Ya Bass!

The Bass Rock, at the mouth of the Firth of Forth,  lurks at every corner in North Berwick, and steals the eye even from Arthur’s Seat.   Ya Bass! at Fidra Fine Art takes on the rock and plays with this “timeless muse”.

Fidra Fine Art was founded by novice gallerist Alan Rae four years ago; it’s developing in strength along with the owner’s collection and tastes.   For his summer exhibition Ya Bass! – which I got to late, and which only has ten days to run, as of this blog – Rae went for paintings themed on Bass Rock, home of gannets and pirates.

Both inescapable and yet inspired choice for a themed group show in North Berwick.   It clearly grabbed the local imagination, delivering a “rammed” opening night,  and brought original and amusing responses as artists opened up.

The exhibition demonstrates the quality work produced by Scottish artists, and frankly the low prices even commanded by veterans,  in what has been a tough market in the last decade.  And so, a few highlights, including this stand-out piece, which sold to a lucky buyer at the opening: Landfall, by Gordon M Scott.

Fidra Fine Art Bass Rock

Landfall, Gordon M Scott

The power and the translucence of the swirling surf in the forefront, the Bass Rock lurking like a whale, a darkening sky….Scott graduated from the Glasgow School of Art in 1986, and has shown widely; but after thirty years in the trade, typically a painter of imaginary landscapes,  it was his first seascape.  More are planned.

Rae worked from home in North Berwick for an English aircraft lease business.  In 2012 he turned it in after “a combination of politics at work and my interest in Scottish art made me decide that life was too short”.

His gallery is inspired by his own collection.   “My brother used to frame for St Andrews Fine Art which always had an incredible mix ,” he said.   “It was like a second hand bookshop with the walls heaving with Scottish art old and new. I started collecting…the interest grew and I gradually came to the conclusion that I wanted to open a gallery and ditch the day job.”

Still for sale, tucked into a place at the back of the hall:  The Recruits, by Donald Macleod.

Donald Macleod Fidra Fine Art Bass Rock

The Recruits, Donald Macleod

Macleod is another GSA alumni  from the late 1970s.    He worked in Surrey and returned to Scotland in about 1990 to work as a studio assistant to his GSA contemporary  Peter Howson.  It was Macleod, who persuaded Howson to briefly join up in the British Army, and just maybe the work reflects that incident; the striking composition, one soldier clasped around the other, at its heart.

At a slightly higher price point and also still available, Alice McMurrough’s elegant, enigmatic, and skilfully executed Daemonologie.

Alice McMurrough Fidra Fine Art North Berwick Scottish art

Alice McMurrough’s Melancholie

The piece is inspired by witch trials in North Berwick in 1590 and  Albrecht Durer’s etching, “ The Witch”;  McMurrough replaces Durer’s goat-riding witch with the figure of King James VI.  The king was returning from Copenhagen with his wife Princess Anne but terrible storms forced them to take shelter in Norway.     The admiral of the Danish fleet blamed the storms on witchcraft, and sought to root out culprits accordingly;  suspecting plots against him, King James VI started his own trials in the shadow of Bass Rock.

I will be writing a catalogue essay on Matthew Draper’s work, where he works ground up pastel into paper, for his first show at the Scottish Gallery later this autumn.

Matthew Draper Fidra Fine Art North Berwick Scottish art

For an Instant, Matthew Draper

He has several pieces in the exhibition, and this striking smaller work captures a stormy sunburst blasting down to the rock.

To finish, Simon Laurie takes up a cut-out image of the rock, viewed across some salty sea-dog warming up for a sundowner.  The archeologist and writer Andy Heald, whom Rae describes as one of his most sellable artists, goes for an elemental abstract of splashed and scrubbed paint,  in The Tide Comes Rolling In; you imagine a sailor, screwing their eyes for a glimpse of the rock,  through the wind-blown water of a storm.

It’s hard to know how Rae will follow this up for a summer show next year.  Berwick Law, anyone?

Simon Laurie Fidra Fine Art North Berwick Scottish art

Time for a Gin, Simon Laurie


Andy Heald Fidra Fine Art North Berwick Scottish art

The Tide Comes Rolling in, Andy Heald

Ya Bass! Bass Rock, the Timeless Muse, is at Fidra Fine Art, North Berwick ends 11 September 2016.