Highlights from Hugh Buchanan: Capital City

28 Jan 2020

Hugh Buchanan: Capital City | 29 November - 23 December 2019

After a busy year, The Scottish Gallery culminated 2019's exhibition programme with Capital City, a presentation of Hugh Buchanan's mastery of watercolour.

This important, career-defining exhibition saw Hugh explore the character of Edinburgh through its Classical capitals and columns – particularly the texture of the city’s stone and unique quality of light.

Highlights from Hugh Buchanan: Capital City
Signet Library Capital IV, watercolour | H51 x W51 cm
Highlights from Hugh Buchanan: Capital City
Bucranae, Old College Quad, watercolour | H101.5 x W101.5 cm

I had always wanted to create a composition that encapsulated the character of Edinburgh through these textures , old and new, combined with the stern dignity of ancient Rome. Eventually, I realised that the key to this painting was in the preparation. I had to paint the stone first and the subject later.

Hugh Buchanan, 2019
Highlights from Hugh Buchanan: Capital City

Always interested in stretching the the boundaries and possibilities of pure watercolour, that is to say paint used transparently to reveal light, this exhibition broke new ground, for me, technically. The combination of masking fluid, sandpaper and dilute emulsions allowed for translucency and textures that I had formerly been unable to achieve.

Of course it doesn't stop there. New laser technology allows us to illuminate buildings in ways we could never have dreamt of and presents new challenges for an artist in the depiction of light falling across surfaces which, in the end, is what it is all about.

Hugh Buchanan, 2020

Capital City received a glowing five-star review from Duncan Macmillan, writing for The Scotsman, who praised the exhibition's 'superb' evocation of Edinburgh's architecture:

...time seems to be the theme of these remarkable pictures. Sepia light suggests old photographs with their unique ability to collapse the distance of time past. Others are on paper roughly shaped and presented as though they were historic fragments, or in yet others the stone itself seems to be eroded as though, in some bleak future, like the Sphinx, it had stood for millennia in a sand-blown desert.

Duncan Macmillan, The Scotsman, 19.12.19

To read Duncan Macmillan's review of Capital City in full, please click here.

Highlights from Hugh Buchanan: Capital City
Old College, watercolour | H101.5 x W101.5 cm
Highlights from Hugh Buchanan: Capital City
Signet Library III, watercolour | H51 x W51 cm

Hugh Buchanan is a master watercolourist, and Capital City provided a fascinating glimpse into his working methods. In order to evoke texture of the city's stone, Hugh builds up layers of colour, and scrapes into the paint to add texture and reveal tones concealed beneath.

Hugh discussed a range of his work with The Gallery, providing a captivating insight into his painting process. Please view our film below to find out more:

In early December, book designer and publisher Robert Dalrymple joined Hugh Buchanan in conversation about Capital City. Their discussion, hosted by The Scottish Gallery, was enjoyed by a small audience who brought their own questions to Hugh and Robert - their answers provide further insight into the fascinating exhibition.

Please view our film below to see Hugh and Robert in conversation:

A catalogue, featuring essays by Robert Dalrymple and Adam Wilkinson, was published to accompany the exhibition.

Signed copies are available from The Gallery - click here to find out more.

Highlights from Hugh Buchanan: Capital City
Highlights from Hugh Buchanan: Capital City
Highlights from Hugh Buchanan: Capital City
Colonnade, Royal Scottish Academy, watercolour, H76 x W101.5 cm
More News