Monthly Archives: September 2017

Portrait of Richard Demarco

Above – one my sketches today of Richard Demarco (at the Demarco Archives, Summerhall).

Some more sketches from today, and a previous longer one from a video still …





Over the next few weeks I’ll be creating a portrait of Richard Demarco. So today I’m introducing a series of blog posts in which I’ll share the process, and I’ll also be introducing and exploring the work of Richard Demarco.

A few weeks ago, after seeing the moving and inspiring performance of ‘The Artist as Explorer’ by Aletia Upstairs, which focussed on Demarco’s unique vision and artistic legacy (see my earlier post: ‘The Artist as Explorer’ – Here ) I contacted Richard Demarco to ask to paint a portrait of him. I was delighted when Terry Newman (Deputy Director of the Demarco Archive Trust) replied to say, ‘He’d be honoured’.

Needless to say, I am honoured! In this blog I’ve mentioned Richard Demarco’s extraordinary work as an arts impressario, teacher and artist a few times. He’s doubtless done more for the arts in Edinburgh than anyone else alive.

Sketching today was an absolute pleasure. As an artist and art teacher himself, Richard has a keen understanding of an artist’s perspective. He invited two of his colleagues – Fernanda Zei, and Jack Kausch to observe the process (it was a pleasure to meet them) and volunteered several interesting, at times playful, creative poses.

From feeling somewhat trepiditious at the start (how many outstandingly talented and renowned artists has Richard worked with over the years?!) I really began to enjoy the experience. I will return next week to develop further ideas and sketches…

These photos from today are of Richard in front of the excellent portrait created by David Mach. (the two other well-known portraits of Richard Demarco include those by Barbara Balmer and Peter Howson).






In the process of sketching and talking, it transpired that my first drawing tutor, Bill Gillon, was in fact a pupil of Richard Demarco. What wonderful synchronicity – Bill Gillon was an excellent tutor – he enjoyed his work and his criticism was incisive, constructive, never harsh or (far worse!) indifferent.

Today’s sketches are the start of a larger portrait I’ll develop in the next month, which I’ll be gifting to the Demarco Archives. It’s one way of honouring my connection with Richard Demarco, which began back in the early 90’s when several people I knew had become connected with the Demarco Gallery.

Of course I’d heard of Richard Demarco (everyone interested in the arts in Edinburgh knew of him) but it was only a few years later, after I’d studied for my degree in art that I decided I’d like to work for the Demarco European Art Foundation.

I remember the conversations I’d have with fellow art students about what we’d do after art college. I was pretty sure that getting my work into a prestigious corporate collection wasn’t the pinnacle of human endeavour, nor was working for a standard gallery, whether commercial/independent or publically funded, not if it simply reflected a well-worn path that reduced art to what’s ‘cool’ – passing trends or fashion, or simply further commodified the arts.

Anyone who takes an interest in the Demarco Archives and drops in to see Richard is made welcome, so in 1999 I began working voluntarily on the Demarco Archives, and assisting with his exhibition programme for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. I didn’t exactly see myself as an artist at that point – I was quite self restricting on the basis that I didn’t have anything new or important to add to the world of art, therefore I’d decided to contribute towards enhancing the work of those who did. (I was younger then, and in later years I came to realise it’s not always about changing anything or attempting a work of genius so much as responding authentically to your experience of life, I relaxed a bit into my experience of making art!).

Nonetheless, in 2000 Richard Demarco generously invited me to participate, alongside many other artists, in a major show at Edinburgh’s City art Centre in 2000, called 70/2000: The Road to Meikle Seggie (curated by Charles Ryder, then curator of the Stanley Picker Gallery, Kingston University) which charted his journey in the arts through images and documentation of the archives.

That journey involves so many meaningful innovative projects, collaborations, adventures and encounters that it’s impossible for me to do it justice in one post, so I’d recommend exploring the following links for a start …

A shorthand outline though, would certainly include Richard Demarco’s pioneering approaches as one of the founders of The Traverse Theatre, the first person to introduce the work of Joseph Beuys to Scotland, and his lifelong dedication to the founding vision of the Edinburgh Festival – to heal post-war Europe through cultural dialogue in the arts. That dedication has led to myriad and profound projects abroad, often in war-torn countries across Eastern Europe.

This is the first post about creating this portrait, so I will be including more information in subsequent posts. I hope you enjoy the process, but above all I hope it’s inspiring.

Winter Series: Music and Image

Sold. ‘North (2)’. 8×4.5″ inches

Right – a painting from my winter series 2015.

(Paintings for this year’s winter series don’t begin until October. Read on, below) …

Winter Series: Music and Image.

Private View 25th November 7 – 9pm

Open studio 26th November to 3rd December

Venue – Lyne Street Studio, 5 Lyne Street, Abbeyhill, Edinburgh



This project is a development of a five-year collaboration between myself and Atzi Muramatsu. It’s a collaboration that has involved many approaches, including individual responses to shared subjects (such as the Eigg Island project at the Scottish Storytelling Centre in 2015) or Atzi’s live response to my paintings, from which I created video montages.

For Winter Series: Music and Image, I’ll be creating a series of twelve paintings in response to twelve pieces of music composed by Atzi Muramatsu, on the theme of winter.

For this I’ll respond solely to the form, mood, texture and musical references of the music. It’s going to be an exciting new challenge for me as I’ve focussed mainly on landscape painting for the past five years.

In the process of collaboration, you become immersed in the work of the other person,  more than you would if you heard a one-off performance, or visited an exhibition for one evening, for example,

For Atzi this has been at times an unusual experience where it feels as though he’s actually in the landscape as he responds to the painting. To get the sense of this, have a look at my recent video where you can see Atzi become more involved with the paintings as the performance develops, it’s particularly affecting during his improvised response to ‘Moonscape, Harris 4’, which you can see in this clip from about 3:19 onwards. (The clip shows the painting, then cuts to Atzi performing, and back again). Clip –  Moonscapes 

I found the juxtaposing medieval-sounding and folk influences most dramatic – absolutely relevant to the subject matter, which was all about the idea of living through the darkest times in a Hebridean landscape. I knew the painting was a bit dark for some tastes (it won’t be a best seller – dark paintings rarely are!) so I was gratified that Atzi went into that dark landscape so willingly!

In the editing process of making these videos and synchronizing music with image, I’ll often hear the same piece about twenty times or so. So the music really plays over and stays in my mind. Some fragments stay more than others, one of my favourite pieces is probably the beginning of Hebridean Light, which you can hear from about 3:38 in this video  –  I find it joyful.

Over the years I’ve come to appreciate more deeply the eclectic nature of Atzi’s influences, I think of him sometimes as a musical encyclopaedic sponge! But it’s the musical talent in expressing, juxtaposing or harmonising these influences, and the level of expression, that I find so inspiring. It’s one thing to hear all those influences in a piece that’s been composed and worked on over months, quite another to hear it improvised live.

So it’s no surprise to know that much of Atzi’s work has been created for film, his score for ‘The Making of Longbird’ being a recent example (the film won a Scottish BAFTA). Atzi then went on to win a BAFTA last year.

As someone who’s always been fascinated by film scores, music and image (in fact my art college dissertation was partly on this theme, but don’t worry I wouldn’t inflict that on anyone!) from Moricone and Herman to recent compositions by composers Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto who created the incredible score for The Revenant, I can absolutely see where Atzi’s ear for music traditions – from ancient  to modern in the eastern and western hemispheres, would suggest a future in film music composition. More recently I’ve been exploring the music scores by  Bear McCready for the Outlander series. It’s mostly a commercial approach – unashamedly romantic, though extremely well researched. I was particularly struck by the subtle arrangements used during dialogue which correspond so brilliantly to time and place – for example Jacobean times in 18th cent’ Scotland, or 18th cent’ Paris, post WW2 Britain, or music reflecting courtlife in contrast to country-life and folk traditions. It’s really a fascinating subject to explore, but I’m digressing!

In short, it’s going to be a most enjoyable journey for me to respond to Atzi’s music through paint. I want to honour the process and make sure that buyers of the paintings experience it too, so with each painting sold, buyers will recieve a CD with recording of Atzi’s music score, and a music notation of each piece. This means that people can experience the image/painting and music together, exploring for themselves how the image responds to music. If they’re musicians they might themselves play with the the themes too perhaps, and who knows, it might lead to new collaborations, I’m always open to that.

I’ll be sure to post the making of each painting as they progress, and to include music sounds clips here on the blog as the series develops. The main body of work will happen in October, wish us luck!


Following on from my earlier post about the excellent performance of ‘The Artist as Explorer’ by Aletia Upstairs, during this year’s Edinburgh Festival, I received a link in Richard Demarco’s newsletter to critic James O’Brien’s beautifully written review (below), and was pleased to see that the show received 5 stars!

Review Here