Monday, July 31, 2017

'Complementary Contrasts' - Jenny Matthews and Angus McEwan RWS RGI RSW


WATERCOLOUR isn’t always taken as seriously as it should be. Perhaps it suffers from the days when it was considered an “accomplishment” for well brought up young ladies, like embroidery or holding a tea cup in the proper manner. Or perhaps it has seemed to be stuck for too long in the realm of the Sunday afternoon hobbyist.
 
Jenny Matthews says: “When I tell people I work in watercolour, I can see them thinking, ‘I know what watercolour is, it’s probably small and a bit twee’. People don’t imagine the strong colours, the big scale. I quite enjoy surprising people.
 

Jenny Matthews - Looking Upwards

 
Anyone with a preconceived notion of what watercolour is will be surprised by the work of Jenny Matthews and Angus McEwan. Two of the top artists in Scotland working in the medium, and both recognised internationally for their achievements, they aren’t afraid to push it in new directions. Being exhibited together here for the first time, their work demonstrates the contrasting ways in which watercolour can fulfil its potential.
 
 

Angus McEwan - Natural Selection

 
Jenny Matthews - Transition
 

Jenny Matthews studied botanical painting under Dame Elizabeth Blackadder at Edinburgh College of Art, and fell in love both with flowers and with watercolour. Ever since then, she has worked with both, balancing water and pigment to capture the bright colours she loves: the ochre of a tulip, the deep blue of an iris. “I feel watercolour is really descriptive. If you’re trying to portray plants, it works really well; there are lot of markings on flowers which look as though they have been painted in watercolour.”

 
Jenny Matthews - Fading Tulips
 

Angus McEwan had to go all the way to China to discover the potential of the medium. In 1996 he was awarded the prestigious Alastair Salveson travel scholarship, he packed watercolours because he didn’t have room in his luggage for his oils and acrylics. “I thought: ‘How hard can it be?’” he grimaces. “The first paintings I did were awful.
Since those early days Angus has come a long way and has won numerous international watercolour awards as well as being invited to judge several international watercolour competitions.



Angus McEwan - Busy Corner


Angus has developed his own style, building up layers of paint to create the realist depictions of weathered surfaces and buildings for which he is highly acclaimed: atmospheric evocations of old, once-inhabited places. “I find watercolour really versatile. I can get the crisp quality I want with detail, I can get a richness and depth by building up layers. A lot of people have quite strict rules about it; I quite like breaking these rules.”



Angus McEwan - Rose Amongst Thorns


Listening to Angus and Jenny talk, one quickly becomes aware of the contrasting ways they work with the medium - and make it work for them. I hear about the varying properties of pigments and paper; broad brushes, fine brushes, even a toothbrush; layering, splattering and stippling; keeping a painting balanced on the edge of control. One is left in no doubt that this is a robust contemporary medium requiring considerable technical skill and ripe for experimentation.


 
 
Jenny Mathews - A Good Year


Through the complementary contrasts of their work, one sees a range of what can be achieved. As Angus says: “I keep returning to this incredible medium, even though it is considered by some as a lesser way of working. This exhibition will demonstrate that there is a lot more to watercolour than many people think.”


Susan Mansfield, July 2017
 
 

The exhibition runs at Smithy Gallery from 6 August until 3 September.






















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