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William Gillies and John Maxwell at City Art Centre

The current exhibition on at the City Arts Centre is the collected works of Scottish artist’s William Gillies and John Maxwell. While the two men were distinctively different in style and story, their friendship and somewhat paralleling lifestyles provide an interesting and often overlooked angle on two names that have become so embedded in the anthology of Scottish Art.

Inspired partially by Munch, the intensity and drama in these paintings, and the immediacy a viewer can feel through them, is reason enough alone to visit.  John Maxwell then became famous for his playfully surreal oil paintings, often with nude figures tucked away in a right-hand corner or behind a flowerpot, created in vivid reds and oranges and golds.

The exhibition is unique in its careful treatment of the artists’ friendship. The chronological layout tells the story well; starting on the first floor, with Gillies’ abstract and adventurous water colours and moving through to Maxwell’s early dabbling in abrasive canvas works. The paintings are interspersed with holiday pictures documenting the progression of their friendship. Walking around, one can see landscapes the artists visited together from each set of eyes. 

Moving up to the second floor, to the exclusive and rarely seen Fletcher Collection; one is able to pick out the ways in which the two artists have influenced each other, and the ways in which they remain resolutely separate. When the men both took up gardening in their old age, one will be amused to watch as the bare branches of Gillies’ trees break through the lines of his airy and bright living room window, in an excitingly urgent way; while Maxwell’s garden, wild and dark, sits behind a neat vase of freshly cut green flowers in his own shadowy and cluttered living room.

Parallel but different, equal but separate, each artist’s collection on its own would be worth a visit, but put against each other, the City Art Centre has created a collection quite riveting.

At City Art Centre, Until 23rd October.

 

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The Student Newspaper 2016