Whenever there’s an exhibition on at the Park Gallery housed within the magnificent Callendar House in Falkirk, I make a point of going along, especially if there’s a walk through talk by the artist. Of course, these events are a hit or a miss but as they’re all free, it’s worth taking a chance.
This time, the exhibition was Three Rivers Meet showcasing the work of Scottish landscape artist Ruth Nicol. Going along to hear Ruth describe her art was a gamble that paid off as it was a superb insight into her fabulous work and the inspiration behind her series of paintings.
The stimulus for Ruth’s work was Alexander Moffat’s painting ‘Poets’ Pub’ featuring seven great Scottish poets: Hugh MacDiarmid, Edwin Morgan, Norman McCaig, Sorley MacLean, George Mackay Brown, Robert Gairloch and Ian Crichton Smith. A copy of the painting hangs in the corridor of Stirling University outside one of the rooms my MLitt class met so I was very familiar with the scene. But I’d never considered the location of the poets in relation to their work. Ruth’s impressive landscape paintings depict the various parts of Scotland that were home to the poets, including Glasgow and Edinburgh as well as more remote settlements such as Plockton in the Highlands and Langholm in the Borders.
The paintings are of epic proportions and define the relationship between the physical locations and how it reflects the social, economic and political context of Scotland. This body of work is even more pertinent considering all of the paintings were completed during 2014, the year of the Independence Referendum and self-reflection.
As I stood back to take in the immense scale, I was able to appreciate not only Ruth’s amazing talent as a landscape artist but also how the environment informs literature. The paintings surge with energy and Ruth has created a powerful connection to Scottish art from the past and present.
Do you find that local landscapes inspire your writing?