What do artists look for in their own favourite art?

Gustave Le Gray's Mediterranean Sea: Sète

Gustave Le Gray's Mediterranean Sea: Sète (1857) / credit: Victoria and Albert Museum

Six artists discuss the art that inspires them and why

Garry Fabian Miller on Gustave Le Gray's Mediterranean Sea: Sète (1857)

At a time when photographic emulsions were not equally sensitive to all colours of the spectrum, most photographers found it impossible to achieve proper exposure of both landscape and sky in a single picture. Gustave Le Gray created his seascapes by printing two negatives on a single sheet of paper (one exposed for the sea, the other for the sky), sometimes made on separate occasions or at different locations. Le Gray's marine pictures caused a sensation not only because their simultaneous depiction of sea and heavens represented a technical tour de force, but because the resulting poetic effect was without precedent in photography.
Garry Fabian Miller: Voyage, Dovecot Gallery, Edinburgh, until Mon 7 May.

Victoria Crowe on James Cowie's A Portrait Group (1933)

What do artists look for in their own favourite art?

credit: Ruth Christie / photo Antonia Reeve
I very much like the work of James Cowie, a most individual painter and a great draftsman. Much is written about his analytical and measured approach, but what also comes across in his painting A Portrait Group is the mysterious nature of this group of figures. Psychologically distanced from one another, they are focusing on an unseen event behind the viewer. In the landscape behind, aspects of rural life go on: a red-coated hunter on a white horse rides across the field, white smoke or steam (from a hidden train?) flows across the farmland, a bird swoops down like a dive bomber, top left, while clothes or drapery float above the group, breaking the horizon. These moving elements heighten the intense detachment and stillness of the figures, creating a subtext which is both mysterious and disconcerting.
Victoria Crowe: Beyond Likeness, Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh, Sat 12 May–Sun 18 Nov.

Christine Borland on Ian Hamilton Finlay's Clay the Life (1987)

What do artists look for in their own favourite art?

courtesy of the Estate of Ian Hamilton Finlay
Clay the Life (1987) by Ian Hamilton Finlay is the perfect artwork, perfectly placed. The hulking chunk of white marble is hung flush to the red sandstone wall above one of Kelvingrove's grand stairwells. At the time of the museum's opening in 1901 (as part of the Glasgow International Exhibition), this would have led up from a central hall, filled with figurative plaster and marble sculptures. Engraved with the text in the artist's characteristic typeface, the sculpture elegantly conveys a complex truth about the history of materials in art and the art of materials in history.
Christine Borland: I Say Nothing will be unveiled at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow, Thu 11 Oct. This is a new commission from 14-18 NOW and Glasgow Museums, supported by the Art Fund.

Jason E Bowman on Keith Henderson's Women Singing at a Table (Waulking the Cloth)

What do artists look for in their own favourite art?

courtesy of the University of Edinburgh Art Collection
Keith Henderson was a Scottish artist, illustrator and writer, and a war artist in both world wars. Women Singing at a Table (Waulking the Cloth) is in the collection of the University of Edinburgh, its title alluding to the depicted complexities of the interface between sociality and work. Sat at a long table in two rows opposite each other, a total of 12 women are labouring. Eyes closed, mouths open in near-smile they are uniform in age, dress, character and task. In the distance, four men, apparently younger, look on.
Jason E Bowman is an artist and works at the Valand Academy, University of Gothenburg. He is developing a new commission with GoMA, Glasgow, for December 2018.

Sam Ainsley and Alexander Moffat on JD Fergusson's Les Eus (c 1913)

What do artists look for in their own favourite art?

courtesy the Hunterian Art Gallery and Perth & Kinross Council
In the 1980s I began teaching at GSA and was entranced by the new and astonishing works of the young artists who were my students. Nevertheless, I still remember the impact of the Scottish Colourists on my own work, in particular JD Fergusson. I first saw Les Eus (the healthy ones) at The Hunterian Art Gallery when I moved to Scotland in the 70s and loved its exuberance and colour. Later I discovered his relationship to Margaret Morris whose dancers clearly influenced his work. This painting was certainly an influence on the Warrior Women in my exhibition Why I Choose Red at the Third Eye Centre (now CCA) and the banner I produced for the exterior of The Vigorous Imagination exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery in 1986.
Sam Ainsley will be showing works in Academicians V at Glasgow Print Studio, between Sat 17 Nov–Jan 2019.

D Fergusson's largest painting Les Eus is a long-time favourite. Painted in Paris in 1913 after Fergusson and Peploe had witnessed a Ballets Russes performance of Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps, Les Eus presents a vision of a Celtic arcadia where women are the agents of creative energy and surely echo's Matisse's statement that 'dance is an extraordinary thing: life and rhythm'. Unseen in Scotland until Fergusson's death in 1961, it can now be properly regarded as the first great modernist masterwork of Scottish art.
Bill Hare's Facing the Nation: The Portraiture of Alexander Moffat was published earlier this year by Luath Press.

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