Friday, April 27, 2012

Joyce Gunn Cairns MBE

I knew Joyce Gunn Cairns was something special when I first met her.  Almost immediately she felt like a fearless force of nature to me.  She is an artist in the true sense of the word, in the way she lives.  Eats, sleeps and breathes it.  This is something I hugely admire.  She is also a writer, a commentator, and she's beautiful and funny.

And then there is the work.  I loved her paintings instantly, and I had never seen anything quite like them before.  It's so rare to find work completely unique to the artist.  It's a rare quality to be able to give something completely new to the world.  And talent like this should be cherished.

Like her contemporary Alasdair Gray, she is very literary and several of her works in the current exhibition are based on literature that has meaning for her.  This piece in entitled Lady Lazurus, based on a Sylvia Plath poem.

This powerful work stands alone, but when you delve into the inspiration behind it, it becomes imbued with even more.  Is it perhaps a lament to the troubled poet?

I have never had an exhibition that has inspired me to read so much.  All of Alasdair Gray's works are borne out of writings - his own, or that of his inspirations.  And this piece of Joyce's is a haunting and beautiful ode to the Henry James short story, Turn of The Screw.  I had seen this compelling ghost story as a film years ago, but to read the original tale is so much more gripping.  It's my night-time read at the moment and I am hooked.

I'm pleased to say that in amongst all the layering and meaning, Joyce also loves her cat, plain and simple.  And she paints him often in all of his catty moods.  The two paintings we have of her beloved Seamus sold almost immediately and will be going to very good feline-loving homes.

Her love of the wildlife is evident, and a pottering otter or a sleeping Seamus sit happily beside the more provocative works of art.  Everything of Joyce's feels multi-dimensional and there is so much of herself in her work.  Every stroke of a pencil or a brush is full of feeling.

This very special exhibition of works by Joyce Gunn Cairns and Alasdair Gray continues until 13 May and is well worth the visit.

Thanks for reading!


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Hippopotamus

I was already familiar with Alasdair Gray's striking Scot's Hippo series but I didn't know until recently, whilst preparing the current Alasdair Gray and Joyce Gunn Cairns exhibition, that the sequence of seven works are based on a TS Eliot poem.

The poem, The Hippopotamus, was written in 1920 by the American-born publisher and writer and has been a source of fascination and scrutiny for years.

It is perhaps no wonder then that Alasdair Gray, possibly a fan of the eminent writer, felt inspired to write his own version of the metaphor-laden work.  But the resulting illustrations for each verse, so highly intricate, show his intensity of feeling for the issues being dealt with in the original work.

It deals with the mighty topics of religion, the church, and man's relationship or otherwise, with both. Something that has fascinated intelligent artists and social commentators throughout the history of the church.

It has been fascinating to discuss the content of these works with the many visitors who have already been to the gallery in the first week of this exhibition.

These beautiful works by Alasdair Gray can be purchased in a set or individually. These and many other works will be on display in the gallery until 13 May.

Thanks for reading!


Friday, April 20, 2012

Packing a Punch

The Alasdair Gray and Joyce Gunn Cairns exhibition has already enjoyed an amazing number of visitors and I'm delighted to say that the sales haven't stopped since the opening on Sunday.

The gallery looks and feels quite different.  There is so much to absorb visually, and as people approach the works and start to read, they find themselves entering the unique world of Alasdair Gray, or of one of Joyce's favourite poems.


I know what the different feeling is - it's gentle and reflective. 

Often an exhibition is bold, colourful, commanding. What I find interesting is that this is possibly the boldest exhibition that the gallery has had, with the most arresting works by fearless and uncompromising artists. And yet it feels very calm. 

Maybe it's the subtlety of impact.  Alasdair's screen prints are of his beautiful and intricate drawings, and it's not until you read the literary content that they pack a real punch. 

And Joyce's subject matter often involves life at its rawest, but she descibes this in such a muted and gentle way. 

These two really are great artists and the gallery has been transformed into something quite special.  

We also have some very strong work from sculptor Tom Allan punctuating the gallery space.  As people meander through, they read, they discuss, they look through the signed copy of Alasdair's latest book, 'A Life in Pictures' and they take their time to peruse the lenghty and impressive CVs on display.

It feels very special to me, and I'm so glad to have four more weeks to enjoy the experience.

Thanks for reading!


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Exhibition Opening

The much-anticipated Alasdair Gray and Joyce Gunn Cairns exhibition opened on Sunday to a wonderful reception. 

The response was enthusiasm, excitement, and also reverie at the stunning, evocative works that these two contrasting artists produce.

I noticed people examining each piece, reading the text, the poetry and writings as well as taking in the overall impact of Alasdair's stunning screen prints, each containing layers and layers of meaning, but also beauty.  Six of Alasdair's daring works have already been snapped up.

Joyce's subtle yet strong paintings enthral people.  The more attention you give them, the more they seem to come to life.  They get under your skin until you can't resist!  Nine of Joyce's beautiful and unique paintings have sold already.

It was one of Smithy Gallery's busiest openings to date.  This was not entirely surprising, as the work of both Alasdair Gray and Joyce Gunn Cairns have an unbelievable following.  Alasdair is possibly at 'national treasure' level and Joyce should be!

Thank you to everyone for coming and enjoying the opening of this special exhibition.


My special thanks to the wonderful Joyce Gunn Cairns and the inimitable Alasdair Gray.

My favourite photo - the happy artists!

The exhibition continues until 13 May and it's too good to miss!

Thanks for reading


Friday, April 13, 2012

Eye of The Storm

The works have been placed on the gallery walls in readiness for Sunday's Private View, and the gallery has become something quite different.

The combination of intricate works by Alasdair Gray and Joyce Gunn Cairns, filling the gallery and pushing the walls outwards, feels like a powerful whirlwind that's circling the gallery. Enter through the door, and you feel like you are at the eye of the storm.

It feels calm and pure, but the outside influences, history, experience and weight behind these powerful works are disarming and impossible to ignore.

These two artists are literary heavy-weights. They have the knowledge, creativity and experience to create a world within each work that draws you in and possibly makes you see the world a little differently.

An exhibition of works by these two artists has created something that the gallery hasn't seen before. Layer upon layer and world upon world, I have never been so inspired to get back to the gallery to absorb, to read and to learn.

The exhibition hasn't even opened, but I already want to thank these two artists for enriching my experience.

The Private View is this Sunday 15 April from 2pm to 5pm.  The artists will be present.

It promises to be a great celebration of the arts, and of course all art-lovers are welcome!

Thanks for reading!


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Adventure

It's so exciting when new works arrive at the gallery for an upcoming exhibition. 

Unwrapping each piece feels like opening very special presents.  There's a pitter-patter in my heart as I peel back the bubble wrap to reveal the work that I recognise from the images that I have been working with. 

It's such a pleasure when recognition turns to joy as the original work now in front of me is so, so much more beautiful.

The works by Alasdair Gray and Joyce Gunn Cairns have arrived at the gallery and I'm in heaven!

The Alasdair Gray's are quite exquisite, and I cannot wait until they are hanging on the gallery walls, when I will be able to take my time and soak them in properly. 

They are so full of detail, meaning, musings, questions and beauty.  I can't wait to share them with all of the visitors to the exhibition.

The works by Joyce Gunn Cairns are equally intriguing in their layering of meaning, boldness and beauty. These two artists are exhibiting together for a very good reason.

I have so much to do between now and the preview of the exhibition this Sunday.  But it's a pleasure to be taken on an adventure by two such exciting hearts and minds.

Even the gallery pooch is looking happy and relaxed, bathed in sunlight, waiting to see the gallery transformed into a new and exciting world.

This special exhibition opens this Sunday at 2pm.

Thanks for reading!


Friday, April 06, 2012


What can I say about Alasdair Gray? 

As his exhibition with Joyce Gunn Cairns approaches, and I read more of his writings, and learn more and more about him, I become even more in awe of him than I already was.

Alasdair Gray and Joyce Gunn Cairns (Photograph by Julie Howden)

His view on the world is completely unique to himself and he isn't afraid to express it boldly, provocatively and beautifully.  He has done so continually throughout his life.  His works are unfettered.  He is an absolute rarity.

He also has legions of fans.  I find this reassuring because unbridled talent, boldness and originality should be celebrated.  And he is. I'm feeling butterflies when I think about him exhibiting at Smithy Gallery.

But I also know him to be a very down-to-earth and kind man.  The people of Scotland, and beyond, have taken him to their hearts and he could never be anything but warm and approachable.

Okay this hasn't helped, I'm still in awe.

Perhaps I should think of him as 'awe-inspiring' . . . . or better yet, why don't I drop the 'awe' and maybe just say 'inspiring'.  I think Alasdair would much prefer that.  What more could a true artist want.

The exhibition previews 15 April.

Thanks for reading!


Tuesday, April 03, 2012

The Artist's Studio

Yesterday I visited Joyce Gunn Cairns in her Edinburgh studio to collect work for her upcoming exhibition with Alasdair Gray.  I love visiting artists in their studios, but particularly Joyce.  Her beautiful work adorns every surface, and each time I visit I know everything will have shifted and evolved, and new beautiful pieces will have emerged.

The Beautiful Lady Herself

The work she has produced for the upcoming exhibition is quite exquisite.  A strong collection of paintings, drawings and screen prints which hopefully go some way to illustrate the sensitive, thought-provoking, intelligent and creative range that she possesses.

'That Rare Thing'

Amongst her many works, you will find a couple of beautiful portraits of Alasdair Gray, which deftly capture the great man's character.  As well as other artistic luminaries, he has sat for her several times over the years.  Apparently most impressed with the artist and her work, it was Alasdair who suggested they one day exhibit together.  I am immensely appreciative that Smithy Gallery is housing this collaboration.

Joyce With The Handsome Photographer - Thanks Andrew!

It is always an honour to spend time in the heart of an artist's creative space.  An incredibly powerful window into their thoughts and feelings.  Thank you for your hospitality Joyce.

This is us!

The Joyce Gunn Cairns and Alasdair Gray exhibition will be available to view on the website later this week.

The exhibition previews on Sunday 15 April.

Thanks for reading!