Amongst the Trees | Review | The Times

20 June 2024

The Scottish Gallery would like to thank art critic Giles Sutherland for reviewing Amongst the Trees and for allowing us to share the full article featured in The Times. Keep scrolling to read…

As the organisers of this impeccably curated, sensitive and surprising show point out, trees have taken a central place in art making from the earliest times. They have been a focal point in landscape painting, and a source material for sculpture and furniture.  Wood is one of the most diverse, beautiful and ubiquitous materials on the planet. Trees and forests are central to our folklore and culture. Without their ability to capture carbon and release oxygen, our planet would be dead.

There’s no doubt that all the thirty, or so, artists here – including Sheila Anderson Hardy, Victoria Crowe, Kate Downie, Philip Braham, and Doug Cocker – are aware of this rich diversity, and cultural history.  Some work with wood, and some depict it. The aptly named duo, Barnaby Ash and Dru Plumb, have collaborated on a series of vessels made from lightning-struck English oak. The darkened bowls, vases and other archetypal forms have been turned and burnished, and the ‘flaws’ repaired with waxed cotton stitching – an idea borrowed from the Japanese craft tradition.

mixed media painting by Colin Brown
Colin Brown, Rattlesnake, 2024, acrylic and collage on wood panel, H60 x W60 cm
monotype of a tree lit yellow at night by Kate Downie
Kate Downie, The Night Trees, 2024, monotype, H33 x W44cm

The show is also a tribute to the cultural philanthropist and artists’ patron, Hugo Burge (1972-2023). His Marchmont estate in the Scottish borders rapidly established itself as one of the country’s most important artistic hotspots. Here, two of Marchmont Workshop’s recent Abbott chairs in ash, exchange quiet dialogue with an altogether more sombre, centuries-old, Scottish oak vernacular seat. 

Elsewhere in this basement room, which leads to a small, magical garden graced with Andrea Geile’s COR-TEN steel biomorphic sculpture, a series of paintings, predominantly landscapes, by Adam Bruce Thomson (1885 -1976) fills in a much-needed gap in the understanding and appreciation of this artist.

Paul Reid, David Rae, Kirstie Behrens and Claire Harkess all demonstrate an attention to detail in their arboreal depictions, with Behrens and Reid using particularly mimetic but expressive techniques.

It’s difficult not to be moved by the intimate landscapes of Pascale Rentsch. Completed in situ, these depictions of sea, sky, weather, sunlight and flora, inspire and uplift the spirit.

Most of us love trees and it’s good to feel we are in the company of talented artists who share such deep, respectful and celebratory bonds with the precious living organisms that support us.


Dr Giles Hansen Sutherland
Art Critic, The Times
Freelance Academic


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