Edinburgh festival: Scottish artists create ‘oasis of calm’ for those wanting to escape the festival crowds

Two Scottish painters have created a calming oasis for anyone wanting to escape the hectic festival atmosphere.

By Rachel Mackie
Monday, 1st August 2022, 2:10 pm

Ann Oram and Jenny Matthews will unveil their exhibition, ‘In The Company of Flowers’, at Edinburgh’s Union Gallery on Thursday 4th August, just as the Fringe gets underway.

Studying at Edinburgh College of Art just a few years apart, both artists were taught by leading Scottish artist Elizabeth Blackadder, who died a year ago, and paid tribute to her as an artist and teacher.

Ann Oram explained: “I think Elizabeth instilled in me her love of still life. I loved the way she would set up groups of things to paint, random objects which looked amazing together. Whenever I doubt myself, I look at her work and reflect that it’s okay to paint in this genre.”

Jenny Matthews said it was Blackadder who inspired her to paint in watercolour, adding: “I had been using watercolours in a very conventional way, but she used the water in a much more abstract way, playing with the pigment rather than just trying to depict something in front of her.

"She encouraged me to be more experimental.”

Ann and Jenny met in the 1980s when Ann, as a young tutor, taught Jenny in a drawing class at Edinburgh College of Art. Both artists have gone on to win awards for their work, and have paintings in prestigious collections at home and abroad.

Jenny said: “I still remember the class Ann taught. She encouraged us to think outside the norm about what could make a good picture and for me as a 19-year-old that was a new concept.

Edinburgh festival: Scottish artists create ‘oasis of calm’ for those wanting to escape the festival crowds

“I’ve followed her success over the years and I love her paintings. If somebody told me 30 years ago that I would be exhibiting with Ann Oram, I would have found that was fairly surprising!

“I’m delighted to be showing with her. The works go well together but there’s sufficient difference between the styles and it’s nice to show two interpretations of similar subjects.”

Ann Oram agreed: “It’s lovely to see the works together. Jenny is a watercolourist whereas I paint in oil, acrylic, watercolour and mixed media. She’s much braver than me, I like to be able to cover up my mistakes which is why I like mixed media more!”

The exhibition at the gallery will run until September 3.

Alison Auldjo, owner of the Union Gallery, said: “I like the idea of showing flowers during the festival. It will be an oasis of calm, a bit of respite from all the chaos out there.

“Ann and Jenny met more than 30 years ago, but they have never exhibited together. I’m so glad they are finally doing a show together in the city where they met. The results are well worth the wait!

“It’s easy to dismiss flower painting, but these artists as far from being hobbyists as it’s possible to get. They have more than 60 years experience between them and are absolutely at the top of their game.”

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