For some painters, even some of the greatest, a successful painting emerges from the chaos; chaos of an irregular life beset with difficulties, a studio where nothing has a place, a motif plucked from the unconscious brought to painful or triumphant resolution through a long night burning the midnight oil. For others, like Archie Forrest, a highly tuned aesthetic sensibility combines with a rigorous intellect and requires that everything needed is to hand, that all the materiel is of a quality to match the seriousness of the process. Then the magic can begin. All his paintings start with reality, with observation of the real. In the studio he will set up his still life, placed in an interior space, viewpoint and lighting decided before he roughs in the shapes. From then on the tension between instinctive, unconscious impulses and the demands of significant form; volume, line and colour sustain the creative process. For landscape he has to marshal the ingredients of his composition to satisfy the same pictorial demands. The starting point might be the colour of the hull of a Portuguese pilchard boat pulled up on the beach or the red roofs of villas seen through a great tree borrowed from Cézanne; each picture will be true to the moment of its inspiration but must satisfy the same painterly demands. The magic might come with one single mark; a judicious colour note or the breaking of a curve. Before the artist can add his distinctive signature a picture may have been knocked right back, scraped down, left in the periphery of his eye for a week, turned upside down, put in a frame and hung on a wall as if finished. Before an exhibition Forrest will have most of his pictures in this state of near completion so that the deadline can be invoked to induce a creative stress which can prove a vital part of there solution. The result is a tumultuous parade of colour, a celebration of painting and an affirmation that painting matters.
Archie Forrest studied at GSA 1969-73 and taught there 1978-85 but now paints full time. He works in the Glasgow School/Scottish Colourist tradition with still life, figure and landscape subjects (often France or Italy) of brilliant colour and bravura handling underpinned by fine drawing and sense of form; he is also a sculptor of considerable merit. He has shown with great success both in London and with The Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh.