Thursday, 27 September 2012

Artist Uncovered: Alison Auldjo

When I met up with artist and gallery owner Alison Auldjo, she told me that she considers herself lucky and it is easy to see why. She set up the UNIONgallery in Broughton Street, a creative and buzzing niche of Edinburgh, with her husband Rob Dawkins at a time when few would have been brave enough to do so. She brought together an impressive group of artists and three years later, she can claim a string of successful shows to her credit. 

But this kind of achievement takes more than luck, it takes hard work, dedication and passion. She works closely with the artists, she considers them more like partners than clients and she is passionate about art, she confided that she could not show something that she does not like.

The same qualities are also true of her own practice. Her oil landscapes are strong compositions inspired by Scottish sceneries typically in earthy autumn colours such as ‘Across the Water’ which is in the Art in Healthcare collection. The broad horizontal bands of strong colours take the eye step by step up to the sinuous hills in the distance where the vast tranquillity of the sky calms down the scene below.

‘Across the Water’, oil on card, 41 x 48 cm, Art in Healthcare

This duality of mood is a recurring feature in Auldjo’s work where she frequently offsets areas of intense emotions with wide expanses of stillness. In ‘Open Spaces’, the fiery tones and energy of the brush strokes in the distance and around the barren trees on the right are counterbalanced by the milky tones of the pond in the foreground and by the flat blue-grey sky.

‘Open Spaces’, oil on canvas, 82 x 82 cm, courtesy of the artist

Although her landscapes depict actual places in Scotland, often the undulating Lowlands around Bonnybridge where she grew up, they deal with more than just topography. Her style is expressionist and, with contrasting components, she reveals through her paintings conflicting inner thoughts of elation, doubt or contentment and, a desire for ‘breathing space’. Some of her compositions are inhabited by animals such as birds and hares which, she explains, represent escape and survival. She believes in safety in numbers which, incidentally, happens to be the title of one of her paintings where two birds fly upwards in unison. This motto also typifies Auldjo’s vision for the aptly named UNIONgallery.

Auldjo pushes these universal themes further still by giving some of her animals an indeterminate and primeval appearance, such as the four-legged beast which features in ‘Into the Wilderness’. This poignant creature reached its final manifestation through many transformations and gives the painting the dream-like quality of symbolist landscapes, poised as it is on the edge of darkness.

‘Into the Wilderness’, oil on canvas, 93 x 78 cm, courtesy of the artist

Alison has now sold all the paintings from her solo show ‘Gone to Earth’ a year ago and is already thinking of her next show in 2014. She is planning once again to throw caution to the wind and despite the widely held view that in times of difficult economic climate, you should use a bright palette, she will follow her inclination which serves her so well and do the opposite. We look forward to it.

Martine Foltier Pugh is a freelance writer and visual artist


With thanks to Alison Auldjo for her information, the use of the images and for the tour of the gallery.


About Alison Auldjo’s painting in the Art in Healthcare collection

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