Study visit review: Joan Eardley’s ‘A sense of place’

Two Glasgow Girls 1960-63

Saturday morning at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art was the time and place for the Open College of the Arts study visit to the Joan Eardley ‘A Sense of Place’ exhibition.

With fourteen students this was a well-attended event, the participants being attracted to an exhibition that focused on drawing and painting enhanced by photographic and archival documentation of the period. There was the welcome opportunity to talk to fellow students and exchange gossip, meet a tutor and have further discussion over lunch in the art gallery’s café. Students asked about how assessments are organised, exchanged information about tutors, compared previous study days, took notes and drew in their sketchbooks.

Scotland has produced a great number of outstanding artists in the 20th Century but the one for which it has the greatest affection is undoubtedly Joan Eardley

As an artist she found inspiration in two places – the Glasgow district of Townhead, a working class run-down area of overcrowded tenements that was scheduled for demolition, and in Catterline, a fishing village on Scotland’s N.E. coast, which was suffering from a decline in the fishing industry.

In Glasgow’s Townhead she drew and painted the surrounding streets and the activities she saw in this bustling neighbourhood. Her primary focus however was the children and in the Sampson family she found willing models who played in her studio and would attempt to sit still and be drawn in exchange for a “treacle piece and a thrupenny bit”.

In Catterline Joan chose not to paint people but instead concentrated on landscape and seascapes. She was out in all weathers and, with her large painting boards anchored to the shore, attempted to capture the raw experience of nature.

The Drawing students could appreciate the colourful pastels of the Glasgow street children done quickly on fine-textured sandpaper as well as of the many abstract studies of the Catterline weather effects, her visual language in tune with the elements.

If a lesson was required into mark making at its best and into the expressive handling of paint, then this exhibition provided that information. Students could see how her technique could encapsulate the innocence of youth as well as a storm at sea – and what freedom and confidence could do when attached to emotive subjects that in her landscapes “hang between reality and abstraction”.

Visiting a gallery provides the opportunity to stand in front of real paintings and experience the scale, colour and texture of the medium. During a study visit you can talk to a tutor, stand along side your fellow students to discuss the finer points of drawing or painting and share your experiences of the course.

Study visits are advertised regularly on the student website so if you see there is one in your area don’t miss out on the opportunity to join in and be part of the OCA experience.


Also published on Medium.

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