Issue 206
Winter 2018/19

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Feb 24, 2019

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Memories of Edinburgh's 369 – I

DURING November and for much of December, some of the best Scottish contemporary art by women is showing at Summerhall in Edinburgh: four large rooms of paintings by female artists, who exhibited at the 369 Gallery during the 1980s. Sheila Mullen, Lys Hansen, Margaret Hunter, Joyce W Cairns, the late Caroline McNairn, Carole Gibbons, Pat Douthwaite, Fionna Carlisle, Lil Neilson and June Redfern, to name a few.

To celebrate 369's 40th anniversary, the show has been organised by its founder, Andrew Brown, who is likened by Geraldine Prince to a Renaissance patron or latter-day Diaghilev. From its humble beginnings in Edinburgh's 369 High Street, the gallery was founded in the late 70s, as a showcase for the work of Brown's graduate colleagues from Edinburgh College of Art.

After their move in the mid 80s to larger premises in the Cowgate, 369 became, as observed by Roddy Martine, 'a glorious movement in Scotland's cultural landscape.'

"It was the only gallery in the country dedicated to the young Scottish artist and, from the start, it exhibited an equal number of male and female artists. We practised no positive discrimination," says Brown. 369 artists haven't only thrived, they've excelled.

In an historical cultural exchange between Scotland and the then USSR, the Pushkin Museum in Moscow bought a painting by Caroline McNairn. It was the first work of art from the West, since the Russian Revolution, to be included in a major Soviet museum collection.

The 369 encouraged an international outlook and in 1982, it was the first British gallery to attend the Chicago Art Fair. This led to exhibitions in Chicago, New York and Santa Fe, followed by exchange shows in France, Germany, Scandinavia, Hong Kong, Malaysia and China.

For '369 Remembered', three major Scottish female artists exhibit paintings on the theme of the Berlin Wall, which is no coincidence. Walls are still political. The Berlin Wall may have come down (interestingly, these paintings will be on the walls at Summerhall during the 29th anniversary, 9th November 1989, of its first being breached), but others loom on the horizon.

Remember Trump's promise to build one on America's border with Mexico and, if Brexit isn't a wall, of sorts, what is?

Joyce W Cairns's oil on panels (7ft x 12ft) was painted in 1990 after visiting Berlin. Margaret Hunter, as a post-graduate art student in Berlin during the 80s, found the city's edgy, creative atmosphere was offset by the Wall's presence, particularly on the East side, with barbed wire, minefields and armed guards in watch-towers. 'Joint Venture' depicts two large mask-like heads, representing the ideal of a divided Germany coming together.

The third artist to paint Berlin and its Wall, is Lys Hansen with her 'The Berlin Trilogy'.

'369 Remembered' is the first of two memorial shows, organised by Andrew Brown.

"Next year we will show the men and I'm a little afraid they will fall short of the women!"

Like the artist Andrew Gibbon-Williams, Brown is particularly impressed by his female contemporaries, "It's an oddity," writes Williams, "though it shouldn't be, that the most original artists of our generation were female."

"This exhibition shows the strength of Scottish women," says Brown. Four are around the age of 80, others are in their late 70s and what's remarkable is they're still painting. On the whole, I think women have more staying power than men."


369 Remembered: The Women' Until December 23 11.00 - 18.00 Wed -Sun at Summerhall Art Centre, Summerhall Place, Edinburgh EH9 1PL

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