The Artist and the Sea

City Art Centre: Until May 8th

The Artist and the Sea is an exhibition that demonstrates an eclectic mix of artists whose work relates to the sea. Scotland, which is surrounded by the Atlantic and the North Sea, has always had a strong relationship with the sea, influencing many artists.  

The exhibition most fundamentally explores this elemental force of nature that is both sublimely beautiful and frightening in its sheer mass and potency. It is a fascinating source of inspiration for a variety of artwork and is interpreted in the exhibition in many different shapes, sizes and media. As a whole, the exhibition displays interpretations over history in the manner in which it has historically been used for trade, the military and building ships.

The exhibition has many highlights, for example the ‘Summer Sea’ by John Houston, demonstrating an unusual perception. The colours used in the painting, namely yellow, orange and red, are unexpected in an exhibition of paintings which widely use blues and greens, and the texture is rough, emulating the sea’s stormy liveliness. After consideration, it can be seen that much of this painting is in fact capturing the reflection of the sky in the sea’s surface. It is a thought provoking and captivating piece that stands out among the other works at the exhibition.

Another piece that is particularly striking is the ‘Construction’ by Malcolm Cheape, which depicts the construction of the inside of the RRS Discovery from multiple perspectives and incorporates several different media in the form of a collage of photos, building plans, newspaper cuttings and oil painting. The work is vivid in its multiple subtly demonstrated dimensions that appear gradually as a result of the complex and multi-layered inclusion of various media.

‘The Obsession’ by John Bellany, is a huge oil on panel painting that is unusual in that it seems almost reminiscent of an abstract children’s book illustration. It depicts fishermen standing over a gutting table, their bodies contorted by the immense landscape that stretches out both behind and, presumably, before them. It is a painting filled with both awe-inspiring majesty, as seen in the questions posed in the title ‘Whence do we come? What are we? Whether do we go?’ and child-like character as the men stand astounded by the sheer scale of the sea upon which they work every day.   

The exhibition is well worth seeing; it is a widely varied amalgamation of an abundance of evocative and sometimes surprising interpretations of the human relationship with the sea. The work varies from the more abstract, to beautifully rendered and highly accurate.

Image: Phillip Capper (Flickr)

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