Artist asks locals and tourists to take a look at Edinburgh’s pubs

Polish artist Maciej Mackiewicz moved to Edinburgh last year.
Polish artist Maciej Mackiewicz moved to Edinburgh last year.
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LANDMARKS such as Edinburgh Castle and the Scott Monument have inspired thousands of artists, with their work seen in almost every gallery across the 
Capital.

Now one Polish artist is encouraging residents and tourists to look beyond the usual attractions and appreciate the traditional pubs and shop fronts at the heart of the city’s social scene.

Maciej Mackiewicz moved to Edinburgh last year and immediately fell in love with the architecture and culture.

The 35-year-old was inspired to create a series of 12 acrylic works on canvas that depict the facades of Old Town pubs such as Deacon Brodie’s and Black Bull, and hidden restaurants such as Cafe St Honore off Thistle Street Lane.

His work can be seen in a new exhibition in the West End, which opened this week.

Born to a working-class family in the western Polish city of Gorzów Wielkopolski, Maciej trained as a mechanic, admitting to “hating every minute of it” before a visit to Toronto, Canada, ten years ago changed his life.

Maciej, who speaks little English, worked with his uncle renovating antiques and artworks during the trip, with the experience encouraging him to paint for himself.

Portraits and landscapes had made up most of his work until Edinburgh’s architecture opened his eyes to new possibilities.

Speaking through his interpreter Agnieszka Iliaszewicz, Maciej said: “Almost every single building, there’s a massive history attached to it, places where people meet and a totally different culture to what we’re used to – the pub culture where people meet and people celebrate.

“I wanted to portray that in my paintings.

“The pub culture, it’s very different. It’s not just a place where you get a pint, it is an institution and for generations people come to the same place to celebrate, to meet.

“That’s what really amazed me when I first came here.

“I want to capture Edinburgh’s life and soul and show the detail of the beautiful facade of a beautiful building and maybe in the future I will paint the Castle, but it will be in a different setting.

“People should stop and think and appreciate the beauty of the city again because everyone’s used to looking at the Castle, or looking at the Scott Monument.

“I want to be a little bit different and want people to look at Edinburgh from a different perspective.”

Folk bar Sandy Bell’s on Forrest Road has become one of Maciej’s favourite haunts and was an obvious subject matter when it came to creating the collection, entitled Edinburgh Life & Soul.

He said: “Most historical buildings at home have been destroyed during the war, so I would have to say parts of Poland are quite ugly.

“Just after the war the government had to rebuild cities for people and it had to be cheap and fast. There was no place for people to live. So Edinburgh is actually nothing like the architecture we’ve got back at home.

“The fact that it’s so different, it was very attractive. The fact that some of these buildings are magical, not only because of what they look like, but also because of the history attached to them, like Deacon Brodie’s and Sandy Bell’s.

“There’s folk music every day. There’s magic in each of those places, which I like to capture and immortalise.”

• Edinburgh Life & Soul is showing at 23 Melville Street in the west end by private viewing. More information is available at www.23melvillestreet.co.uk