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Wednesday 15 August 2012

A gallery in Rhue.....

And one more holiday story.  While I was staying outside Ullapool I visited the studio of Rhue artist, James Hawkins.  He has a small studio next to his house in the hamlet of Rhue.  I'd hesitated visiting - I'm a little shy really (no don't laugh, I am really), and going to a gallery where I might bump into the artist and have to talk, and *knowing* I probably can't afford any of his work, well I find it a bit embarrassing, and always feel a bit awkward. Plus I know nothing about "art" in terms of painting etc so feel a bit of a "pleb".

Anyway..... it was a nice sunny day and I walked along the single track road to the gallery.  Outside is some stunning sculpture art by another artist, Helen Denerley and I paused to look at that a while. Take a look at the film of the making of the giraffe sculpture on her website - the ultimate in recycling. Brilliant! Above is a picture of one of her pieces - a goose.

Anwyay, back to the gallery.  All the time I could hear the thump-thump-thump of rock music coming from a nearby building which was clearly the gallery.  Should I just quietly retrace my steps..... or be bold and "go forth"?  I took a deep breath and opened the door and stepped inside. Immediately I was surrounded by the pulsating beat of the rock music and the bold, vibrant colours of the canvases around the gallery.  God it was wonderful, kind of visceral and cool at the same time!

I then noticed the artist, James Hawkins, working on a canvas in the small studio to the side.  I stood for a while, just watching him, brush in hand, a dab of paint here, step back, another bolder stroke there. He soon became aware of being observed and turned to lower the music and came to talk.

I made various gauche comments about my first impressions (cringe) and he left me to wander around, happy to answer any questions.  I moved from canvas to canvas - this isn't true "representational art" in the usual sense. But it is in ALL the senses - I looked at a large canvas set in a valley with mountains and trees. No the naked eye doesn't see those colours when looking at that view. In fact maybe the eye doesn't even see that view.  But the whole body DOES - it's a kind of experiential vision of being in that valley, or for my favourite painting, standing by the shore as a storm comes in. I can hear the thunder and feel the waves break over the rocks....

(I'm hoping James won't mind my reproducing this one.....)

I looked at the paint on the canvas - I'm not sure you can call them strokes - chunks of paint spread on and scraped off again, slashes of colour, tiny details of light.  Emboldened by the rock music I went and spoke to James about his technique - apologising for NOT being an artist. He very kindly spent time taking me round  different paintings, explaining how he'd build up layers, scrape, sand and scratch off others. How he would walk the hills and mountains around Ullapool and come back and paint not what he saw but what he *felt*.

I'd seen some of his earlier work (a friend has some of his earlier paintings) -these are more traditional representational landscapes. Apparently James then went into a very abstract phase and it would appear is now coming back from pure abstract but not retreating into nice comfortable landscapes, but ones that challenge, provoke awe and inspire.

I know these paintings are not to everyone's taste, but I just loved them (can you tell?!). I see he has some prints available - hmmm must start saving pennies in my moneybox.  Though I'm not sure I have a dramatic enough place to put them and I will have to hold in my memory the layers of paint, texture and fabric of the original.


  1. You are obviously a great connoiseur of art (since you have one of my pieces). LOL

    Seriously, though, my teacher was just telling us this morning that it's just a "painting" until the viewer brings his/her own experiences to it and makes it "art". A painter is always delighted in your liking a piece, regardless of whether you see exactly what he/she created or not.

    1. And your piece is proudly hung in my kitchen just over where I sit and work so I get to admire it every day :-) Yes, I suppose it's a bit like literature or other art forms, it's what the viewer perceives as much as what the artist created.

  2. Louise from Seattle15 August 2012 at 20:17

    Sian, are you KIDDING??? You don't have a dramatic enough place to display the art? Your place and your environment are plenty dramatic! I loved your comments about his art, too; clearly, you have an appreciation and an eye that a painter would adore. Glad you gathered up your courage to walk in to his studio. Great story.

    1. LOL! Well the landscape is dramatic, not sure my "interior" is :-) And I'm really glad went into the studio too. :-)

  3. What a vibrant, exciting painting it is ! I like it. Just not sure I could live with it ... oddly enough it makes me feel a bit glum.