Calum McClure: Nocturnes & Botanics (4 stars)

Calum McClure: Nocturnes & Botanics

Contemporary landscape painter proves the genre is far from exhausted

Calum McClure’s degree show, at Edinburgh College of Art in 2010, was remarkable in that it showed a young artist boldly painting landscapes in a world full of conceptualism, and doing it with no small degree of talent. He was swiftly adopted by the Scottish Gallery, and the following year won the prestigious Jolomo Award for Scottish Landscape Painting.

McClure’s fourth solo show at the gallery in five years shows not only is he prolific, but he isn’t standing still. Landscape is still his subject, but his painting is looser, more free. He is exploring an increasing range of moods, revelling in new techniques. He continually sets himself fresh challenges: paint at night, or in heavy rain; find an in-between space like the area between two hot houses, or a momentary one, like a hillside glimpsed from a train window.

His early preoccupations are still evident: reflections in water, the silhouettes of conifer trees, but they are being worked by an increasingly confident pair of hands. Sometimes the body of water occupies almost the entire painting, pulling us into the depths of its reflections. At other times, the plane is flattened like a Japanese print, or a boat lurks in the shadows with a Peter Doig-ish untold narrative.

McClure has embraced print-making: etchings, in which he showcases his skills as a draftsman, and monotypes which, requiring speed and spontaneity, push him towards a greater degree of freedom. Some of these are more successful than others, but even the less assured are powerful experiments on the way to abstraction.

In an art world which seems to value newness above all else, landscape painters are regarded as a throwback to a previous age. Good landscape painting gives the lie to this. McClure’s is a dynamic art, always experimenting, always looking for balance. His work is full of questions not wholly resolved, but the constant search for answers gives his work a fierce energy.

Scottish Gallery, Edinburgh, until Sat 30 Apr.

Calum McClure: Nocturnes & Botanics

Landscape and nature paintings from the artist.