Sunday, 13 January 2008

Joan Eardley Exhibition

Yesterday we travelled through to Edinburgh by train to catch the penultimate day showing of this fantastic exhibition of Eardley's work at the National Gallery of Scotland. Although I had already seen a number of her paintings at a small exhibition in the Peoples Palace in Glasgow Green, I hadn't actually seen a good number of these paintings before. The gallery was packed with people like us making sure we got a last look before the show ends today. A good natured crowd respectful of other peoples need to have a good look at the work without jostling. No fights broke out that I saw anyway!
And what a show it was! She was prolific, and expansive - I was amazed at the number of paintings which were gathered here from many sources, both public and private, and the scale of many of the paintings was fantastic: huge expansive seascapes like the one at the end of this blog, with layer upon layer of paint and rich textures like you can't believe, and these paintings of people, especially the children. We were all in reverent awe of what we were seeing!

This is the front cover of the exhibition brochure and shows a large detail from "Children and Chalked Wall No.3" painted in oils with newspaper and metal foil collaged on canvas, 1963. The full picture of these two pals measures 61x68.6cm. A total inspiration with it's textures and colours.
If the previous painting was inspiring then what does that make this picture at 101x179cm painted in 1960 called: "Glasgow Back Street with Children Playing". For me this was the best in the show not just because of it's size but the complex interlocking of shapes and colour of the kids playing in the street just as I did as a child. This brings it all back for me. You can almost hear the laughter and the noise and the fun!

The Samson Family: Joan painted this group of children, individually and together, many times. This is a brilliant photo of them standing together in Eardley's studio. The little girl front right is Pat Samson who features by herself as "Little Girl with a Squint". Only recently did the media find some of these kids grown up now and let us hear their own memories of posing for Eardley. Fascinating insights!
Finally, this is an example of one of her seascapes:"Foam and Blue Sky" painted at Catterline in the North East of Scotland just south of Aberdeen where she stayed for a number of years towards the end of her short life. There are so many fantastic seascapes like this with it's grandeur, colour, textures, and movement I would like to show all of them but the best thing would be for anyone interested to get a hold of the brochure for themselves. It is a very high quality publication with great colour photos and only cost £9.95. Astonishing! It is published by National galleries of Scotland, ISBN 978 1 906270 04 9.

So what a day! It was wonderful, if a bit exhausting, to travel through to Auld Reekie, have our lunch in Harvey Nicks with an excellent glass of wine, and then get a look at this fantastic exhibition. My feelings as we came out were, as usual, very mixed: on the one hand I was, of course, inspired beyond doubt but also a bit deflated by my own inability to do anything anywhere near this quality standard Eardley has set for us. Having now seen these paintings 'up close and personal', many for the first time, I am in sheer awe and admiration of this womans fabulous talent. Well done Joan - you are one of the very finest painters that Scotland and even the world has ever produced. You are my hero!


vivien said...

I thoroughly enjoyed this write up - I love Joan Eardley's work and really envy you seeing this exhibition.

daviddrawsandpaints said...

It was something else entirely!
I've always been a fan, but seeing so many works that I hadn't seen before was just incredible!
I wonder if the Exhibition will travel and you get a chance to see it too? I would like to think so.
Thanks for your comments on my happy experiences on Saturday, Vivien.
I enjoy your blog very much!

Gesa said...

Hi David!
The double page children's painting was my exhibition favourite too! What a coincidence - I love the abstract play of the clothes in that one particularly well. And when I was at the exhibition and ended up returning to that one again and again.
This is a really nice write-up too - her work is just awe-inspiring, isn't it!

daviddrawsandpaints said...

Great to finally meet you gesa, considering we live so close!
It's funny, I posted one of Eardley's pics on my Flickr site (Girl with Squinty Eye) and I get loads of people picking it asa favourite. I am always having to deny it's mine, and thank them on behalf of Joan!!!
I would give my right arm to say it was mine, but then I wouldn't be able to paint would eye?

daviddrawsandpaints said...

Freudian slip. It should, of course read "...would I?"
"...would eye" is the punch-line from a very bad joke!

Betty Mc Donald said...

Just found this about Joan Eardley and I have to say when I was young I often watched her paint I lived in the Rottenrow beside the Samsons in the 1950's and new them all. I went to see the exhibition and there was a glass case with photo's off children playing and I was in one of them, and I new a lot off the children in the photo's.I would have loved a copy .Oh memories!