Issue 215
Winter 2020/2021


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Dec 3, 2020

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ArtWork Newspaper Issue 215
Winter 2020/2021 (6.82MB)

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Scottish Art – Yet Another Story…

I HAVE A CONFESSION to make, in fact, two. Prior to receiving Lachlan Goudie's The Story of Scottish Art for review I had not seen any of his tv programmes about Scottish art; secondly, I was initially very sniffy about the content of his new publication: 'Do we really need another book about Scottish art?' I asked myself.

I am glad to say that I've rectified the first omission and changed my mind on the second question. Goudie is an excellent broadcaster – fresh, intelligent and enthusiastic. He has a light touch and wears his learning delicately, so that his words appear unrehearsed and easily understood.

The Story of Scottish Art, based on the tv series of the same name, has the same breezy, personal tone, even if it is underpinned by significant research.

Goudie's father Alexander, who died in 2004, was also a painter and taught at Glasgow School of Art for many years. Like his son, the elder Goudie, he also had a significant association with the Scottish Gallery, which hosted a retrospective in 2011. He found fame as a portraitist and as documenter of rural life, particularly in Brittany, where his wife Marie-René e was born.

Currently, the younger Goudie, who studied English at Cambridge University and later, Fine Art at Camberwell in London is clearly riding the crest of a wave, has a major show at the Scottish Gallery.

A recent review of The Story of Scottish Art by Magnus Linklater in The Times focuses on the work of a number of women highlighted by Goudie.

These include Katherine Read (1723 – 1778), Christina Robertson (1796-1854), Bessie MacNicol (1869-1904), Frances Macdonald (1873-1921), Alice Meredith Williams (1877-1934) and Joan Eardley (1921-1963).

Goudie mentions several other contemporary and near-contemporary female artists such as Alison Watt, Jenny Saville and Christine Borland. In the context of Borland's work, he discusses Glasgow School of Art's now globally famous Environmental Art course and although he name-checks two more of its highly successful graduates, Jim Lambie and Douglas Gordon, he fails to give credit to its originator, David Harding (b. 1937).

Harding is both a significant artist (his large sculpture, 'Henge', in Glenrothes deserves to be better known) and also an important pedagogue and theorist. Perhaps Goudie has not read Harding's lead chapter in the collection of essays DECADEnt – Public Art – Contentious Term and Contested Practice (1996), which also features writing by Sam Ainsley and Craig Richardson, among others?

Ainsley, who headed up the MFA degree at GSA for many years is also an artist of considerable note and she is one of many significant artists that Goudie's book fails to mention – although Sandy Moffat (also of GSA), who comprised one third of the artistic 'think-tank' AHM (with Ainsley and Harding) is acknowledged.

No study of this scope arrives in a vacuum and Goudie has clearly done his homework, even if it is skewed towards painting and the historical, rather than the conceptual, sculptural and contemporary.

In his suggestions for further reading, one notes a number of significant general and specific studies of Scottish art including David and Francina Irwin's Scottish Painters at Home and Abroad 1700-1990 (1975), Jude Burkhauser's Glasgow Girls: Women in Art and Design 1880-1920 (1990), Roger Billcliffe's Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Art of the Four (2017), Murdo MacDonald's Scottish Art (2000), Duncan MacMillan's Scottish Art 1460-1990 (1990) and Alice Strang's Modern Scottish Women: Painters and Sculptors 1885-1965 (2015).

On a personal note I was pleased to read Goudie's acknowledgement of Richard Demarco's profound influence on the story of Scottish art by inviting Joseph Beuys (along with a large group of other Düsseldorf-based artists) to exhibit at Edinburgh College of Art in 1970.

On the other hand, I was disappointed that there is no mention of sculptor and furniture maker Tim Stead, despite the fact that Stead's reinterpretation of Skara Brae, in wood, formed the centre-piece of the Scotland Creates exhibition in Glasgow in 1990. (Goudie cites Wendy Kaplan's Scotland Creates: 5000 years of Art and Design in Scotland.)

Scottish art has many manifestations and many voices and it is right that these should be reflected in the way it is interpreted and discussed.

Despite its inevitable omissions, this study of Scottish art and Goudie's often personal relationship with it, benefits enormously from this accessible, immensely readable retelling.

GILES SUTHERLAND

Lachlan Goudie, The Story of Scottish Art, Thames and Hudson (2020), 384 pp., Hardback £29.95, ISBN: 978-0-500-23961-2


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