Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Duncan Shanks Sketchbooks at the Hunterian: The Poetry of Place

Duncan Shanks Sketchbooks: The Poetry of Place
‌14 March – 16 August 2015
Hunterian Art Gallery
Admission free

My partner Mila Athayde has been busy for the last year cataloging work at the Hunterian Museum & Art Gallery by the renowned Scottish Artist Duncan Shanks so for this months post I thought I’d discuss the project she’s been working on there. The Duncan Shanks sketchbook exhibition: The Poetry of Place. 

Duncan Shanks was born in Airdrie and studied at Glasgow School of Art where he later lectured. He draws his subjects and inspiration from the countryside around his home in the Clyde Valley. Strong colour and richly-applied paint chart the changing seasons and the forces imminent in nature. His works also examine the perennial tasks and practices of traditional rural life.

Corra Linn main fall in summer (mid-1980s) by Duncan Shanks
He was featured in STV’s Talking Pictures (see video bellow) an art show featuring a different Scottish or Scotland based artist during the early nineties. It’s a bit dated now but it does give you a good insight into Duncan Shanks work. Incidentally STV appears to have uploaded the entire series onto YouTube and its well worth seeking out.

Duncan Shanks studied at Glasgow School of Art in the early 1950s and after graduating became a part-time lecturer at the School, where he taught until 1979. He has exhibited widely in Scotland and the UK and is represented in public and private collections across the country, including Scottish Arts Council, Arts Council of Great Britain, Glasgow Art Gallery, Dundee Art Gallery, Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea, Lillie Art Gallery, Milngavie, Government Art Collection, Edinburgh City Art Centre, Glasgow University and Edinburgh University.

Pink Cloud, Red Pole (1973-1978) by Duncan Shanks
Recently a 100 or so sketchbooks documenting Duncan Shanks’s lifelong interest in the Clyde Valley and his own garden have been the subject of ongoing curatorial study in collaboration with Chris Allan and the artist. The aim was to catalogue his sketchbooks and provide an insight into the life and work of one of Scotland’s most accomplished contemporary landscape and still-life painters. The work will result in an on-line catalogue of the sketchbooks and an exhibition at The Hunterian opening on the 14th of March and running to August the 16th.

This exhibition seeks to open up this unique body of work that will display his ability to astonish with colour and form, communicate his desire to share the feeling of being at one with Nature, and offer a glimpse into the increasingly varied functions of his sketchbooks over the past five decades.

No one can be more in tune with nature than the landscape painter who walks. Each step on the way changes some aspect of experience and all experience, internal and external, is put to work in the creative process. And for a painter so sensitive to change, in weather, in the growth and decay of nature’s cycle there might be sufficient on the doorstep, or from the studio window to inspire a lifetime’s work, indeed the profusion of nature exaggerated by geography might positively discourage travel. A true landscape artist, Shanks presents us not with the familiar and predictable face of Nature but enables us to crouch low or soar high, to see it as we have never seen it before. His 104 sketchbooks, gifted to The Hunterian over the past two years, have been the anchors of his life as an artist.

This major gift to The Hunterian is so special because it constitutes his entire output of sketchbooks from the past 45 years. The sketchbooks addition to the Hunterians collection will insure Shank’s art will be catalogued, photographed and conserved for future generations. Alongside the 30 sketchbooks on display for the exhibition an additional three paintings, Fragments of Memory (early 1990s), Shower from Tinto (1980-2010) and Night Garden (1995-2007), generously gifted by the artist to complement the sketchbook collection, will demonstrate the central role sketchbooks started to play in his work from the 1980s.

I have to also say the Hunterian Gallery deserves kudos for the hanging and display arrangements. The paintings look fantastic and as for the sketchbooks, the exhibition designers have opted for a sort of 'window shop' display that works really well and I think looks much nicer than the typical type of display cases usually reserved for books.

Duncan Shanks sketch books in 'window shop' display
Exhibition space

In short a really good exhibition do yourself and go check it out!

All pictures featured in this blog are from the Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery.
To find out more follow this link:

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