15th November – 23rd December
This creatively-curated exhibition at Edinburgh’s Fine Art Society follows an artistic and design theme on the Scottish landscape and the natural world, encompassing Timorous Beasties‘ contemporary designs, Fiona Dean‘s imaginative taxidermy, and Scottish Paintings 1650-1950, showcasing three hundred years of Scottish illustrative painting.
The iconic image of Edwin Henry Landseer’s painting The Monarch of the Glen (1851) has been used to promote travel to the Highlands, as well as for Dewars whisky, shortbread tins and home furnishings.
Blending timeless tradition with contemporary style is the forté of Timorous Beasties, the interior design company founded by Alistair McAuley and Paul Simmons who met at Glasgow School of Art. They are renowned internationally for innovative, contemporary designs for carpets, wallpaper, textiles and decorative furnishings: quirky thistles, giant bees and the reinvention of 18th-century pastoral Toiles de Jouy into modern urban and rural scenes. Their bespoke Johnny Walker Blue Label whisky ‘Rare Side of Scotland’ limited-edition design will be available soon.
Their series of folding privacy screens are made from handcrafted, exquisitely-patterned toile depicting birds and insects. The designs are a synthesis of traditional Chinoiserie, Rococo swirls and Victorian paper cuts with modern artistry such as the black and gold silhouettes of a Grey Kes, swooping in flight against shadowy clouds and trees.
A sense of tropical light and heat in the Birds and Bees screen with tendrils of delicate flowers against a swirling, splashing black, red, blue, green and yellow pattern.
Decorative screens originated in ancient China with painted paper or silk panels – Coco Chanel had a large collection in her Paris apartment. ‘Fashion changes but style endures’ – Coco Chanel. Classic and functional to this day.
The Arrangement of Skin by Fiona Dean is a fascinating showcase of the traditional craft of taxidermy – but forget the image of a dusty owl in a glass case or Stag heads in a Country house hotel. Here is her modern artistic view of the scientific process transforming beautiful birds into “still life” sculptures, or more appropriately Nature Mort.
Fiona is an all-round artist, printmaker and jeweller. Having trained with Scottish taxidermist George Jamieson, she develops totally realistic conceptual works to preserve the characteristics of animals and birds in 3D representations.
Around the gallery, her study of ornithology as art is well displayed to appreciate the scale, size, colourful feathers, claws, eyes and beaks, with a focus of birds of prey and game as observed in the wild.
Small framed birds add a touch of charming poignancy such as To Love, a tiny robin redbreast, like a cameo brooch.
Scottish Paintings 1650-1950 covers a diverse range of genres from still life and portraiture to city, land and seascapes over three centuries.
Tying-in with Fiona Dean’s work, here is a superb 17th century illustration, A Game Still Life by William Gouw Ferguson (1632-1695). This meticulous, intimate study is comparable to his contemporary Dutch artists – an influence from his time spent in Utrecht, The Hague and Amsterdam.
Sir David Young Cameron, (1865-1945) was a prominent painter and etcher particularly of landscapes and architectural views. His unique style emphasised the grandeur of scenic views with a mystical mood as observed in October in Knoydart – with shimmering, gentle sunlight.
James McIntosh Patrick (1907-1998) specialised in capturing the tranquility of the rural life around Perthshire and the Highlands through the seasons, such as December Ploughing.
Famous for book illustrations, G W Lennox Paterson (1915-1986) is represented with a woodcut of a Hen Harrier (7/100) – such extraordinary detail of the bird’s piercing eyes, marshland setting, sky and sunlight.
This is just a brief browse around some of the highlights of this imaginative and inspiring exhibition of classic and contemporary Scottish Art, Crafts and Decorative Design.
6 Dundas Street,
Edinburgh EH3 6HZ