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Jan Patience: Enjoy Scottish Gallery’s solo show inspired by Robert Burns

Italian Rose Otricoli I 2021, by Geoff Uglow.
Italian Rose Otricoli I 2021, by Geoff Uglow.

The Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh’s Dundas Street has an unusual place in the ecosystem of Scottish art.

From the Scottish Colourists, to Joan Eardley and on to Dame Elizabeth Blackadder, who died last year, this small private gallery has supported hundreds of artists since it was established.

Originally set up in 1842 at premises in South St David Street by an entrepreneur called Aitken Dott, then, as now, it sells the work of leading Scottish artists.

Whether you are in the market for buying artwork or not, if you’re interested in art, sign up to its newsletters, which are a font knowledge. Its online talks are terrific, too.

The knowledgeable team, which includes Guy Peploe, grandson of Scottish Colourist SJ Peploe are, to a man and woman, art evangelists.

This month, there’s a brilliant double bill in the shape of a solo exhibition inspired by Robert Burns by Glasgow School of Art-trained Geoff Uglow, called The Ploughman. Uglow’s oil paintings are laden with layers and texture; so much so, they could be sculptures.

His subject matter is fleeting, though; the movement of a wave, a fresh rose caught forever blooming or the dusty heat of an Italian byway.

Raised on a farm in Cornwall, Uglow says he was drawn to Burns’ life as a ploughman poet when he read a biography during a painting trip to the Hebridean island of Barra.

The gallery’s Modern Masters 180th anniversary edition also offers viewers a chance to rediscover the work of well-known artists such as Alberto Morrocco (1917-1998) with his joyous, colour-soaked canvases or Scottish Colourist and still-life genius George Leslie Hunter (1877-1931).

I always stumble on intriguing artists such as Mardi Barrie (1930-2004), whose gorgeous landscapes veer off into abstraction.

In 1972, writer John Berger made a landmark radio series on art for the BBC called Ways Of Seeing. In it, Berger talked about how we look at art, and why it matters.

He turned the series into a book, which become the bible for artists and art students. To mark the 50th anniversary of Ways Of Seeing, Radio 4 asked five writers to talk about a work of art that is important to them.

The beautifully meditative Viewfinders: Ways Of Seeing At 50 is now available on BBC Sounds.