Edinburgh: Modern 2

Modern Scottish Women catalogueIn 1885 Sir William Fettes Douglas, President of the Royal Scottish Academy, declared that the work of a woman artist was “like a man’s only weaker and poorer”. Despite this view, between then and 1965 an unprecedented number of Scottish women trained and worked as artists. An exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art paid tribute to 45 of them, none, I can assure you, weak or poor!

Photography was not allowed in the exhibition (which is now closed – we caught it right at the end) so you will have to make do with this detail from the catalogue. It shows a stunning portrait of Anne Finlay (herself an artist featured in the exhibition) by Dorothy Johnstone. It was good to learn about names like these which were new to me, as well as to see work by old favourites such as Anne Redpath and Joan Eardley.

You would not, of course, expect us to take on an art exhibition without a good lunch inside us. The café at the gallery is excellent – look at that counter laden with cake and scones! I seem to have neglected to photograph my main course, but rest assured it was delicious – and followed by cake. The tiling is in the Ladies Room – not something I would normally take a picture of, but this one is particularly striking and, possibly, disorienting.

However, if you can’t take pictures of the art inside, you certainly can outside. The exhibition was in Modern 2, which originated as the Dean Orphan Hospital in 1833. A beautiful building, and beautiful grounds with sculptures by Nathan Coley, Richard Long and others.

The sculpture below (and, stupidly, I didn’t note its title or the artist’s name) looked like either scissors or knitting needles depending on which way I approached it, and John has cropped one of his pictures to make a Saltire. (I think some lying on the grass might have been involved there too.)

On our way back to the station, our glance was caught by St Mary’s Cathedral (Scottish Episcopal) which we’ve walked past many times but never entered. An orchestra was rehearsing inside so, once again, no interior shots as we could only tiptoe round the edges.

The cathedral dates from 1879 and was built thanks to Barbara and Mary Walker who left their estate in trust for its endowment. The 17th century Old Coates House next door was their home.

We’ve given up, in recent years, visiting Edinburgh at festival time – it’s just too exhausting – but it’s lovely to be able to pop over for the odd day here and there. There’s always something new (to us) to discover.

Edinburgh – everything is going to be alright

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art - Everything is Going to be Alright
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art – Everything is Going to be Alright

We visit Edinburgh quite often – but usually outside the festival season. The crowds are just too much! Our last visit was on a cold day at the end of October. We started at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, which is just as interesting outside as in.

From there, we walked part of the way back into town along the Water of Leith. At Dean Village, it seemed someone had been creating more modern art in the river.

We admired some of the building details and the view from Dean Bridge before continuing into the city centre.

Our next stop was at the National Portrait Gallery, where an art class was going on.

From there, we cut across Princes Street to the Royal Mile and continued down towards Holyrood, spotting more interesting details on the way.

We decided to climb Salisbury Crags – at least, as far as felt comfortable in city shoes.

We got great views of the Scottish Parliament, the Castle, Calton Hill and Holyrood Palace.

By this time, the light was fading and it was getting much colder so we walked back into the centre to meet a friend for beer and food.

I’m linking this post to Jo’s Monday Walks. This week she’s taking a sunset stroll in the Algarve so, if Edinburgh has made you feel chilly, head over there for a warm-up.

 

Edinburgh’s all dressed up for Christmas

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I’m a committed Glaswegian but, whisper it, at Christmas Edinburgh does it better. Both cities have funfairs and Christmas markets but Edinburgh’s are definitely more spectacular. We explored them when we went over last weekend to see a couple of exhibitions, both of which were excellent. You have until June to catch up with Peploe, the second in the Scottish Colourists series at Modern 2, but if you want to see the 70th birthday retrospective of John Bellany at the RSA you need to get there by 27th January. It’s well worth it – I found the earliest and latest sections most interesting, because they were the least familiar to me. These included works done at art school echoing paintings with religious themes by, for example, Piero della Francesca, but using imagery from the fishing port he grew up in, and some very recent, and unexpected, landscapes.

In the evening, we met a friend for dinner in the Jasmine Chinese Restaurant near the Usher Hall, but in between we did the Christmassy stuff. First the market, which was so crowded that I found it claustrophobic. John managed to fight his way in to get some fire punch, but I preferred to look in from outside.

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The castle looked rather splendid all lit up.

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Then it was on to the funfair.

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We went up on the big wheel which gave us great views over Princes Street, the Gardens and the National Galleries complex. Fabulous! I’m still glad I live in Glasgow, but I love to visit Edinburgh.

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Edinburgh – no miracles here?

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It’s ages since we had a proper day out in Edinburgh – we missed the Festival entirely this year – so, after arranging to meet our friend Jim there for dinner on Saturday, we decided to go over early and visit a couple of exhibitions. First of all, we walked through Princes Street Gardens, though we didn’t stop at the Christmas funfair, shown above in front of the Scott Monument. It looks even better lit up at night – one year we went up on that ferris wheel and enjoyed the views, but this time we ended up at the wrong end of town for that after dark. (In the day time, you can also get great views by climbing the monument itself.)

Before tackling the exhibitions, we decided to have lunch in the Scottish Cafe and Restaurant at the Princes Street Gardens entrance of the Scottish National Gallery. It was really busy, and rightly so, because the food was very tasty. From there, we went straight to the first exhibition we wanted to see, Elizabeth Blackadder. This is only on till 2nd January so I advise rushing along if you haven’t already seen it. I love her work and was most familiar with her flower paintings – we have a print of tulips at home which we bought one year as a joint birthday present to each other. I also like the still lives and cat pictures. There’s one which combines both by showing the cat stalking out of one side of the picture so that you only see its back end, which illustrates everything I know of cat-nature. However, I had never seen the ink drawings from the 50s and was particularly taken with those of views I recognised – Siena, from a travelling scholarship she won, and Hadrian’s Wall. Although not captioned as such, I think this showed Steel Rigg – a place I have walked many times – and I wish there had been a postcard or print of this in the shop. We also enjoyed the two short films at the end, showing Elizabeth Blackadder still at work today in her 80s. She came across as a delightful person.

Next, we set off for the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art. The weather was foul, so we went the direct route rather than taking the very pleasant walk along the Water of Leith and through Dean Village. The exhibition on Scottish Colourist, FCB Cadell is on in Modern 2, formerly known as the Dean Gallery, until March. It’s one of a series over the next two years with Peploe to follow in 2012 and Fergusson in 2013. I don’t know if they just haven’t got round to planning one on Hunter yet or if they are missing him out entirely. As with Blackadder, I knew and liked this artist but had never seen many of the paintings – this is apparently the first public exhibition dedicated solely to him since 1942. For example, I have seen some of his Iona pictures individually, but it was much better seeing a whole room of them together. I hadn’t realised either quite how many ladies wearing black hats he had painted – but my favourite is still Glasgow’s own with the lady sitting in front of an orange blind. This might not be the intended purpose of art, but I have an orange blind in my kitchen mainly because of this picture! Finally, it was instructive to see how his style developed over the years, e.g. from the more impressionistic pre-first world war interiors to the later, brighter and flatter Art-Deco inspired ones. Throughout, his use of reflection remained equally masterful.

Accompanying this exhibition were two smaller ones showing work from contemporary artists, both the other Colourists and some of those working in completely different styles. We also liked the installation in the grounds, seen below when we went in around 3.30pm and when we emerged in darkness just before 5. I think there were plenty of miracles in the gallery myself!

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After a little light shopping and a couple of beers, we rounded off our day with our friend in Spirit of Thai, just beside the Usher Hall. It was great, and so, full of good cheer, we headed off for the train back to Glasgow. Next time we’ll have to visit the refurbishments at the Portrait Gallery and the National Museum. Can’t wait.