.

On the wee mannie’s heid is a motion sensor, a bit like Spike, mind Spike in the Winter Gardens in Duthie Park? only mair Doric. The mannie’s heid is covered by a wooden box with four different faces and contained inside those clips of local people that play when anyone is close by.

Albert, Queen Victoria’s squeeze hasn’t been touched as such – still think the red moustache he sported for a time contributed 100% to his appeal. Ah well, the grass around Albert who has been sitting on his backside for well over a century is arranged with blue and white flags, not as I assumed representing Scotland but signifying ideas, as in blue sky thinking (I think). The Central Library at his back is a lucky coincidence in that it extends the association of ideas.

The statue of Robert the Bruce is decorated with ceramic birds, I assumed seagulls but apparently pigeons also.

Not sure if they add anything although they are delightfully arranged and only enhance this dull sculpture for Aberdeen’s statues often sport a gull, or three or four.

General Charles Gordon on Schoolhill is beautifully attired in vibrant knitwear. I had initially gone to the wrong Gordon. I do get my Gordons mixed up. The one in Golden Square didn’t feature in this festival. Gordon of the gorgeous woollen scarf knitted in the colours of Sudan amongst other places he was associated with is the famous, uhm, infamous butcher of all sorts of foreign lands – Gordon of Khartoum.

One of the local Gordons – all Gordons originated from Aberdeenshire – including Commissioner Gordon in Batman – Gordon on Schoolhill was himself butchered and his head paraded on the end of a pike. What had he done to deserve such an end?

This Gordon was one of the fighting Gordons among his most celebrated involvements the siege of Sebastopol in the Crimean War and the Second Opium War fought by the British to force China to open its rich markets to British merchants, to dominate Chinese trade and to do this without paying taxes to the Chinese. And it did it, through coercion obviously and by selling opium to the Chinese; vast, vast quantities of the narcotic.

Opium was used as a medicine in China but otherwise prohibited. British merchants bought up stocks of the drug and traded it through the British East India Company. The profits it made British businessmen were immense. The impact on China, devastating. As if this wasn’t enough General Gordon ordered the Chinese Emperor’s summer palace in Beijing be burnt down. He was that sort of guy.

Later he became a governor of a province of Sudan during which time he mapped the Nile, not for natives you understand, but Europeans who would make their way inland to carry out trade on the African continent. On other occasions he whiled away his time crushing native rebels outraged at having British imperialist armies marching onto their land and ordering them around.

To cut a long story short he was sent back to Sudan, having served in several other places, to tackle a group of fighters known as the Mahdists, Islamists who resisted Christian colonialists. Gordon and his men held out for a while but eventually he met his bloody end.

I suppose it’s therefore appropriate that Gordon should be dressed by a knitting technique called Yarn Bombing in the colours of the several places in which he served, and splendid he looks. The knitting is beautifully done – partly hand, partly machine. Nice binoculars and stick.

I didn’t speak to the artist who dressed William Wallace, the finest Wallace statue in all of Scotland. Once a Guardian of Scotland, Wallace has been transformed into a Guardian of the future. The materials in his tabard (and is his tabard a coincidence or meant to be associated with the Toom Tabard? Look it up) are light sensitive and are different day and night. I’m sure there’s more to it than that. Anyone know?

Someone told me one or two complaints appeared on social meeja suggesting Wallace had been desecrated to which I say, get a life and anyway he isn’t a god. I love this statue and am a defender of the role of Wallace in Scotland’s history, regarding him as a more admirable figure than the Bruce but, honestly loosen yer corsets guys and embrace a bit of cultcha.

Look Again, Aberdeen’s Visual and Art and Design Festival is fun and meant to get you taking a second look at street furniture that is so familiar it has become invisible. For some of these statues that’s no bad thing. Perhaps one day we could employ a crane and a wrecking ball to dispose of one or two of them and have them replaced with real public art.

There’s more to the festival than this but that’s all you’re getting from me.

Mar 30, 2015

High Jinks at Aberdeen Art Gallery

They were queuing down Schoolhill to get into the high jinks at Aberdeen Art Gallery this weekend despite there being no exhibition.

Aberdeen Art Gallery

One hundred and thirty years down the line and the gallery is finally getting a major extension and refurbishment. It is not without controversy for the rooftop addition seems oddly out of kilter with the grand, sombre pink Corrennie and white Kemnay granite solidity of the weel kent facade on Schoolhill.

Aberdeen granite

The unique granite columns in a rainbow of colours, most from local quarries, topped with gilded Doric capitals are a reminder of an industry that will forever be associated with Aberdeen and the northeast of Scotland, and that the gallery was first established to promote local industry and craft.

But this blog is not about architecture. That is a dreary enough topic in the realm of Aberdeen City lately but a meandering, though short reminiscence of what the gallery has meant for me for I’ll miss it over the next couple of years.

It used to sit next door to Gray’s Art School. Not that the gallery has moved but the art school has, and while attending Saturday morning classes there as a youngster I suppose I was first introduced to the gallery.

It was a very different place from how it looks today. For example the once much loved sculpture court, filled with figures I think copies of ancient classical statues, was a source of infinite fascination for kids, and probably adults. I spent hours drawing one or other of them. I think we had names for one or two but can’t remember what those were. Can’t recall either when it was decided the sculptures were too out-of-date and were relegated to the knackers yard but they were sorely missed. Their departure opened up a large hall for temporary exhibitions but I never felt the same about them as I did about the maze of ghostly figures that invited you in to wander around and up to them to stretch out a tentative hand to trace the smooth plaster of a beautifully formed limb or take their icy cold fingers in yours.

Then came the 1970s and the space was populated with abstract sculptures equally tactile and hugely attractive for wee bairns for some of them would not be out of place in a children’s playground.

I always had more conservative tastes as far as the gallery’s collections were concerned. My favourite pictures were upstairs in the green room where a cluster of tiny portraits were exhibited on vertical display boards that you could open up. Several were by the Aberdeen artist George Reid and the translucency of his skin tones are breathtaking; on a par with Ramsay’s.

Titian's First Study in Colour

It too disappeared, into storage as the gallery changed. What did stay in that room was the hugely popular William Dyce picture, Titian’s First Essay in Colouring. The colours, appropriately enough are sumptuous and it is one of those paintings you can spend a long time staring into for its detail and magic. Aberdonian Dyce was part of the pre-Raphaelite circle and while the gallery has several by the better-known of the movement’s artists, it is the Dyce that I prefer. Here in the green room was Millais’s portrait of a young girl, Bright Eyes, with its striking resemblance to my daughter so that it became a must-see whenever we were in the gallery.

bright eyes

Henri La Thangue’s Ploughboy was another of my favourites and possibly one reason I took so much to the French realists who painted artisans, peasants and labourers with near spiritual reverence.Ploughboy Guthrie


Jules Bastien-Lepage’s painting of a child Going to School is simply charming. An everyday scene from a French village the sparsity of the background means it is the elaborate headgear worn by the child as well as its sweet face which are the captivating elements within it.

And the Goose Girl or as it’s not known, To Pastures New. This wonderful study by James Guthrie is such an striking image and the colours so subtle and perfect and quiet and ideally pastoral.

goose girl

Train Landscape by Eric Ravilious I used to find oddly captivating in an understated way.


As a teenager I visited the red and green rooms less often preferring to look at the Leger still life and Paul Nash’s trees in a landscape. nash

The shapes fascinated me. George Braque too was one of my introductions to cubism. But a visit was never complete without a peek at Landseer’s Highland Flood for few could resist reading this vast picture like a book brimmed with tragedy and drama.


There were the chairs. Fittingly the gallery chairs were very different from any we had at home. Very designery and modern (though in fact by the time I was going into the gallery they were old designs), black leather and chrome: squashy soft seats that invited visitors to sit and stare into the fountain, once it was added and which used to have a Barbara Hepworth piece at its centre.

I never took to the café which replaced the old teashop with its cake stands filled with sandwiches and fancies. There was something quintessentially sophisticated and worthy about the old place which the cafe never achieved, always found it a noisy, uncomfortable space with far less attractive food than most other places nearby and not a patch on any other museum I’ve visited.

One upon a time Aberdeen did have a museum dedicated to, well, Aberdeen. Housed in the dunks of the Cowdray Hall it was a long narrow space, all dark varnished wood and, as I remember though I expect misremember, filled with dusty glass cases you had to peer into and were filled with all kinds of this and that to enthral young minds.

In the modern era I quite like Julian Opie’s Sara Walking for its rhythmic almost hypnotic quality. Almost. opie

My favourite of the most recent acquisitions is the figure of a Chinese girl holding flowers aloft as a salute. Can’t remember what it’s called or who the artist is but there’s something highly attractive, in a literal sense, to this piece.


There were no such attractions on show this weekend. The hundreds who waited patiently to get in were the attraction in a sense, putting their mark on its walls, it is their building after all and joining in the fun and games, and cake eating on offer. By any standards it was a huge success. When it re-opens in 2017 I hope there will be something similar, to entice back the regulars and coax in some who are still daunted by the exterior grandeur of the place to persuade them art galleries and museums are or should really be about them and be palaces of fun and education.

Don’t know if the old closing bell will survive the revamp. Maybe it will. The old wooden revolving doors went several years ago, thought to be a deterrent to potential visitors. Dyce (Aberdeen International) Airport doesn’t appear to have that problem with its revolving door but there you go.

The marble staircase is going much to the disapproval of some. No idea what will happen to the marble.


Two years is a long time but there are other museums available, not enough, but we are in Aberdeen after all. Meanwhile you can catch and play around with some of the collections at Aberdeen Quest



Jun 28, 2014

The Wonderful World of Jodi Le Bigre





What struck me about this picture at first viewing was the tight composition, the subtle palette and fascinating detail which draws the eye in and around the scene. It looked Japanese; the women’s faces slightly oriental and their costumes exotic and painstakingly depicted.  A finely drawn wooden hull rises out of the water – all bulk and weight and grainy texture.  On board the women are mostly bunched up with a few outliers, one immersed in the water.

I liked the piece immediately I saw it at the Aberdeen Artists Society exhibition in Aberdeen Art Gallery so I thought I’d look at more of the artist’s work.


Jodi Le Bigre’s approach is truly fascinating. Take the oil on wood, Feathers – it is an amazing painting soft and multi-faceted and coloured from a restricted her palette. The birds’ feathers are as sensuous as any 18th century fabric in say a Ramsay painting. In a humorous aside a bird in the botton right corner gazes at its own reflection in a stone or something shiny.

Looking through her website the variety of Jodi’s approaches become apparent.  Just as she’s lived in different parts of the world – her native Canada, France, Japan and now Scotland so she’s been absorbing ideas and motifs from all manner of influences. It was in Paris that she learned printing which she’s used to great effect in Overgrowth.


In her oil, A Lonesome Place another of her fascinations is demonstrated – medieval life and imagery. Here she has created a frieze-like effect with the line of blue-faced people ranged in front of four idealised trees while in the foreground there are exotic and monster birds along with a fleshy woman exposing her leg and her ghost-like companion to her right. I’ve no idea what’s going on in the picture but it is fairly surreal and the more you look into it the spookier it becomes. The overgrown bird reminded me of Max Ernst’s fantastic and threatening species partly human.


Let’s take a closer look at Overgrowth, Jodi’s etching in black and sepia inks with touches of watercolour. The meticulous detailing that’s gone into the different costumes and effects in the water – hugely time-consuming and wholly worth it in the quality of the piece. The women share the same face, seen from different angles – pensive and guarded they consider their predicament.

If you look at the image at the start of this blog you can make out one or two strange green figures wrapped in ivy which I think allude to Jodi’s view that we become who we are by absorbing all sorts of influences from our environment  including the natural world we pass through in life.  In the picture ivy grows up around the boat, trapping it and some of the women within its tendrils – is this the overgrowth?

In Jodi’s own blog she  includes a poem by Aberdeen’s makar Sheena Blackhall on Overgrowth.

Twenty Geishas

Twenty Geishas went to sea
In a vessel of polished pine
The traders’ routes offered to fill their coffers
For sharing virtues free

The Flying Dutchman closed his sails
For the Geishas to step aboard
And what transpired it certainly fired
Their spirits which simply soared

The Marie Celeste, they encountered next
Do you wonder it’s not been found?
With kisses of honey and blandishments sunny
The steersman he ran aground

So if twenty Geishas you should see
When you’re sailing the ocean wide
Don’t let them on deck, your ship they will wreck
Keep hard on the starboard side!

melancholia I

Durer’s Melancholia I

I have always been delighted by illustrations from Grimms Fairy Tales and the like and pictorial references to medieval people, places  and things. I like shape and form and the intricate little details that captivate the eye.

My favourite artist is Albrecht Durer who lived in Nuremberg in the 15th and early 16th centuries.  Durer is the absolute master in precision and fine detailed draughtsmanship. His eye was impeccable. His sense of humour compelling. He was simply the greatest and most complete artist of his genre. His wonderful  engraving of Melancholia I may represent his own feelings of melancholia on the death of his mother. Melancholia’s face is black, signifying black bile – four humours were believed to determine the constitution of any person – sanguine, phlegmatic, choleric and melancholic with the latter associated with creativity. On Melancholia’s head sits a garland of herbs suggesting suffering and headaches which Durer suffered from following his bereavement. It is one of the prints on exhibition currently at Duff House in Aberdeenshire.

Sadly not there is Durer’s painting of a Blue Roller bird.roller bird

This work shows how he meticulously captured the construction and texture of the bird’s feathers. An Italian painter once asked to see the brushes he used for depicting fur and feathers and did not believe Durer when he picked up an ordinary bristle paintbrush.


This scene of Durer’s own city of Nuremberg, a mastery in composition leads us back to Jodi Le Bigre.


La Rencontre is  a lovely example of her medieval hilltop town which could be anywhere in continental Europe. There are two figures in the foreground collecting branches presumably for fire or building. Behind them is the manmade world of stone town houses and churches and walls as in Durer’s picture the urban landscape occupies the background while around is the natural environment that supplies so much that is necessary for peoples’ existence.

Jodi recognises how we are shaped by our environments. Since coming to live in Aberdeen she has encountered the Doric. Take a look at this.


Lizzie’s Dother is a sweet, magical watercolour. Lizzie is crouched into the too-small frame provided by the artist for a woman of her bulk and so her skirts fall into creases that flow and bunch and give her form. The sweep of Lizzie’s long hair is repeated in the lines of the bundle that is her dother. And they are surrounded by lilies, symbolising innocence.

I think it reads in Doric along the bottom, She wis mindit o aa the ither quines at she’d held the same wye, which is just brilliant.


Communion belongs in a book of folk tales and shows Jodi’s undoubted talent to apply herself to so many different styles.  Here an old woman has her back to us as she communes with her geese in front of peasant houses. Notice how the woman’s headscarf echoes the orange and shape of the birds’ beaks.  Again the palette is muted and there is a sublime softness to the piece.


Marginalia is set in Aberdeen with the Citadel in the background and a Bosch-like clamour of figures occupying the foreground. The city’s iconic bird the seagull are shown harnessed as draught animals. The saved and the damned are separated by a sturdy Aberdeen hoose and oil supply vessels grace the backdrop of the north sea.


A Christmas card – Der Nikolaus – to my mind  shows Santa Claus as Robbie Coltrane.

This drawing of a procession of matryoshka dolls in a scene out the Daphne du Maurier’s The Birds. I don’t begin to understand the juxtaposition between the Russian granny dolls and the contemporary figures in the foreground but it’s fun and notice the third doll turning to gaze up at the gathering  threat of the birds flying overhead.

I suspect the inside of Jodi’s brain is fairly interesting. I’ve not come across another artist who has reduced her figures to such a bare minimum as Jodi does in her composition comprising a group of skeletons oot and aboot including the child waving to us while her or his, it’s impossible to tell, parent is trying to direct the child’s attention to a birdy in the sky.



Here a plague doctor from Renaissance Italy shares space with a walrus, an acrobat and a stilt walker. As I said, the inside of Jodi’s head must be a place of wonder.

Young and brimming with talent Jodi Le Bigre – you can find her website at

Feb 5, 2014


Scotland, how we are and what we are – or a 15 minute version of something of the kind.


Tens of thousands of years in the making

and here we are

Jul 24, 2013

Elizabeth’s Gift to the City: Duthie Park

Duthie Park

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Duthie Park has long been a favourite with the people of Aberdeen, usually referred to as ‘the Duthie Park, but in recent years it had become pretty tired looking with some of the old favourite activities having been stopped by successive council administrations.  Only the award-winning Winter Gardens was kept in anything like its former glory. That hasn’t changed but thanks to Heritage Lottery Funding Duthie Park is looking glorious all over once more.

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In 1880 Elizabeth Duthie gave a parcel of 44 acres of land to the city to establish a park in memory of her family. Responsibility for its layout went to William McKelvie from Dundee and so a grand Victorian park close to the River Dee opened to the public three years later.

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Work continues  but essentially the park has been restored to much of its original appearance, which is a vast improvement on its recent guises.  Those people desperate to destroy Aberdeen’s unique Union Terrace Gardens because it is Victorian, and so old fashioned, could do worse than learn from what has taken place in Duthie Park – old is not necessarily bad and new is most definitely not always progressive or an improvement.

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Join me, if yous will, for a tour around the park.

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Duthie Park has several entrances all with those fabulous moulded iron gates, which incidentally my grandfather’s brother worked on before he emigrated to the USA. That was a year or two back. He worked for Aberdeen iron founders McKinnons of Spring Garden so presumably that was where the gates were made.

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Hygeia soars up into the sky on her fluted  Corinthian column.  

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Hygeia (it has various spellings) is a goddess of health from Greco-roman mythology and naturally this is where the word hygiene originates.  This said you can understand why she was chosen to grace the new park in 1881 for it was realised that green areas were essential oases amid the filth and squalor of industrialised urban areas – refuges for people to relax in and breath clean air. This is no less important today as urban sprawl continues to cement over our green spaces.

4oct2012 039Hygeia holds the cup that is her symbol with a snake drinking from it, a reference to living in harmony with mother earth. According to tradition the snake has wisdom and is associated with healing and was believed to visit the dead whose souls the snake would carry off – hence their accumulated wisdom.  The emblem of Hygeia’s snake and cup was adopted as the symbol for pharmacy in the 18th century and is still used by some health organisations.


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Sculpted by Arthur Taylor in a light grey granite Hygeia stands on a base surmounted with pink granite recumbent lions with lovely expressions.

Arthur Taylor ran a granite yard in Aberdeen’s Jute Street from where several other significant sculptures in the city were sculpted.

Aberdeen Granite Trail pdf

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The Gordon Highlanders Memorial is a Celtic cross  of grey granite. Did you know that the author Raymond Chandler served with the Gordon Highlanders in France during World War 1?

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Their motto Bydand (stand fast) can be seen above.

The Gordons took their name from Clan Gordon which occupied land around Huntly and so the Gordons, the cock o’ the north, were very much a northeast Scotland regiment, aside from Raymond Chandler.

Several Gordons won the Victoria Cross, the first of these was Thomas Beach, a Dundonian  who was awarded the medal for gallantry during the Crimean War. On 5 November 1854, Private Beach tackled a group of Russians interfering with a British officer as he lay injured during the Battle of Inkerman. Beach killed two of the Russians and defended the injured man until help arrived.

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The last, as far as I know, recipient of the VC was Allan Ker  (with one ‘r’) from Edinburgh. In March 1918 during the Great War he single-handedly held back a German attack on the British line and remained at his post to protect badly injured comrades during which time he was being assaulted with bayonets. The Vickers gun he had been using ran out of ammunition but he held his stance for three hours against 500 enemy assailants, surrendering eventually when the situation became impossible. Bandstand 4oct2012 008 (72)

The decorative bandstand stands on a granite plinth with 5 steps up to the platform. There are cast-iron supports and railings and various decorative features and cartouches with Aberdeen’s coat of arms. It is topped with a weather vane.

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What are called the lakes are being restored. They consist of the upper lake and Aberdonians can once again take to boats, during holidays at least when the pedalos are on hire.

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The central lake is supposed to represent a lochan which can be used for pond dipping.

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The lower lake is, well just that.

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The Iron Bridge over the lake is supported by grey granite piers and nicely worked cast-ironwork on the parapets . There are lion rampants on both north and south parapets.

This bridge was once used by the folk of Rosemount to get around the Denburn area, near where the Central Library now is, and where Mutton Brae and Black’s Buildings with their overcrowded slums used to house many from Aberdeen’s working population.

The Boating Pond being renovated


and it turned into this

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The magnificent boating pond at the riverside which generations of Aberdonians visited on Sundays to sail their model yachts has been cleaned and resurfaced so that once again boys, isn’t it always?, will again sail their toy, sorry model, boats and more sporty people can kayak.


Nearby is another pond, circular with a spout of water.

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Fountainhall Well

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Still on the theme of water, the  Fountainhall Well predates the park but was re-situated here.  Constructed in 1706 by James Mackie and John Burnet it consists of a small cistern of a brick and stone lined vaulted inner chamber with a rectangular pool and stone steps leading down to the water.

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The people of Aberdeen used to get their water from the loch but by 1706 its water had become polluted and lead pipes were laid to take water from Carden’s Haugh Well.  The water from it was carried by pipe to 6 cisterns or fountain-houses along Fountainhall Road and on through to the Water House in Broad Street until 1866. Once a new means of supplying water was introduced the old wells were no longer needed and in 1903 the Fountainhall Well found a new home in Duthie Park. 

Silver City Vault

The plaque reads Old Well from Lands of Fountainhall, erected in connection with the first city water supply 1706, Re-erected 1903.

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The McGrigor Obelisk

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Designed by architect Alexander Ellis and Aberdeen  artist James Giles in 1860 this is  a memorial to Sir James McGrigor who was Director-general of the army medical department for 36 years and Lord Rector of Marischal College.

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Built of polished pink granite on a square base and plinth it has a recessed tooled grey granite panel on its north side.

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Until 1905 it stood in the quad at Marischal College, now the HQ of Aberdeen City Council, and formerly part of the University of Aberdeen. The obelisk now dominates the area of the park overlooking  the River Dee.

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 The Taylor Well

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 Grey granite was used to create this decorative drinking well to quench the thirsts of both people and dogs. Notice the dog basin at the bottom.

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The inscription explain the well was provided by Alexander Taylor’s daughter Jane in commemoration of her father.

It is decorated with leopard and lion masks, a reference to Aberdeen’s coat of arms.

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 The Temperance Fountain


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This is a bonnie piece of work: polished pink and grey granites by James Hunter and originally stood in the Woodside area. Some old codgers from the city still refer to the bus stop there as ‘the fountain’.

???????????????????????????????Under renovation

The temperance movement was very strong during the 19th century when pubs might outnumber people in some places and a working man could drink much of his weekly pay away in a single night which left a problem for his wife and children.

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The fountain comprises a polished pink granite basin sheltered by a groin vaulted roof held in place by three slender columns of turned granite.

On top of the whole structure is a spherical finial.

This fountain, unlike the Taylor one, was designed to go into Duthie Park, a gift from Aberdeen Temperance Society, to provide uncontaminated water and healthy alternative to alcohol. If the prospect of pure water was not sufficient an attraction then the message carved into the base might provide the persuasion required.

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‘In commemoration of the advance of temperance under the auspices of the Aberdeen Temperance Society in the year 1882.’ And ‘Thou givest them water for their thirst, IPH 9-20’

The text comes from the Book of Nehemiah  in the Hebrew Bible.

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Seats along the viewing terraces overlooking the River Dee.

The Swan Fountain

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The Swan Fountain is a cracker. Made from red Peterhead granite it sits on a rustic  circular base with a polished plinth on which sits four swans from whose beaks water pours – when it’s switched on.

4oct2012 048The Swan Fountain under restoration

Admire the time taken to produce the impressive polished basin which might have been hand-polished or perhaps was a combination of machine and hand polishing.

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The Swan Fountain was made by A. Macdonald & Co, granite merchants whose yard was in Constitution Street.

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Bowling Pavilion but what – no tennis?

This timber building with overhanging eaves stands at the back of the bowling green.

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Unfortunately Aberdeen Council continues to shut its eyes to the upsurge of interest in tennis in the wake of Andy Murray’s great achievements and mothballs courts around the city, or as in this case, removes courts altogether – here the area will be transformed into what it calls community gardens and rockery. It will be lovely no doubt but surely the authorities should be encouraging people of the city to become active by providing readily accessible facilities for them. Removing the tennis courts is a backward step.

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The Mound or ziggurat used to be covered in roses but now it has been taken back to its original look with grass. A ziggurat is a raised area often involving a shrine. There isn’t one in Duthie Park but the view from the top is nae bad.

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The Winter Gardens complex is among the biggest in Europe with different climate areas including its famous cactus and succulent house and home to the world’s only talking cactus, Spike.

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People of Aberdeen used to take their unwanted budgies there to live in its urban tropical environment but they appear to have gone.

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Kelly’s Cats

Aberdeen’s famous Kelly cats, those removed when part on Union Bridge came down to accommodate, wait for it, wait for it – retail units – ie shops. Now wasn’t that a lesson which went unlearned by some of Aberdeen’s prominent citizens when hoping to create a similar money-making desert over Union Terrace Gardens.

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Imagine how better the centre of Aberdeen would be with the complete bridge back – incidentally the largest single-span granite bridge in the world. Some folk have no sense of worth.

It won’t happen but some of the cats are here. They are actually leopards, which appear on Aberdeen’s coat-of-arms and are metal cast. It is commonly put about that the cats which decorated the bridge’s balustrades, and still do on one side, were designed by Aberdeenshire architect William Kelly but apparently they were the work of Sidney Boyes who taught at Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen.  Kelly designed the metal plaques on the bridge.


All of above gets the thumbs up but there has to be a down side and her it comes.

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Children’s park areas top and bottom. The one at the Ferryhill end has always been a pretty dark and chilly spot and it is a pity that the opportunity hasn’t been taken to shift somewhere more open to the sun. It has good facilities but for parents hanging around while their youngsters play it can be an uncomfortable wait.

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The bottom play area near to the River Dee is far better although there’s traffic to contend with down there.

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The present café isn’t really much of a facility with floppy paper plates, paper cups and very little choice of anything to eat and no napkins!  Don’t know why there can’t be a proper restaurant there as I recall the old one used to be fairly busy. 

I have been told the queue at the ice cream kiosk can stretch back a mighty long way. Now call me picky but isn’t there anyone employed there with the gumption to get hold of a box, fill it with ice creams and ice lollies and some cool drinks and go out into the park and sell the stuff?  Remember when little ice cream wagons used to be common along sea fronts?

No points for effort.

19july2013 062 Nice blooms

The only toilets are in the Winter Gardens which is fine but why is there only one soap dispenser in the women’s toilet? And why was there no soap in it when I was in? Perhaps because there is only one soap dispenser in the women’s toilet – don’t you think?

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Does no-one at Aberdeen City Council remember the great typhoid epidemic of 1964? Those were the days and if there’s not another soap dispenser put into the women’s toilets soon those days will be back with us.


Finally there are no rubbish bins in the park.  Not totally correct, as I spotted at least one in one of the squares in the Winter Gardens but outside in the park itself – well what’s that all about? Please do not suggest it is from a fear of weapons of mass destruction being deposited in Miss Duthie’s Park because, frankly, you are on your own with that one.

19july2013 088Bananas

Is it that you, meaning the Council, can’t get the labour to empty them anymore? If it is you’re going to have to find someone to go round picking up the litter being dropped in the park because there are lots of minkers out there who are doing just that. 

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And I can assure you I never came on any weapons of mass destruction anywhere, except in the women’s toilets where the lack of soap could potentially lead to a pretty messy situation.

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Sep 16, 2012

Roland Coget Sculpture at Cransdale, Collieston

Flotsam and Jetsam by Roland Coget

Sculpture made at the Scottish Sculpture Workshop at Lumsden, Aberdeenshire

Mar 3, 2012

Scotland’s Arts as viewed from a window on the Clyde: BBC Scotland and the Arts

BBC Scotland is Scotland’s only national public service broadcaster, responsible for a wide range of local programming and services across television, radio and online platforms that properly reflect the diverse nature of Scotland.

BBC Scotland

The BBC in London took on criticism for being too much of a south-east England organisation posing as the nation’s broadcaster so set about decentralising at the same time BBC Scotland was effectively concentrating its output in its £188 million new-build at Pacific Quay in Glasgow – and £62 million over budget. (Some of us recall its opening night when it was discovered it wasn’t soundproofed with noises of partying leaking through to broadcasts.)

It is odd that while London was being condemned for pandering to its local audience that it was not envisaged that the same could be applied to centralising its Scottish output.

Centralisation rarely works. It effectively favours the area around it – cutting itself off from the rest of us. Instead of spending outrageous millions on this Glasgow centre, the BBC should have had more respect for Scotland and improved the various small studios around the country. The problem comes when, as we have seen with London, local people are employed or outsiders are employed and become local to that area. Soon the outside world is forgotten about. Put it down to costs or complacency or sheer ignorance – the result is broadcasting becomes more and more localised and for a national service that is good enough.

I could have chosen any number of areas to highlight the wee parochialism which characterises BBC Scotland but let’s take a look at its Arts and Culture output.

From listening to Radio Scotland my impression is that most of the output is whatever is going on the central belt and in Glasgow in particular. Now BBC Scotland has a dedicated Arts Correspondent, Pauline McLean. I assumed that as she works for BBC Scotland and there doesn’t appear to be any other Arts Correspondent Ms McLean is supposed to cover the Arts throughout Scotland. So how well are the Arts around Scotland represented on BBC Scotland? Broadcasts come and go so I went to the BBC website to check my perception.

Pauline used to blog for the BBC. Quite a lot actually. She doesn’t do this anymore but the blogs are still on the web. I took a look and so you won’t have to go through the same ordeal I’ve summarised my findings.

Pauline called her blog a View from the South Bank, evidently chosen because it seemed a great play on London’s South Bank. Pauline is at pains to point out that this isn’t London-centric culture, however, no way –but neither did she point out that it was central belt culture in the main and more specifically Glasgow. Yes as Pauline drives home her BBC blog is from Glasgow’s south bank of the Clyde. Yes, I think we get that.

Pauline’s blog presumably tied in with her broadcasts – those I heard and thought – well you know what I thought – radio broadcasts and possibly TV but as some know I don’t do BBC Scotland TV having discovered that it has nothing to say to me in the northeast. That’s the northeast of Scotland not northeast as in England.

I suppose what got me thinking about this was Pauline’s recent great big puff – several puffs for Glasgow’s film festival even promoting the idea that Brigadoon is in fact an important classic when clearly it is bollocks. That didn’t matter as the whole exercise was to push an event in Glasgow.

Let’s move on. Pauline last blogged for the BBC in April last year. Don’t know why her blog stopped. Just cannot imagine. Here’s a run-through.

8 April 2011 Ballet and Glasgows Tramway and the Edinburgh Festival.

4 April 2011 Culzean Castle

29 Mar 2011 Scottish Screen Archive

15 Mar 2011 A remarkably short blog about Plockton School of Traditional Music

10 Mar 2011 Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Glasgow Art Club

4 Mar 2011 A Glasgow restaurant

1 Mar 2011 Dance in West Dunbartonshire but that was only about rehearsals for it swiftly led into back to Glasgow.

28 Feb 2011 Oscar news and animation award and Glasgow for its Film Festival – oh and a ref to how Glasgow Film Festival compares with Edinburgh FF.

25 Feb 2011 National Theatre – at last an opportunity to get out of Glasgow but where is the National Theatre situated – you got it. This was a story about HOME – the NT production which took place at 10 venues around the country. I believe the very first performance took place in Aberdeen but no matter our Scotland Arts Correspondent made no mention she saw it in – Glasgow, natch.

23 Feb 2011 Off to – oh, oh Glasgow. Museums this time – Kelvingrove – and Transport Museum. And a mention of ‘national galleries’ in Edinburgh (no capitals although the Transport Museum did get them) and Kelvingrove. Oh well she’s not the education correspondent. Hey-up a mention of Stirling Castle – with capitals. Still central belt though, innit?

2 Feb 2011 That story about possible closure of the Plockton Trad Music School. At last except the first line refers to Celtic Connections which is based in? Glasgow.

31 Jan 2011 Okay I didn’t expect quite this amount of weegieness when I looked through the blogs but it does what it says, view from the South Bank. And so it’s straight into Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. Blah blah blah.

27 Jan 2011 Now we’re motoring – to the Lammermuir Festival and Perth Concert Hall.

27 Jan 2011 Feel better now – was getting quite claustrophobic in there. And we’re still out of the big G in Dundee. Dundee so it must be animation. Och nearly missed it – was so short. She’s back onto Celtic Connections and we know where that is, don’t we – G.

25 Jan 2011 Bob Dylan. Now you’re talking. Can’t possibly…aye it’s Celtic Connections again and lots of it so it’s a G.

19 Jan 2011 NEDs and poetry, Liz Lochhead a poet popular in the central belt with mention of Burns’ home in Alloway.

18 Jan 2011 Glasgow cinema.

12 Jan 2011 Glasgow museum and pretty well Glasgow.

16 Dec 2010 Auchtermuchty nativity play.That’s Fife by the way.

14 Dec 2010 General little list of observations about critics which mentions various foreign places, oh and Edinburgh Festival.

7 Dec 2010 Pauline sympathising with audience member having to brave travel difficulties in Glasgow to get to an event in Glasgow. And other events in Glasgow – oh and one in Edinburgh.

7 Dec 2010 – Yes a double bill from our Pauline. Travel chaos – I think she means it was snowing and her high heels probably got stuck in a brander because she didn’t make it to Edinburgh – not then but gave us one wee snippet on an exhibition at National Galleries in Edinburgh. Have to say this blog read like extracts from an exhibition leaflet. Just how difficult is it to be the BBC Art Correspondent?

3 Dec 2010 Time for music from the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. Why are there spaces between each sentence? It’s a curious way to write. Could it be she thinks her readers, assuming anyone is reading this stuff apart from me and the precious few comments suggest I’m almost alone, are a bit s-l-o-w? So where are we?  She doesn’t say. I’ll have to check this one. Will get back to you. You knew, didn’t you? Glasgow.

1 Dec 2010 Plucky Pauline makes ‘through snow-filled Glasgow to snow free Ayrshire’ – just a small point but why does ‘snow-filled’ take a hyphen while ‘snow free’ doesn’t? Okay, okay. Burns Birthplace Museum. But Pauline’s blog wouldn’t be complete without a mention of Glasgow and perhaps Edinburgh – and yes they are both here.

29 Nov 2010 Scottish Opera, tell me they’re no based in Glasgow? with a link to South Africa. Course they are.

21 Nov 2010 Book Festival East Lothian. Wee mention of the Borders Book ‘festival’ – without a capital ‘F’. Oh she mentions the horrible Scottish weather. Does she mean west of Scotland weather? Pauline wouldn’t know as she rarely drags herself out of the west of Scotland.

19 Nov 2010 And Pauline has travelled all the way to Georgia – only kidding it’s an item about a primary school in Wishaw. Not so far out and about then. Oh and Edinburgh.

18 Nov 2010 Creative Scotland and cuts. Mention of Glasgow and Dundee

15 Nov 2010 Glasgow

9 Nov 2010  Pauline really has a vocabulary of one-liners. Scottish Ballet/ Edinburgh Festival.

4 Nov 2010 Glasgow/Edinburgh Festival

29 Oct 2010 Glasgow

26 Oct 2010 Edinburgh

22 Oct 2010 ‘I’m aware I have one of the best jobs in the country,’ writes Pauline. I should cocoa. You don’t even have to move off your own sofa it appears given some of these blogs, a bit like myself only I don’t claim to represent anyone else far less Scotland. Nearly forget where are we today Pauline? Let me guess. Glasgow. Got it in one. Next.

21 Oct 2010 Glasgow.  A few token mentions of other places all in relation to the Glasgow feature of Celtic Connections which is 3 months away but Pauline isn’t in the mood for seeking her culture elsewhere if she can hang around Glesca.

19 Oct 2010 Glesca.

5 Oct 2010 C’mon, c’mon do something interesting. Cuts to arts funding so we might just get out and about as an example to –to –Glasgow again and again and …

1 Oct 2010 Feel good factor? Pauline asks – let’s hope so Pauline, let’s hope so. Worthy topic of the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival – Glasgow.

28 Sept 2010 Mackintosh again. Glasgow.

24 Sept 2010 NTS problems – not clear if our Pauline actively sought out views or re-wrote someone else’s report. Mention of Burns Museum Alloway.

20 Sept 2010 Carbuncle award – mention of John O’Groats. Name checks too to Denny and Falkirk. Not much culture there then.

6 Sept 2010 If it’s film it must be Glasgow. Cinema hasn’t reached anywhere else in Scotland – or should that read – BBC Scotland’s Art Correspondent hasn’t reached anywhere else in Scotland.

3 Sept 2010 No place mention but it’s the Fringe – so it’s Edinburgh.

2 Sept 2010 Open Doors. Now everywhere in Scotland does Doors Open so – Glasgow gets first call – oh, oh, Shetland and Greenock, Inverness and Aberdeen, och she’s fair line up which is obvious she’s picked up a few leaflets or more likely gone onto the Doors Open website.

30 Aug 2010 Pauline writes about a ‘film Festival’ – think it’s Scotland’s main Film Festival in Edinburgh. Yep, that it is but she can’t mention Edinburgh without a wee aside about Glasgow. At the end she reveals how as a young reporter in Glasgow  the Edinburgh Festival had never been on her radar until sent out to cover something but was desperate to get back to Glasgow. Something she hasn’t shaken off.

24 Aug 2010 Edinburgh

23 Aug 2010 Edinburgh

21 Aug 2010 Edinburgh

20 Aug 2010 Edwin Morgan’s death so naturally this is a Glasgow feature with mention of Edinburgh.

18 Aug 2010 Edinburgh

14 Aug 2010 Edinburgh  and Glasgow

12 Aug 2010 Edinburgh

10 Aug 2010 Edinburgh

8 Aug 2010 Edinburgh

6 Aug 2010 ‘the fringe’ but think she means The Fringe. Possibly in a rush. Whatever the little that’s in this blog is set in Edinburgh.

5 Aug 2010 Edinburgh – Fringe and fringe – two different organisations or just…?

27 July 2010 Edinburgh and UK Film Council.

20 July 2010 Scottish cultural scene boiled down to Glasgow/Edinburgh.

16 July 2010 Various mentions in Ireland and England and back to Scotland and to Glasgow.

20 June 2010 Edinburgh

17 June 2010 Edinburgh

16 June 2010 – I recognise that picture on Pauline’s blog – Guthrie’s Goose Girl from Aberdeen Art Gallery so there is culture elsewhere. Of course this is a story about the Glasgow Boys and a Glasgow art collector. What you rock n roll it, Pauline didn’t even say where this picture can be seen all year round or that Guthrie came from Greenock.

11 June 2010 Edinburgh

4 June 2010 Glasgow for glitz and name checks for other places and the carbuncle award.

1 June 2010 Leith – that’s Edinburgh right?

17 May 2010 Union Terrace Gardens – can’t get CB into this Aberdeen story and the strange thing is she got loads of comments following this blog. Most of her blogs attracted none.

14 May 2010 Somewhere in the central belt.

10 May 2010 Glasgow .

7 May 2010 Edinburgh

5 May 2010 Edinburgh

30 April 2010 Glasgow

28 April 2010 NTS

20 April 2010 Pauline doesn’t say where she is. Oh, she’s at the opera Edinburgh I think tho’ could have been Glasgow.

9 April 2010 Glasgow

1 April 2010 Glasgow

30 March 2010 Inverness. Hurrah, hurrah. This is more like it.

29 March 2010 Glasgow

26 March 2010 Kirkcaldy so it must be Vettriano.

17 March 2010 Edinburgh

13 March 2010 ‘the Secc’ so I assume this is the SECC in Glasgow.

11 March 2010 National Theatre –of Wales.

1 March 2010 Glasgow.

27 Feb 2010 a bit of Glasgow.

24 Feb 2010 Usher Hall is – you see there’s an assumption in Pauline’s blog that everyone is familiar with her world. Google – and it’s Edinburgh.

8 Feb 2010 Aberdeen and Union Terrace Gardens. Cripes nothing happens in Aberdeen other than the Garden campaign.

4 Feb 2010 And again.

27 Jan 2010 Jan so it has to be Glasgow.

25 Jan 2010 Nat Lib Scotland – Edinburgh and Burns.

22 Jan 2010 Glasgow.

19 Jan 2010 Glaasgow.

18 Jan 2010 Glaaasgow.

12 Jan 2010 Aberdeen and Union Terrace Gardens again.

And so she goes on and a quick click through reveals the usual fare served up. Has so little effort ever gone into reporting a nation’s Arts?

Pauline evidently had enough of blogging to no-one but plucky old BBC Scotland have provided a dedicated Arts & Culture website to keep us up-to-date with what’s happening in the cultural life of Scotchland.

I know it’s repetitive so I’ve condensed it to location ( mainly).

Glasgow. Glasgow .Edinburgh. Shetland. Shetland. Edinburgh. Edinburgh. Glasgow. Shetland. Glasgow. Glasgow. Glasgow. N.Y. Glasgow. Gaelic songs. Scots language. Glasgow? Glasgow. Glasgow. Glasgow . Glasgow. Glasgow.

GMS report

Week 5 March 2012

Pauline rolls out of bed to bring a report from Glasgow.

Week 12 March 2012

Pauline goes to no end of trouble to bring another report from Glasgow.

Tues 13 March Pauline defies expectations and travels all the way to Edinburgh for a royal occasion for Newsdrive and possible Reporting Scotland (sic).  Nah she wouldn’t miss out on something like that.

Okay there we have it. Scotland’s cultural map —well mapped out for you by the nation’s own BBC although when you look at it, it is more a tale of two cities.


Week of 23 April 2012

BBC Scotland GMS: Pauline leaned across her chaise-longue and reached for a promotional statement about Clearances App and presumably picked up a cheque for reading it on GMS which anyone of the presenters could have read for no extra cost. On Thursday she dragged herself into the studio in Glasgow to deliver info on more kulchure in the Central Belt. She’s nothing if not consistent.

Feb 19, 2012

From van Gogh to Vettriano: A wander around an exhibition in Aberdeen Art Gallery

Aberdeen Art Gallery’s exhibition of work from its own and private collections.

Here we have an eclectic display of works by some world-class artists and several lesser names. It is difficult to pin down what links them other than what was available from the Gallery’s own collection and those it was able to borrow from private collectors.

Arguably one link is that the pictures are mainly reflections of the artists’ psychological states rather than any kind of narrative on their worlds. There are suggestions of realism. Clauesen is often described as such, but his gleaners and others in the show are…but I’ll come back to that.

So what to make of this miscellany of art movements and styles?

On the Gallery’s own website it describes the exhibition as including van Gogh, Pissarro, Monet, Matisse, Spencer, Nash, Freud and Kitaj which is interesting for what is omits in view of the show’s title.

Anyway I joined quite a crowd of people one afternoon to take a look for myself.

The exhibition begins with an unusual black chalk and pencil sketch on paper by van Gogh called Homme assis avec fillete. It’s an early work, striking with its formal static poses. No sense of affection only tension between the young girl and the seated old man. Without the label it might have been difficult to pin this one on van Gogh except for the man’s muckle black shoes most definitely from the palette of the Dutch post-Impressionist.

Clausen’s The Gleaners is the first of several similar subjects.  His is a romanticised interpretation of impoverished peasants and a world away from Millet’s powerful depiction which sets the standard for the theme. Clausen’s Shepherd’s Boy of 1883 lacks spontaneity and attributed dignity we can expect with this subject which might have something to do with his pieces being reworks of photographs.

Dominating this first room is local artist, Joseph Farquharson’s On a Clear Eve – a typical scene from rural Scotland and which is every bit as iconic, if you’ll excuse the over-worked term, as Vettriano’s pictures. While apparently over-sentimental his scenes are, in fact, pretty realistic representations of our countryside’s continuity with its past.

So while Farquharson appears romanticised and isn’t, Alex Main’s 1889 The Gleaners steers us into the realm of Vettriano’s fantasies with its starkly delineated costumes and figures set against a background of sun bleached corn fields. This work most definitely lacks any of the strengths and and authenticity of Millet’s Gleaners.

The McTaggart sea pictures including children in boats are interesting in that he blends straight figurative with abstract backgrounds. They remind me of Hornel.

Étretat: L’Aiguille and the Porte d’Aval of 1885 – a pastel by Monet is a stunner. A small composition of cliffs and sea. The dark rocks in the foreground stark against the blonde sea under portentous skies is a great demonstration of contrast or perhaps conflict in this little scene.  

There’s a pretty washed out Pissaro, Gelée blanche Éragny of 1895. An oil on canvas. It failed to hold my attention.

From the subtlety of Pissaro to a bold composition of oriental patterns in hot shades of red, ochre, blue and green. This 1894 oil of Japanese Dancing Girls by Hornel is very lively with its impression of constant movement. A very pretty piece with plenty to occupy the eye with its exotic dancers in their kimonos and coloured fans and as with his outdoor scenes the play of light across the canvas invigorates his compositions.

Am I the only person in Scotland who does not like or should that be appreciate Peploe? To me his Peony Roses (oil 1906) – a vase of white paeonies against a black background does nothing for a fine bunch of flowers. As for his Coffee Pot of the same year, well this is a very, very still life which is wholly underwhelming.

Let me get myself off the hook by saying how much I enjoyed Cadell’s Iona (oil). Yes I know this is a familiar enough, tame?Scottish landscape but his bold, assured brushstrokes handle the pastel blues, greens, yellows quite masterly and the pale tones are saved from being boring by vibrant red tops to the chimneys and a stark red roof.

Bernard Meninsky’s pen and ink sketch of 1918 is worth a mention and his Lovers on a Beach of 1947 in pen, ink and guache is demonstrably Picasso-esque with its monumental figures of the lovers reclining across the foreground – all legs, arms and torso leading to tiny heads. It’s quite fun but decidedly derivative.

I like the great tones in Robert Colquhoun’s The Two Sisters of 1944 (oil). Flat abstract, almost Braque-like. The colours too – ochres, burnt Sienna and darker tones. But then there’s his twist. Colquhoun gives rounded form to his faces so radically transforming the picture’s structure.

Talking of Braque, there is a small brown crayon drawing on paper of Les Pommes (1927). It’s a subtle representation of masterly simplicity.

Edward Wadsworth has created a wholly absorbing very decorative scene of translucent blue water and rusty red sailed vessels in The Cattewatter, Plymouth Sound. This tempera on board of 1923 looks as if the steps in the foreground have been cut out of cardboard, as do the pier and arching cliffs. The whole effect is quite beautiful and tranquil. 

I usually like Stanley Spencer’s work but I found being close up and personal with The Baptism (1952) strangely discomfiting. Not sure why. Christ and John the Baptist are given mask-like faces and are surrounded by children in contemporary costume. It’s big and bold and uses traditional compositional ploys to lead the viewer around the picture such as the reeds caught up in the figure of Christ. A child’s hand is painted as a shell.

Spencer’s Daughters of Jerusalem, a scene from the road to Calvary with more contemporary kids is brimmed full of the emotion we associate with this artist.

Further along I was confronted by Duncan Grant’s horrible picture of a coffee pot so kept on walking.

Portrait of Natalie Gray, an oil of 1928 by Mark Gertler is big and luscious and frieze-like and the piece chosen for the cover of the accompanying catalogue (which I didn’t buy as I know it would be relegated to my already overstuffed bookshelves all too soon – okay and I’m tight).

On to Lucien Freud’s Boy on a Sofa is in the third room. A pencil, charcoal, coloured chalk on paper work from 1944 it has a young boy staring straight ahead but not directly into the eyes of the viewer so we can stare back as long as we like and not feel any guilt. It’s cool with steely blues, greys and brown so that the child’s face is deathly pale. It’s very different from the expected images of Freud’s work not just in the subject matter but the precise handling and control he once exercised.

There are several Joan Eardley pictures in this room. Andrew with a Comic c1955 and others. I don’t get Eardley (although I do own another artist’s work based on an Eardley but as it isn’t actually Eardley …) Her Cuddling the Child immediately reminded me of Käthe Kollwitz but I prefer Kollwitz. In fact I love Kollwitz’s work – she was so accomplished and capable of conveying incredible emotion with the sparcest of working.  There is a gallery devoted to her work in Cologne which is inside a large block with shops as I recall but well worth searching out. Incredible stuff.

There is a rather nice R. B. Kitaj paste of Marynka Smoking. It really doesn’t much matter whose work I’m looking at, I always find some influence in it so if you get irritated by this then stop reading now because I’m off again. I expect it was Kitaj’s intention to have his model hold a pose straight out of Ingres. Ingres used to be a firm favourite of mine – and could be again but I haven’t looked at any of his pictures in years. This is typical although I have to say that Kitaj is no Ingres and possibly he wouldn’t disagree. Nice yellow cushion.

Howson. Well you either like him or you don’t – I think.  Howson grotesque faces are now so familiar, leering out from his oversized canvases. Medieval gargoyles or those character parts from religious pictures of 15thC Italy or do I mean 16thC? But his are kind of fatty, puttyish. It’s certainly a powerful image but I get the feeling it’s there to stop the viewer in her tracks and perhaps shock and after the shock, well what? The face of Jeremy Isaacs is the most pleasing at the centre of the picture. Was that him before he tried to stop wind turbines being erected on whichever Scottish island he had a holiday home?

By this stage my back was aching and I was hungry but Frank Auerbach’s Head of Helen Gillespie (oil 1963/4) caught my eye with its thick impasto which forces the viewer to back off to make out the sculptural form of the head of Helen Gillespie. I liked it for the craftsmanship which went into it. It’s clever. But I was definitely tiring by this point.


As I left the exhibition I notice along the balcony the Vettriano loaned to the Gallery, not the one in this exhibition which didn’t make a mention in the Gallery’s website blurb on the show. The one familiar on mugs .

Bloody hell – woman as meat.

Nov 24, 2011

Fabergé Egg but not as you know it

Reprinted from RT:

Faberge may be world-renowned for eggs, but this is surely beyond a yolk. The Faberge Museum in Baden-Baden shelled out a jaw-dropping $1 million for an unsavory composition by the Russian jewellers: the firm never again produced anything of the kind.

So move over, dainty bejeweled Easter pieces. In this 1905 combo, we see a FRIED egg – sunny side up – with fly, torn newspaper, half-empty glass of vodka, fish bones, and an unfinished fag.

But this hangover breakfast is not as simple as it seems. The brick pedestal is in fact pure jasper, the eggs white stone and amber, the paper, fish and fly are made of silver, the glass and its contents are crystal, and the cigarette end crystal and quartz.

And there’s an even deeper twist. This experiment in naturalism carried political overtones: the scrip is an exact copy of a St. Petersburg daily, which Russians would have been reading at the time. It carries the October Manifesto on the Improvement of State Order, issued by Russia’s last Tsar Nicholas II following the revolution of 1905.

“This work is one of the most interesting ever created by Faberge,” says the founder of the museum, Russian collector Aleksandr Ivanov. “Despite the fact the Faberge never created anything similar, he went really avant-garde with this work, having unmistakably recognized the revolutionary mood of that time.”

Such raw images became common in Russian avant-garde art only a decade later, experts say. And contemporary British artist Sarah Lucas, famous for her Two Eggs and a Kebab, was clearly streaks behind Faberge.

Baden-Baden’s Faberge Museum was founded by Ivanov in 2009 and features over 700 pricey exhibits, including cigar cases, animal statuettes, jewelry and of course, eggs. The most expensive piece in the collection is the Rothschild egg purchased by Ivanov at Sotheby’s for nine million pounds in 2007.