Thursday, 29 May 2014

Artist Uncovered: Catriona Mann

It is difficult if not impossible to imagine Catriona Mann ever being idle. In her own words, she likes to have a project on the go that “she can sink her teeth into” and she always finds plenty to keep herself busy.

Sylvia’s Lilies 91x91cm, mixed media
image courtesy of the artist

Having first graduated in Fine Art at Edinburgh University and Edinburgh College of Art, she went on to study law.  She combined law and painting for a while until her children came along. Nowadays she finds law very useful to advise young artists and art organisations on tricky issues regarding copyright and contracts. 
Madonna, Siena Cathedral 72x51cm, mixed media
AiH Collection

She has made her mark on the art scene in Scotland in many ways. She got involved with ‘Paintings in Hospitals, Scotland’ from the start in 1991 as a founder trustee and as some readers will know, ‘Art in Healthcare’ was born of PiHS in 2005. An elected Professional Member of the Council of Visual Arts Scotland, she is a past President of Visual Arts Scotland and currently a Director of Exhibiting Societies of Scottish Artists.
She has also found time to renovate her house to its former glory and being a keen gardener, created a beautiful garden with flowers to inspire her from an overgrown mess. 
Daffodils 91x91cm (detail)
image courtesy of the artist

She describes her artworks as drawings rather than paintings. Indeed the prevailing linearity brings out their dreamlike feel and the words she frequently includes for their visual impact are evocative of surrealist automatic writing.
Shipping Forecast 91x91cm, mixed media
image courtesy of the artist

Her sources of inspiration are wide-ranging: music, foreign travels and cultures, religion and the plants she grows in her garden, particularly lilies for their shape. Her works are not simply representations of landscapes or seascapes but imaginary abstractions. For instance when a friend asked her to paint Iona, the green marble stones, known as ‘St Columba’s tears’ which he brought back from the island, guided the colours in the painting.
Celtic Blessing 30x30cm, mixed media
image courtesy of the artist

Mann does not paint on conventional canvas or paper, she prefers to work on mounting card which is strong enough to withstand her particular method of working. 
Forgoing brushes, she builds up layers of pigment and collage with watercolour crayons, water-based paint and tissue paper that give her better control and if the painting is not working, she simply scrapes off certain areas and starts again. Traces of the previous drawings remain visible on the surface. She welcomes these ghostly residues and integrates them into the next stage of the painting. She has very seldom regretted making such radical decisions. She believes that artists should experiment and take risks to push their work forward.
Venetian Facade 96x81cm, mixed media
AiH Collection
Sometimes she even peels the entire top layer right off the forgiving card. She showed me one of these discarded ’skins’ stretched out in her studio. It is down to her experience and skill that such a large area has survived in one piece this forceful separation. She will later integrate parts of it into new works. 
This process of deconstruction, reconstruction and metamorphosis denotes the close relationship, dependence even, between Mann’s finished paintings and her rejects and I am reminded of Picasso’s famous quote “The very act of creation is first an act of destruction”.
Lux Aeterna 91x91cm, mixed media
image courtesy of the artist

This is an artist who finds it liberating and inspiring to subvert conventions and who positively thrives on a state of creative flux. She explains that she starts with an idea but not a vision and that her most successful works have happened when she is least sure of the outcome, adding: “if it is too easy what’s the point?”

The following anecdote illustrates this statement. She recently brought back some incense sticks from Vietnam, not the usual twig-like sticks but five-feet long poles painted in striking red with gold lettering. Their transport back to Scotland took some resourceful wrapping and even more ingenious convincing of airline staff and customs officers. But in the end it was worth it. They arrived intact and will be featuring in future works. 

Martine Foltier Pugh is a freelance writer and visual artist based in Edinburgh

With thanks to Catriona Mann

For further information:

And special thanks to Balfour Beatty Investments and Arts & Business Scotland for their financial support, which has enabled Art in Healthcare to produce 18 Artist Uncovered blog posts and accompanying video productions.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Artist Uncovered: Marjorie I Campbell 1936-1999

Marjorie Campbell was a professional book illustrator, graphic designer and lecturer. She was a most talented and prolific artist who left a collection of works that amaze by their diversity and strength.
Art work for the book jacket for ‘The Emperor’s Winding Sheet’
image courtesy of A G Campbell

Marjorie’s younger sister, Dr Alison Kerr, has made a meticulous inventory of her sketches, drawings and paintings and numerous sketchbooks. She showed me a selection while telling me her family history. The two girls were born in northern China where their parents were medical missionaries during the Sino-Japanese war. When their father died of typhoid aged 31, their mother had to make the perilous journey to the coast during brief periods of ceasefire with her two very young daughters of three years and eleven months respectively before boarding a ship home, a passage which during WWII, was fraught with danger.
One Feather & Four Stones 
image courtesy of A G Campbell

Back in Scotland, they settled down first in Inverness-shire and later in Edinburgh. Theirs was an artistic, musical and very supportive family. They occasionally received visits from missionary friends who would mesmerize their young audience with true and heroic stories. Later Marjorie would provide others with the same warmth and generosity she had grown up with. 
Edinburgh Castle Sketch 
Art in Healthcare Collection

Her talent was soon noticed and nurtured at home and at school. Alison remembers how their mother, now a teacher, involved her older daughter in creating art work in preparation for her own class teaching and in drawing paper dolls with which the two girls played. The family enjoyed outdoor pursuits such as camping and cycling that offered many sketching and painting opportunities. The Highland and Hebridean landscapes impressed Campbell early on, particularly the island of Lismore where she would often return as an adult with her husband and four daughters. 
Untitled [seascape], watercolour
image courtesy of A G Campbell

In 1954 Campbell went to Edinburgh College of Art, winning scholarships to London in 1956 and Paris in 1957. She qualified as a designer and book illustrator, a considered choice that combined her love of books and art and could earn an income. She became a Member of the Society of Industrial Artists and Designers in 1985 and also applied her design talent to quilting for her family and friends. In 1989 she founded Luckenbooth, a small crystal engraving business, in collaboration with engraver Wilma MacKenzie.
Croft Cottage & Sitted Man, screen print
AiH Collection

In parallel with her professional practice, Campbell never ceased to draw and paint the world around her, her children, still lifes and flowers.  These loose and expressionist sketches, quickly executed, reveal an artist always challenging herself and equally at ease with representational or abstract language.
Untitled [abstract drawing], ink
image courtesy of A G Campbell

Dr Kerr explains that Campbell did not regard these experimental and fluid works as especially significant and many were given away or simply disposed of but those she kept were tucked away in an attic space. It was only after her death that her close family discovered the extent of her output and have since endeavoured to make it known.
For a couple of years Campbell had a studio in an abandoned brick works near Edinburgh, an environment that inspired a series of works featuring industrial rejects that she endowed with animal-like presence
.Untitled [industrial reject], watercolour
image courtesy of A G Campbell

Marjorie would have approved wholeheartedly the donation of sixteen of her works to Art in Healthcare to brighten up healthcare settings. Together they showcase the artist’s talent in a variety of media such as watercolour, pen and ink, screen print and oil from the fine details of ‘Edinburgh Castle’ to her powerful and subjective landscapes and seascapes. 
A surprise for the family was to discover several doll pictures among the attic stash. Reminiscent of her childhood cut outs, these dolls, despite their smiley face, are poignantly eerie and allude to carefully hidden turmoil.
Untitled [doll], watercolour
image courtesy of A G Campbell

As a whole the collection offers a remarkable insight into a personal artistic journey that epitomizes the renaissance of Scottish art in the second half of the twentieth century. It deserves to be pored over and appreciated by a much wider public. 

Martine Foltier Pugh is a freelance writer and visual artist based in Edinburgh.

With thanks to Dr A Kerr and A G Campbell

Further information:

Marjorie I Campbell's website 

Luckenbooth Fine Arts

And special thanks to Balfour Beatty Investments and Arts & Business Scotland for their financial support, which has enabled Art in Healthcare to produce 18 Artist Uncovered blog posts and accompanying video productions.