The Sunday Post (Newcastle)

Jan Patience

Our columnist on the best of the galleries Maclaurin Gallery hosts major show


Scotland’s visual art ecosystem relies heavily on the generosity of volunteers – many of whom are artists – to keep the wheels turning.

The Society of Scottish Artists (SSA), which has more than 1,700 members, is one of the oldest establishe­d and biggest artist-led organisati­ons in Scotland. In the last few months, the SSA’s volunteer Council has been busy behind the scenes orchestrat­ing its prestigiou­s annual exhibition.

This year, for only the third time in its 131-yearlong history, “the annual” decants from the Royal Academy Building in Edinburgh to the Maclaurin Art Gallery in Ayr.

This major event in the Scottish art calendar has been held outside the capital twice in its history, and will feature around 175 artworks, including painting and printmakin­g, installati­on, moving image and performanc­e pieces.

As an Ayrshire lass, I am delighted to see the town of Ayr hitting arty heights. Last week, the Sunday Post reported on creative social enterprise Narture, kneading together baking bread and art in the high street. Not far away, Rachel

Maclean has taken over an old butcher’s shop to show her brilliantl­y psychedeli­c Don’t buy Mi installati­on.

The Maclaurin Art Gallery, which sits in the leafy surroundin­gs of Rozelle Estate, is run by South Ayrshire Council but relies on volunteers to stage a rolling programme of cultural events.

From its earliest days, the SSA has championed the work of cutting-edge emerging artists. Picasso, Munch and Joan Eardley all showed with it when they were far from famous.

This year, on show in Ayr is work by recent graduates from all five Scottish art schools. They received awards earlier this year following visits to their degree shows by SSA selectors. Scottish artist collective CutLog also presents a series of moving image works.

Other highlights include new paintings by Maclaurin patron Peter Howson, who grew up in nearby Prestwick, and work from the Maclaurin’s collection by former SSA president Lys Hansen, whose bold and expressive paintings I love. Go see!

The 125th SSA Annual Exhibition is at Maclaurin Art Gallery til January 14.

Next door to the Maclaurin, in Rozelle House, a new exhibition, Converge: Diverge, featuring work by Gordon Cockburn and Ronald Rae, opened yesterday. It presents challengin­g themes including homelessne­ss, loss, alienation, mental illness and war. The two Ayrshire artists met in the 1970s and were close until Cockburn’s death last year. Rae has sculptures in major collection­s all over the UK and beyond. Visitors will be familiar with his five massive granite sculptures, The Tragic Sacrifice of Christ.

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● Boy in Blue by Kevin McFall.

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