Fine Art Society, Edinburgh: Winter Exhibition

Golden Heron Bee Eater Flock

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. 

Timorous Beasties - Paul and Alistair
Timorous Beasties – Alistair McAuley and Paul Simmons

 

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. 

Timorous Beasties -Grey Kes, folding screen upholstered in cloud toile fabric with one-off screen print design, 2019
Timorous Beasties – Grey Kes, folding screen upholstered in cloud toile fabric with one-off screen print design, 2019

 

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.

Timorous Beasties - Birds and Bees Tag, folding screen upholstered in Birds N Bees fabric with one-off screen print design, 2019
Timorous Beasties – Birds and Bees Tag, folding screen upholstered in Birds N Bees fabric with one-off screen print design, 2019

 

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.     

Fiona Dean: Free Rein - Buzzard with antique horse saddle
Fiona Dean – Free Rein – buzzard with antique horse saddle

 

Right to Remain - ring-necked parakeet with antique military binoculars in mirrored case
Fiona Dean – Right to Remain, ring-necked parakeet with antique military binoculars in mirrored case

 

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.  

Fiona Dean: His Finest Hour, cock pheasant
Fiona Dean – His Finest Hour, Lady Amherst cock pheasant with antique bird cage

 

Small framed birds add a touch of charming poignancy such as To Love, a tiny robin redbreast, like a cameo brooch.  

Fiona Dean - To Love
Fiona Dean – To Love, robin in restored antique frame with domedglass, 2019

 

Scottish Paintings 1650-1950 covers a diverse range of genres from still life and portraiture to city, land and seascapes over three centuries.  

Gouw Ferguson - Game Still Life
William Gouw Ferguson – A Game Still Life, oil on canvas

 

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 - October in Knoydart, oil on canvas
Sir David Young Cameron – October in Knoydart, oil on canvas

 

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.

McIntosh Patrick - December-Ploughing
James McIntosh Patrick – December Ploughing, oil on canvas

 

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.  

 

George William Lennox Paterson - Hen Harrier, woodcut
George William Lennox Paterson – Hen Harrier, woodcut

 

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  

With grateful thanks to Vivien Devlin for this review. Read more of Vivien’s writing here.
Image: Timorous Beasties – Golden Heron / Bee Eater Flock (reverse), folding screen upholstered in Cloud Toile fabric with one-off screen print design, 2019

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