Mar 242016

Sean Wheelan Pop 'round for 15 minutes2With thanks to John Morrison.

Peacock Visual Arts is proud to present an exhibition of works by 4th-year students from this year’s Contemporary Art Practice course at Gray’s School of Art. Albeit short, this 3-day exhibition gives us a privileged opportunity to see artworks from a new wave of artists, created using a wide variety of media.

Michael Agnew, Course Leader, Contemporary Art Practice at Gray’s School of Art said:

“This exhibition is a final external rehearsal for the big event opening on the 17th of June 2016 at Gray’s School of Art. From this point forward each of the 31 exhibitors will have all hands to the pump in producing their first one-person shows.

“The eclectic nature and diversity of their practices are there for all to see and I know there is enough breadth for everyone visiting this survey to whet the appetite for June and future creativity and sustainability beyond. I am positive that the knowledgeable audience from Aberdeen won’t be departing this show in disappointment.”

Date: 25-26 March 2016
Opening: Thur 24 March 2016, 6-8pm. All Welcome
Location: Peacock Visual Arts

Mar 242016

PVA IMAGE ONEWith thanks to John Morrison.

Peacock Visual Arts is delighted to present Drawing in Response.

Drawing in Response is the result of the Bethany Arts Project, led by Bethany Christian Trust, in partnership with Gray’s School of Art and Peacock Visual Arts.

Bethany Arts Project is an ambitious new art project working with local homeless and vulnerable people to help build confidence and learn new skills by participating in a series of printmaking and photography workshops.

Facilitated by Bethany’s Arts Coordinator, Caitlyn Main, and with the help of Gray’s School of Art students Aiden Milligan and David Brown, participants worked with Peacock’s printmakers to create exciting new work of their own.

The aim of the Bethany Arts Project is to enable homeless and vulnerable people to work with artists in a way that harnesses their experience, enthusiasm, and creativity, as well as increase their own self-esteem.

Bethany Arts Project seeks to challenge perceptions of homelessness and social exclusion and encourage more mutual respect and understanding across the city.

Date: 1-16 April 2016
Opening: Thursday 31st March 2016, All welcome
Location: Peacock Visual Arts

Oct 222015

With thanks to Esther Green, Tricker PR.


Spelling it out – using art to say thank you to Aberdeen Asset Management’s Charitable Foundation for its support in the Teapot Trust.

Aberdeen Asset Management’s Charitable Foundation has ‘poured’ a cash donation into a pioneering art therapy service that helps to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety for children attending hospital in Aberdeen.

The Teapot Trust provides professional art therapy to children with chronic illnesses in medical settings, including clinics, hospital wards and hospices across Scotland.

Young children don’t always have the words to describe how they feel but making art often leads to them being able to share worries non-verbally, helping children gain confidence and feel more in control and able to cope with their condition.

The Trust’s art therapists work with children who have chronic illnesses, and their families, at the Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital in Aberdeen, and the Aberdeen Asset Management Charitable Foundation will fund the Open Group work there for a year with a grant of £7236.

The Open Group is an innovative service tailored for hospital outpatient departments.

Any child attending clinic can visit the art table to paint, draw, make a collage or model clay and engage with an art therapist if they wish. The group helps to reduce anxiety before medical procedures, as well as providing a safe space for children to express feelings about their illness that may be difficult to talk about.

After they lost their eight year old daughter Verity to cancer, East Lothian parents Laura and John Young set up the Teapot Trust in her memory. Verity had a life based around tests, medications, hospital visits and illness but art gave her a way to expressing herself, and this activity became essential for the family’s coping strategy.

The charity operates across Scotland employing nine art therapists on a part-time basis. As well as open group art therapy, the Teapot Trust provides  small group/ward based art therapy for children who are hospitalised, and one-to-one art therapy for those who need additional support to help them cope.

The Trust does not receive any NHS funding so it is reliant on the generosity of individual donors and grants like the one from Aberdeen Asset Management’s Charitable Foundation  – it takes over £230,000 each year to continue its work with children and young people.

Founder Laura Young commented:

“The Teapot Trust is delighted to be awarded a grant of £7236 from Aberdeen Asset Management Charitable Foundation for the Open Group. These children face a lifetime of having to cope with their condition. They and their families are often highly anxious about hospital appointments, and art therapy is proven to reduce anxiety, encourage self-expression, promote healthy coping mechanisms and can be used by the medical teams as a communication tool.

“This year we expect to help almost 400 children attending out-patient clinics in Aberdeen.”

Parents deeply value  and appreciate the role the service plays in supporting families at what can be a challenging and difficult time.

One parent whose child attended open group art therapy commented:

“My daughter was very upset when she arrived at the hospital but as soon as she saw the painting she calmed down and immediately joined in. The art therapists were extremely kind and encouraging and what had been a horrible experience was turned into fun. This also made the medical procedures later much more straightforward.”

Health experts have also spoken of the importance of art therapy helping children with illness and Professor Sir Kenneth Calman, ex-Chief Medical Officer said: “Arts and creativity is remarkably helpful and positive in hospital. The work of The Teapot Trust is quite inspirational.”

Dominic Kite  of the Aberdeen Asset Management Charitable Fund said:

“We are very pleased to be able to support the Teapot Trust which provides such a valuable and important  service to children and their families.

“Being ill and going to hospital places a huge emotional strain on families, and through art therapy, the Teapot Trust is able  to provide friendship, security, discussion, respite and relief.”

The Aberdeen Asset Charitable Foundation was established in 2012 to formalise and develop the Group’s charitable giving globally. The Foundation seeks partnerships with smaller charities around the world, where funds can be seen to have a meaningful and measurable impact and  the firm encourages its employees to use their time and skills to support its charitable projects. For more information visit

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Sep 162015

trump closeup 1With thanks to Suzanne Kelly.

Local artists Neale Bothwell, Graham Murdoch and Suzanne Kelly will show their latest works in Aberdeen’s Under The Hammer from 19 September.

Kelly will display satirical dolls parodying Donald Trump and some of his entourage.

The four dolls include Donald Trump in golfing mode – which will give a selection of Trump’s catalogue of offensive comments when its hand is shaken.

Another Trump doll in Graduation mode commemorates Trump’s controversial honorary degree from Robert Gordon University.

This degree prompted academic Dr David Kennedy to hand his own degree back to RGU in protest.

There is also a Donald Jr doll in safari mode which talks when its gun is squeezed, explaining how his killing animals helps Africans. The fourth doll is the Menie Estate spokesperson, Sarah Malone, or Mrs Malone-Bates if you prefer. She married Aberdeen Journal’s supremo Damian Bates.

Many speculate that this may have some connection to the positive media coverage Trump receives in Aberdeen papers the Press & Journal and Evening Express, which ignore the majority of anti-trump sentiment.

The handmade dolls come in packaging labelled ‘Donny and Friends’. The boxes are adorned with pictures of pound signs, bags of swag, guns, golf motifs, etc. – as well as newspaper headlines from some of Trump’s debacles.

Suzanne Kelly has kept a close eye on all things Trump related since his earliest association with Menie as a golf course location, and has been involved in many aspects of opposition the controversial development. Of the plight of the residents of Menie, Kelly is particularly passionate.

hunting jr 1Kelly says:

“I’ve written a report on the Scottish Government’s handling of the Menie Estate. The legal environmental protection was stripped away on the promise of millions of pounds and thousands of jobs flooding into Aberdeenshire. The reality is considerably different. A giant bund of earth blocks the former view to the sea of Leyton Farm Cottage’s inhabitants – it serves no purpose but to intimidate as far as I can tell.

“Local farmer Michael Forbes and his family had their water supply damaged, were threatened by police over what were civil issues, and had his access to the sea to fish cut off, with the police warning him not to attempt to take his boats and nets to the sea.

“I’ve also helped the BBC’s Panorama team with their segment on Trump, which proved his links to organised crime. The Scottish Government doesn’t care. Neither do Aberdeen Sports Village, and when I last checked, some Aberdeenshire school children were sporting Trump-sponsored shirts.

“I also had a photo credit or two in Anthony Baxter’s documentary A Dangerous Game; my photos showed huge piles of mixed rubbish on the Menie Estate.

“Aberdeen Voice has also featured a fair quantity of my satirical writings on Trump. Writing about him satirically is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel.

“This man is condemned by his own words, which show him to be a nationalist, racist, sexist piece of work. If the serious work I’ve tried to do won’t do the trick, I’ll try and make a few points using some satirical dolls.

“Hopefully people who see them will find them amusing, but also take away some of the serious points. The Scottish government gave up important principles for what proved to be the pie-in-the-sky that opponents knew it to be at the Menie Estate. But now, some Americans are actually considering electing this man as president.”

The work will be displayed for approximately 3 or 4 weeks.

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.

[Aberdeen Voice accepts and welcomes contributions from all sides/angles pertaining to any issue. Views and opinions expressed in any article are entirely those of the writer/contributor, and inclusion in our publication does not constitute support or endorsement of these by Aberdeen Voice as an organisation or any of its team members.]

Jul 302015

Edinburgh based artist, Julia Douglas reveals blood shed behind creating ‘clothes peg dress’ on show at Drum Castle. With thanks to Esther Green, Tricker PR.


Highly Sprung by Julia Douglas is very much at home in the new exhibition space at Drum Castle. Pic: Newsline Media Ltd.

Castles have throughout history been places of bloody carnage and battles. Now an artist whose work is on show at a Scottish castle has revealed her own blood shed over creating the installation.

Julia Douglas’ Highly Sprung, a dress made out of 12,500 clothes pegs, is part of an exhibition of contemporary art in a newly created art gallery in Drum Castle in Aberdeenshire.

Creating the installation was a real labour of love for Julia, who spent long days over two months working on the project, the theme of which has become her signature style.

After breaking the pegs to separate the wood from the metal springs, she then linked the springs together to create the shape of the dress. It was an intricate but successful process and remarkably no glue, support or fastenings were needed to keep the dress structure in place.

Julia says:

“It was a very repetitive process, akin to knitting, but also just like housework, a job that you do over and over again. The process made my fingers bleed.”

But the blood shed was worth it as 15 years after its creation and Highly Sprung remains one of Julia’s personal favourites.

“All of my work revolves around the home and relationships we have with objects around the home; how they tell a story about the owners and their life,” she explains.

 “Highly Sprung is very much part of that theme, in fact this was the first one I did and I have continued with that theme ever since.”

Julia feels the homely setting of a country castle provides the ideal backdrop for the ‘Human Presence’ themed exhibition.

Around 20 key works from the permanent collection of Aberdeen Art Gallery have been loaned to the castle while the gallery undergoes a major refurbishment. Other works include Gallowgate Lard by Ken Currie, Restraining Coat 2 by Julie Roberts.

Julia says:

“I am absolutely delighted that Highly Sprung has been hung in this selected exhibition.

“I feel proud to have my work sit alongside prestigious artists like Alison Watt, Ken Currie, Gavin Turk and Julie Roberts, whose works I particularly admire.

“I feel that the domestic interior at Drum Castle, with its fireplaces, wooden panels and skirting boards, is an ideal location for an exhibition exploring human presence and hope that this different setting for the work will attract new viewers as well as inspire regular gallery goers.”

The Edinburgh-based textile and mixed media visual artist plans to take time out from her busy schedule to visit the exhibition at Drum soon.

Julia’s commitments include organising the Society of Scottish Artists’ Annual Exhibition of which she is co-ordinator. She also has plans to move to South West France and set up an artists’ retreat called Studio Faire and as a professional member of Visual Arts Scotland she will be creating new work for their upcoming annual exhibition.

Drum Castle is hosting the specially curated collection of modern art on loan from Aberdeen Art Gallery until March 2017. It is open Thursday-Monday from 11am-4 pm last entry and from October on Saturdays and Sundays from 11am-4pm last entry. Situated on the A93, Drum Castle is 10 miles west of Aberdeen.

Jul 162015

Bryan_Angus_Goose_Park_GardensBy Duncan Harley

Duff House, Banff is to host an exhibition of new work by North East artist Bryan Angus this summer.
An art book, successfully funded by a Kickstarter project which attracted backers from as far afield as the USA, Germany and Denmark, accompanies the exhibition.

Entitled Bright Coast – Long Shadows, the exhibition will feature Bryan’s images of Banff, Macduff, Gardenstown, Pennan and Portsoy.

The book will explore the methods and creative processes used in the making of the work.

Says Bryan:

“This book will help promote my artwork and I hope encourage other people to make art. It will also promote this beautiful and hidden area of the world.”

Bryan is a visual artist living and working on the Banffshire Coast. Along with wife Carla he teaches art at the Creative Retreat in Gardenstown. His work is firmly based in the tradition of representational landscape art, created in soft pastel, oils and increasingly, lino print.

Influenced by American artist Edward Hopper’s paintings of houses in the blazing Massachusetts sunshine and referencing the low angled lighting typical of film noir, Bryan’s images portray the villages and sea edge of the Banffshire coastline and feature the dramatic lighting and long shadows of the northern winter months.

When asked about his inspiration, Bryan, a graduate from Gray’s School of Art, comments:

“The bulk of my work is inspired by the beauty of the land hereabouts, enriched by the history of the people and their towns. My own family history has a branch along this coast, so my sense of place, and subsequently the rediscovering the images of previous lives, has also informed my work.”

Bright Coast – Long Shadows opens at Duff House on 18th July and runs until 30th August.

Words © Duncan Harley, Images © Bryan Angus.
First published in Leopard Magazine.

Jun 112015

The presence of the nude in art: a tradition from prehistory to the present. The Venus of Willendorf (c. 25,000 bc); the Classical Laocoon and his Sons marble; Michelangelo’s David; Manet’s Le Dejeunner sur l’herbe – all instantly recognisable artwork featuring nude figures, male and female. Most higher art institutions offer life drawing classes and understand and encourage the use of the nude in contemporary art practice. But, alas, Bibo Keeley is studying ART AND DESIGN in Aberdeen IN THE ART AND DESIGN DEPARTMENT of North East Scotland College – where the female nipple will not be tolerated. By Suzanne Kelly

Bibo Keeley FREE AS A BIRD poster VERBOTEN by Rob Wallen Principal and Chief Executive of NESCOL A starlet’s nipple ‘accidentally’ spills out of their ball gown on the red carpet spells headline news in print and online. A singer flashes onstage; no one bats an eyeball.

A singer uses her sex to swing into the top twenty astride a wrecking ball, nude – some might call that clever marketing. Others might call it exploitation.

When visual artist Bibo Keeley chose to use the female chest to draw attention to sexual discrimination, hypocrisy, inequality, and sexual choice issues, initially her art college instructor was supportive.

When her work was put forward for the END-OF-YEAR exhibition, it was rejected, and she was told to ‘HANG something else’. No further explanation was given.

Was it hand gestures used by some of the models, whose faces were obscured by bird-like masks? Was it the nipples? Apparently the nipples proved to be too much, BUT EVEN a suggested alternative with nipples marked out by CENSOR STRIPS was suggested – BUT THIS OPTION WAS REJECTED ALSO.

Although the banning order came from HIGH UP IN THE COLLEGE, two women MEMBERS OF STAFF delivered the censorship decree to her, AND WHEN ASKED refused to back her right to show the female torso. Bibo says:

“I could not believe that anyone would consider banning this artwork because the work is very clearly designed to promote gender equality.

“However, somebody obviously decided that my artwork could be offensive to somebody somewhere. The same one-man-censorship-committee completely failed to see how offensive this ban is to me as an artist and to the participants who collaborated with me on the piece; and it is surely deeply offensive to every woman who believes in equal rights.

“I think banning artwork with such an empowering message shows a total lack of respect for the college’s own students and it also undermines the teaching staff in the Art and Design department who support their students’ creativity.”

The college operates under the Scottish Government’s ‘Curriculum For Excellence’ which aims to produce Successful Learners, Confident Individuals, Responsible Citizens and Effective Contributors. It does not aim to produce artists who avoid anything which upsets people who promote gender discrimination.

“I am an artist. I take inspiration from issues which are important to me. And I have no interest in presenting work just to please other people.”

The last time that I saw an attempt at banning the nude in an art context was in 1996. Edinburgh College of Art had a book of Robert Mapplethorpe male nudes.

Bibo Keeley FREE AS A BIRD censored version VERBOTEN by Rob Wallen NESCOL Principal and Chief ExecutiveJPGFor reasons known only to themselves, the police decided the book should be confiscated and banned.

The students banded together; the staff were supportive, and the clumsy attempt at supressing one of the great photographers of the human form was roundly and resolutely seen off.

If those responsible for arts education have taken on censorship roles in Aberdeen in defiance of free expression, and millennium-spanning  artistic tradition, especially in light of contemporary media practice, then are they fit guardians for arts education? Arguably not.

If Aberdeen didn’t get shortlisted as a city of culture candidate in the last round of the cultural beauty contest, perhaps it is these myopic, conservative, ill-informed, repressed, sexist and prudish sensibilities that are at least in part to blame.

On finding out the work is to be banned by the COLLEGE, several arts practitioners, education professionals, and venues have expressed support and solidarity.  A show of Bibo’s work locally is under discussion.   One acclaimed local figurative artist said of the decision:

“The bare naked truth Suzanne, is the powers that be, who took this decision are protecting their own bare arses. They don’t want to be associated with a possible Daily Mail style backlash. So much for free expression.”

More on the COLLEGE, the artist and the banned nipples will follow.

About Bibo Keeley:

 I am a HNC (Higher National Certificate) mature student of Art and Design at NESCOL, starting at Gray’s School of Art in September.

I am also an Artist in my own right:

In recent years I have contributed to numerous exhibitions, including Aberdeen Artists Society (2014), Paisley Art Institute 124th Annual Exhibition (2012), Fabric of the Land Aberdeen (2014), Perth Museum and Art Gallery (2013), and Clydebank Art Gallery & Museum (2014 + 2015).

This year (2015) I have also had a two-artists-show at Art Village in Glasgow as part of the Glasgow Southside Fringe festival, a solo exhibition at Macduff Town Hall as part of the COAST festival, and I had some of my artwork displayed (as part of a two-artists-show) at the Scottish Parliament at MSP Anne McTaggart’s launch of the organ-donation-opt-out-bill. 

My next two-artists-exhibition will be later this month (June 2015) at the Golden Jubilee National Hospital in Clydebank.

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.

[Aberdeen Voice accepts and welcomes contributions from all sides/angles pertaining to any issue. Views and opinions expressed in any article are entirely those of the writer/contributor, and inclusion in our publication does not constitute support or endorsement of these by Aberdeen Voice as an organisation or any of its team members.]

May 292015
Alison Burke stands before ‘Gallowgate Lard’ by Ken Currie

Alison Burke stands before ‘Gallowgate Lard’ by Ken Currie

With thanks to Esther Green.

As ancient buildings with intriguing pasts, castles have a reputation for being places where things go bump in the night and that raise unexpected goosebumps.
Visitors to Drum Castle at Drumoak could be forgiven for thinking they are coming face to face with a ghoulish spectre after an art display has brought a ghost-like presence to the historic venue.

The haunting image ‘Gallowgate Lard’ by Ken Currie is one of the significant pieces in the Aberdeenshire castle’s exhibition of key works on loan from Aberdeen Art Gallery, now closed for a £30m refurbishment.

It is one of 20 artworks loaned from the city gallery that form the opening display at the castle’s new exhibition area, which has seen an entire floor redeveloped to create a museum-standard exhibition space showcasing important artworks now and in years to come.

‘Human Presence’ explores how artists capture a human figurative presence where the approach may be aesthetic, witty, playful or sinister and brings mid to late 20th Century paintings and contemporary installation works to the historic setting.

Property manager Alison Burke says that artworks like ‘Gallowgate Lard’ look stunning in the castle environment.

She says:

“Drum is very much the people’s castle, and I don’t like to think of the castle as haunted as I work here in the evenings but there are sometimes some unexplained occurrences.

“Things like ladies’ laughter in the garden when there is no one there, servants’ bells suddenly ringing when there is no one upstairs, the temperature suddenly dropping in the green closet for no reason, but the oddest one was when I came in and found all the tankards had been swapped around on the dining room mantelpiece and categorically no one had been in the Castle from when I had closed it the night before.

“I am not a superstitious person and always look for the reasonable explanation, but that had me completely flummoxed!

“The nicest mysterious happening at Drum though, is when the fairy doors appeared all over the estate, and we think we caught a fairy on camera; a mysterious mist was photographed on our swallow-cam.

“Now that we have opened up the upper floor, we are curious to see if there are mysterious happenings up there as well!”

Drum Castle dates back to the 1300s and was the seat of the Irvines, a clan who supported the Stuarts during the Jacobite uprisings.

It became part of the National Trust for Scotland in 1975 and transforming the second floor manager’s accommodation into the gallery has opened up an area of the castle previously unseen by the public.

Other works on show include ‘Highly Sprung’ by Julia Douglas, a dress made from 12,000 clothes peg springs, and ‘Restraining Coat II (Female)’ by Julie Roberts, a painting which implies a human presence with no body in it.

Located 10 miles west of Aberdeen off the A93, Drum is set in extensive grounds with walks, picnic area, an historic rose garden, adventure play area, tearoom and shop. Normal castle admission charges apply.

More Info:

Drum Castle, Garden and Estate is owned and operated by the National Trust for Scotland and is one of more than 100 properties which the conservation charity promotes and conserves, for the benefit of the nation.

The building is part Jacobean mansion, with a 700 year old medieval tower attached. The castle has long connections with the Irvine family who maintain close links with the property and live nearby. It has a fine collection of art, music and provides a fascinating insight into the life of one of Aberdeenshire’s most historic families, their staff and a way of life which is now almost extinct. Drum also has extensive gardens, including a famous rose garden, woodland and walks.

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
May 252015

“Are family albums a thing of the past? How do we select mementos of our family life in a digital era?” A new exhibition by a North-East artist explores how we preserve our family memories in a personal and moving collection on display at Seventeen this Summer. Andrew J Douglas reports.

Stephanie Vandem

Stéphanie’s paintings can be found in several international private collections.

Award winning artist, Stephanie Vandem, is fascinated by how people interact at their most personal level. For many years, Stephanie has focused on capturing people’s feelings through her portrait work.
This new collection of artwork goes a step further, investigating how relationships and emotions can be understood through body language, further emphasised by the absence of facial features.

The artist also investigates the idea of ‘visual abundance’ and of what is ‘precious’ in the digital era.

Stephanie said:

“Body language is what locks these characters together and reveals the nature of their emotions and intimacy. Today we find ourselves overloaded by repetitive images of ourselves and loved ones. This made me wonder: do these images still hold any power, or does such visual abundance dilute the concept of a precious and unique family album?

“By selecting images that represent landmark moments, I’m testing the ability of a single image to convey the nature and demands of a relationship and the implications of that moment on the future of the family members. “I hope ‘Family Album’ might inspire others to look at ways of curating and preserving their own memories.”

Brazilian by birth and educated in Paris, London, New York and Florence, she brings a variety of influences to her striking work, be that with her portraits or more thematic projects.

Stéphanie’s paintings can be found in several international private collections, and most recently the artist has painted the Bishop of Aberdeen, oil Tycoon Larry Kinch and the daughters of ‘Call the Midwife and Downton Abbey’ TV director Minkie Spiro.

The eleven paintings in ‘Family Album’ are supported by a film documentary made out of videos captured by the artist on her smart phone. This is a rare opportunity to get a glimpse at the creative process as the artist openly takes us through the stages of creating the artwork and opens the door to her family life, exposing how it has shaped, inspired or gotten in the way of completing the work.

The exhibition ‘Family Album’ will take place from 4 June to 4 July at Seventeen, Belmont Street, Aberdeen.

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
May 222015

Aberdeen-based artists Brian and Bibo Keely have turned a major life event into an exhibition of portraiture and sculpture which is optimistic, personal, educational and aesthetically wonderful.  By Suzanne Kelly

Brian and BiboWhen local artists want to exhibit, more and more of them are going to Glasgow and Edinburgh. There are several reasons for this. Many feel disenfranchised from a conservative Aberdeen arts matrix populated by those who hold the purse strings, those with money and those in government. Outside of Aberdeen arts flourish from the grassroots in an artist-led organic fashion. It is rumoured that here for instance, those who created Aberdeen’s lamentable ‘City of Culture’ bid invented contrivances of their own without input from our existing musicians and artists – to the point that one Culture supremo had to have WASPS explained to them (briefly, WASPS is the largest organisation helping artists work in affordable studio space in Scotland).

Art that comes from personal experience, from research and work independent of a pro-government agenda will always trump art sponsored and commissioned (whether directly or tacitly) by those in power. It is no wonder the arts community Scotland wide decided that ‘gigs on rigs’ and a one off concert for ships horns, orchestras and horses were events that had little real merit or support from the local practicising artists. We have seen several arts practitioners pack up and move south. This trend must be reversed – possibly the best thing that could happen is for a clean sweep of the existing cabal of people handing out grants from our arts fund to people they very often know. In the meantime if artists are not voting with their feet and moving (like Fraser Denholm, creator of excellent film ‘Run Down Aberdeen’), they are certainly taking their work south where it can be shown in galleries that are often artist-led, to be seen by fellow artists and a more international (and dare I suggest it) less conservative audience.

Torry’s Anna Geerdes has had a very successful show in Glasgow’s Compass Gallery two months back; visitors from several countries and many Scottish cities visited and bought her surrealistic, beautifully-executed work. Also showing work that is beautifully executed, personal and relevant is Brian Keely, currently exhibiting in ArtVillage in Glasgow.  ArtVillage “revives historic High Streets that have suffered decline by creating vibrant, successful cultural centres” – which certainly sounds like the kind of initiative we need here.  Such initiatives are common in many cities south of the oil capital of Europe; it is a pity that while we have the occasional temporary ‘pop up shop’, there are empty spaces on our high street serving no purpose which could be given to artists’ collectives (such as poor Limousine Bull, which had to close because it needed a paltry sum to continue after an arts funding fiscal reorganisation:  no money could be found).  It is just as well we have a few less conventional venues which exhibit fledgling and established artists’ work such as our private galleries, BrewDog and Under The Hammer.  But we could and should be doing more.

On With The Show
But I digress.  The point of this piece is to highlight how heart patient Brian Keely has taken from his experience and created a collection of portraits, and how his wife Bibo reflects her experience in her sculpture.  The official programme explains further:-

portrait by Brian Keeley“Brian Keeley graduated from Glasgow School of Art in 1984. He has worked extensively in community film and video, and as a digital video editor. He taught English as a Foreign Language in Germany for many years and, before his illness, he was a secondary teacher of Art & Design in Aberdeen.

“Bibo Keeley’s artwork has been exhibited in numerous collective exhibitions and also solo exhibitions, in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK over the last few years, and following this life-changing experience she has embraced her artistic career and in 2015 will begin a BA (Hons) degree course in Fine Art at Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen.

“Brian & Bibo were married in the Intensive Care ward at the Golden Jubilee National Hospital, Clydebank, when Brian was not expected to survive any longer.”

 A video of the exhibition can be found here

“Brian’s portrait paintings pay tribute to his wife Bibo, and to the medical professionals who saved his life during months in Intensive Care and and who helped him recover following his eventual heart transplant.

“Bibo’s sculptures respond to her experiences during this time, and her photography documents her husband’s recovery and recuperation.”

The many canvas portraits capture a number of personalities and characteristics of those who Brian and Bibo encountered in their dealings with the NHS, but there is an optimism, and a refusal to resort to gross exaggeration or distortion of facial features.  The portraits are fond portrayals.  Brian says of his experiences:-

brian keeley self portraitAlthough I already knew that I wanted to paint portraits from these photographs, I did not know if I would even walk again, let alone be able to hold a paintbrush.

“The photographs were an important way for me to connect with the subjects during this short window of opportunity between surviving the transplant and leaving Intensive Care.

“Painting these 25 portraits gave me a clear focus and a creative goal during my rehabilitation.

“It was an important part of my recovery, and I wanted to fix this period in time.”

Bibo’s sculptures seem to reflect the inner emotional rollercoaster the two of them must have been on; there is a demonic figure; there is a tender family grouping, there is a work which seems to show the transformation such major surgery must mean physically, mentally and emotionally.

In Brian’s words:-

“The exhibition seeks to raise awareness of the issue of organ donation, and the terrifying numbers of people who suffer from heart disease and heart attacks.

“These issues are particularly current as Anne McTaggart MSP is currently in the process of bringing a Private Members Bill to the Scottish Parliament that would see the introduction of a ‘soft opt-out’ system of organ donation in Scotland.”

This interest in the issues surrounding organ donation is of course personal, but Brian and Bibo are often found in Aberdeen at events where art meets social problems, be it exhibitions at Easter Anguston Farm, artists’ gatherings, and premiers of documentaries about important issues. They do what artists should do – look for issues and problems, react to them, help where they can, and create artifacts that reflect what is going on and how they feel. It is these kinds of artist that communities need more than someone whose art tells them how great things are in the eyes of their patrons. Let’s hope we are not about to lose more talent to cities that appreciate genuine talent more than we seem to.

Event info at: