James Morrison | From Angus to the Arctic | Reviews

29 Jan 2020
James Morrison | From Angus to the Arctic | Reviews
​From Angus to the Arctic, The Scottish Gallery, January 2020

​From Angus to the Arctic Review – An Assured Artist Shows The Truth Of The Landscape

Giles Sutherland, The Times, 8 January 2020

James Morrison | From Angus to the Arctic | Reviews
Low Winter Sun 9.I.05, oil on board, H101.5 x W152.5 cm

It’s difficult to fault the work of the painter James Morrison, aesthetically or technically. Even in some of his earlier work, dating to the mid-Sixties, there is an assuredness and a conviction that demonstrates an artist in full command of his considerable gifts and with a clear idea of what he wants to say and do.

Morrison, who was born in 1932, taught for many years at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art in Dundee and influenced generations of younger artists. He is clearly regarded with affection and respect by one of them. Philip Braham, himself a painter of note whose work is indebted to Morrison, has contributed a moving essay to the exhibition catalogue. About one of Morrison’s more atypical works, Gentle River (2000), he writes: “It reveals something of the man who painted it and for whom painting flowed like the very river depicted here, gently but emphatically.”

Morrison nearly always works en plein air, which puts him in direct physical contact with what he paints — weather, light and sense of place all play a part in the construction of his works. This is as true for works painted in the Arctic as for those in Angus. Morrison shares this approach with many artists, not least the impressionists, but also with others such as Joan Eardley, with whom his work has some affinity. It would be remiss not to mention the work of James McIntosh Patrick in this context, given his love of the same part of the country, as well as his meticulousness and technical skills, all of which he shares with Morrison.

James Morrison | From Angus to the Arctic | Reviews
Clear and Cold, Otto Fiord II, 23.vii., 1992, oil on board, H86.5 x W147.5 cm

Many of Morrison’s landscapes are “edited” by the removal of, say, pylons or telephone poles, but the essential truth of the landscape, rooted in deep and contemplative observation, is always to the fore. Species of trees are recognisable, as are buildings and, of course, locations.

James Morrison | From Angus to the Arctic | Reviews
James Morrison, From Angus to the Arctic, exhibition January 2020

Power of the Pencil

Susan Mansfield, The Scotsman, 18 January 2020

…Another consummate draughtsman trained in the same era as Blackadder and Houston is James Morrison, currently the subject of an absorbing show at The Scottish Gallery. He is known as a painter of the Angus landscape, a creator of great, wide vistas of fields and skies which sweep into an articulation of detail in the middle distance, but his work from the mid 1960s was semi-abstract with thick impasto and earthy tones, influenced in part by Joan Eardley.

This way of working didn’t quite satisfy, however, and a retrospective of his Angus work shows him deconstructing it, making a return to realism first in watercolours and inks, then in oils, settling on a style which combines a realisation of detail with an expressiveness which is both subtle and profound. There is a sense that drawing – whether in the dimensions of a field or the roots of a tree or the shape of a cloud – underpins all of it.

Then, in the 1990s, Morrison went to the Arctic on three separate trips, on which he painted en plein air as much as the weather would allow. A selection of large arctic paintings show him at work on a much harsher landscape of icebergs and rocky shores, and coming up with ambitious new ways of capturing it, as in Large Berg II, with its striking black ocean. Morrison is now in his late eighties and painting is much more of a struggle, but one 2019 work included here, Dark Landscape, a swirling semi-abstract of light and weather, shows him continuing to find new ways to work with the subjects he loves.

James Morrison | From Angus to the Arctic | Reviews
Denhead, 1965, oil on board, H52 x W89.5 cm

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