CASTAWAY – Ian Pearsall

I hope you enjoy our second in the occasional series of guest blogs from our Collectivists.

Entitled ‘Castaway’ in an homage to the marvellous ‘Desert Island Discs’ I have asked our artists to choose pieces of art which they would like to take with them to their island hideaway and instead of a book and a luxury, to select the artist that they would most like to share the island with and the equipment that they would most like to take with them. (I will give them an unlimited supply of paper!)

Here is Ian Pearsall’s selection. Ian is one of our more recent Collectivists and came to the Gallery thanks to the positive power of Twitter! I saw his work (he is based in Stoke on Trent), liked and commented on it and before you know it, he had his first Scottish exhibition here! Another is planned for early next year, so watch this space! And we still have some of the works from that first exhibition in the Gallery.

‘Three Studies for figures at the base of the Crucifixion’
Francis Bacon (1944)
Castaway Ian Pearsall

This has to be the most influential painting of all time for me. I recall the first time I ever saw it. I was a student at Newcastle-Under-Lyme College in my first year on the ‘A’ Level painting course on a college trip to the Tate Gallery in London in 1984. I love it’s violence – it never fails to unnerve and disturb. This painting both terrifies me and continues to show me that the most important mission in (my) art is to COMMUNICATE. I had just made the move from my childhood home back in Malawi out onto a brave new adventure to a country I really knew nothing about. My parents were five-thousand miles away in their expatriate world of blue skies; mowed lawns and gently trickling swimming pools – and here I was; in a place where world events were being shaped – a country writhing in the throes of it’s own savage political and social hubris – and I, a naive boy in this dangerous new world. The Catalogue of Francis Bacon thrills; excites and continues to resonate now as it always did since seeing this piece. I had just arrived into a state of infinite possibilities with everything to lose!

Ralph Steadman
Silkscreen print
Castaway Ian Pearsall

Ralph Steadman is the master creator. He is generally summed up as a ‘cartoonist’ which I hate – because here is an artist who makes the extraordinary connection between a razor-sharp analytical brain-eye-and-hand most seamless. He extracts and exacts the last drop from every medium he turns to in a deadly creative armoury; silkscreen printing, collage, painting, extraordinary draughtsmanship, photography and even sculpture to screamingly convey raw visceral solutions for messages that nail the point to the viewers brain. ‘There is no such thing as a mistake’ he emphasises on describing getting the message down on paper. The materials speak.

‘Choice of Outfits for the agonies of Mary’
Joel-Peter Witkin
Castaway Ian Pearsall

‘I have consecrated my life to changing matter into spirit with the hope of someday seeing it all.
Seeing it’s total form, while wearing the mask, from the distance of death. And there, in the eternal destiny, to seek the face I had before the world was made.’ J-P W.

Within a week of being at University I was strolling through town in a new state of independence. I passed a newsagents – in the window I spotted a copy of PhotoVision with a strange image on the front cover; a photograph (as it turns out) titled ‘Leda’.

It was absolutely thrilling, and mesmerizing. I purchased the magazine on face value which it transpired was a monograph on the photographer Joel-Peter Witkin. Sometimes we must judge a book by it’s cover; his portfolio within unleashed a desire to seek the art of expressing without fear. We must do what we want to do and hope that we find the answer – without fear of never finding it! Live it …

Which artist would I take with me? (Alive or dead?)

Too many and who am I to dare to ask of their time? My latest ‘discovery’ (and I thrillingly own a single piece of her work) Eleanor Adair – one to watch!

Of course if Eleanor didn’t have the time then I would set about this list; Jenny Saville, Tracey Emin, Dominique Cameron, Jack Simcock, Pablo Picasso, Carravaggio, Vincent Van Gogh, David Tress, Andrew Wyeth, Norman Raine, H.R Giger, Rene Uderzo, Herge … I’m scratching the surface ….

What art equipment would I take?

A photocopier… and I’d sneak a charcoal stick in my pocket!!

Remembering Frances (Frankie) Thwaites

FRANCES THWAITES (1908 – 1987)

We are delighted to have the opportunity to show a small selection of pieces (including the last two works she completed) by the respected Scottish abstract painter Frances Thwaites. Her work will be on display throughout April.

Born in India, where she spent her childhood, Frances Thwaites (known as Frankie) studied stained glass at the Edinburgh College of Art where she won several prizes and scholarships to London and Paris.

Between 1946 and 1948 she studied sculpture before turning to abstract painting, exploring the linear and spatial relationships in landscapes by superimposing darker heavy lines and curves on a subtly coloured background giving an impression of movement capturing the atmosphere of a place.

Remembering Frances Thwaites
Although based in Edinburgh, she often spent time in London, Paris and Palma de Mallorca and in the 1960s visited Australia, Tahiti and the United States, staying in California for several months.

She exhibited regularly at The Scottish Gallery in the 1950s and 60s and took part in “The Modern Spirit in Scottish Painting” exhibition in 1986. She had solo shows at the 1957 Gallery and the Talbot Rice Gallery in Edinburgh, the Pitlochry Festival Theatre, the Compass Gallery in Glasgow, the Pier Arts Centre in Orkney, Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge as well as Galerie Lambert in Paris and Galeria Latina in Palma de Mallorca.

Remembering Frances Thwaites
Frankie (right) at an exhibition of her work

She participated in many important group exhibitions in London and Edinburgh alongside Anne Redpath and Elizabeth Blackadder and other well regarded Scottish visual artists.

Remembering Frances Thwaites

Her work is represented in the collection of the Arts Council and in private collections in Britain, France and the United States.

For the first time since her memorial exhibition in the early 1990s, four of her paintings will be exhibited in the Art & Craft Collective Gallery from the beginning of April.

Remembering Frances Thwaites

Frankie’s daughter loaned many of the paintings her mother left to her to friends and family so that they were displayed and enjoyed. The ones that she kept will be on sale and are the only Frances Thwaites works available on the market at this time. The two unframed works in the exhibition are the last pieces she completed before her death.

Remembering Frances Thwaites

Well reviewed and successfully exhibited during her lifetime, Frankie has unjustifiably become one of the forgotten artists of the twentieth century. We hope that this small exhibition will remind abstract art lovers of the quality of her work.

The Goddess Kali – the real story!

If we think we know anything about the Hindu goddess Kali in the West, it is that She is the goddess of death. In common with much of our understanding about other religions, this is based on wrong assumptions and misinterpretations of a much more nuanced goddess than we think!

Kali comes from the Sanskrit root word Kal which means time. There is nothing that escapes the all-consuming march of time. In Tibetan Buddhism Her counterpart is male with the name Kala. Mother Kali is the most misunderstood of the Hindu goddesses. The Encyclopedia Britannica is grossly mistaken in the following quote, “Major Hindu goddess whose iconography, cult, and mythology commonly associate her with death, sexuality, violence, and, paradoxically in some of her later historical appearances, motherly love.”

It is partly correct to say Kali is a goddess of death but She brings the death of the ego as the illusory self-centered view of reality.

Nowhere in the Hindu stories is She seen killing anything but demons nor is She associated specifically with the process of human dying like the Hindu god Yama (who really is the god of death).

It is true that both Kali and Shiva are said to inhabit cremation grounds and devotees often go to these places to meditate. This is not to worship death but rather it is to overcome the I-am-the-body idea by reinforcing the awareness that the body is a temporary condition.

Shiva and Kali are said to inhabit these places because it is our attachment to the body that gives rise to the ego. Shiva and Kali grant liberation by removing the illusion of the ego. Thus we are the eternal I AM and not the body. This is underscored by the scene of the cremation grounds.

Of all the forms of Devi, She is the most compassionate because She provides moksha or liberation to Her children. She is the counterpart of Shiva the destroyer. They are the destroyers of unreality.

The ego sees Mother Kali and trembles with fear because the ego sees in Her its own eventual demise. A person who is attached to his or her ego will not be receptive to Mother Kali and she will appear in a fearsome form. A mature soul who engages in spiritual practice to remove the illusion of the ego sees Mother Kali as very sweet, affectionate, and overflowing with incomprehensible love for Her children.

Goddess Kali
Original oil on canvas painting by Anna Dorward 30 x 40 cm

Ma Kali wears a garland of skulls and a skirt of dismembered arms because the ego arises out of identification with the body. In truth we are beings of spirit and not flesh. So liberation can only proceed when our attachment to the body ends. Thus the garland and skirt are trophies worn by Her to symbolize having liberated Her children from attachment to the limited body.

She holds a sword and a freshly severed head dripping blood. As the story goes, this represents a great battle in which she destroyed the demon Raktabija.

By not understanding the story behind Mother Kali it is easy to misinterpret Her iconography. In the same way one could say that Christianity is a religion of death, destruction and cannibalism in which the practitioners drink the blood of Jesus and eat his flesh. Of course, we know this is not the proper understanding of the Communion ritual.

Attaching the idea of sexuality to Mother Kali has no basis in Her at all. There is nothing that associates Her with sexuality in the Hindu stories. In fact it is just the opposite. She is one of the few Goddesses who is celibate practicing austerity and renunciation!

Mothering Sunday wasn’t always about mothers…..

Mothering Sunday, sometimes known as Mother’s Day, is held on the fourth Sunday of Lent. It is exactly three weeks before Easter Sunday and usually falls in the second half of March or early April.

Unlike many other ‘Days’ it wasn’t dreamt up by the greetings card industry to sell product but has its roots in a religious tradition.

Mother’s Day, or to give it it’s traditional name, Mothering Sunday, is now a day to honour mothers and other mother figures, such as grandmothers, stepmothers and mothers-in-law. Many people make a special effort to visit their mother. They take cards and gifts to her and may treat her to brunch, lunch or high tea in a cafe, restaurant or hotel. People who cannot visit their mother usually send gifts or cards.

Gifts for Mother's Day
Flowers in one of our ‘glass with a past’ upcycled vases – a traditional Mother’s Day gift

An important part of Mothering Sunday is giving cards and gifts. Traditional Mother’s Day gifts are cakes, flowers, chocolates, jewellery or luxurious clothing.

Mothering Sunday
Jewellery is a popular gift

Modern Mother’s Day came into being in the United States as a result of a proclamation by President Woodrow Wilson in 1914. It is celebrated on the second Sunday in May as a result of a campaign by Anna Jarvis (1864-1948), whose own mother had died on May 9.

But in the UK, Mothering Sunday is a centuries old tradition when people returned to their ‘mother church’, the church in which they were baptized or where they attended services when they were children.

This meant that families were reunited as adults returned to the towns and villages where they grew up.

In time it became customary for young people who were working as servants in large houses to be given a holiday on Mothering Sunday. They could use this day to visit their own mother and often took a gift of food or hand-me-down clothing from their employers to her. Anyone who ever watched ‘A Woman of Substance’ on TV will remember Jenny Seagrove as Emma Harte running home from ‘the big house’ to visit her sick mother on Mothering Sunday. And if you haven’t every watched this classic 80s mini-series – you should!!!

Mothering Sunday
Running home to visit your mother – Jenny Seagrove as Emma Harte in A Woman of Substance

This has evolved into the modern holiday, on which people still visit and take gifts to their mothers.

Traditionally, people observed a fast during Lent. Lent is the period from Ash Wednesday until Good Friday. During the Lent fast, people did not eat sweet, rich foods or meat.

However, the fast was lifted slightly on Mothering Sunday and many people prepared a Simnel cake to eat with their family on this day.

Mothering Sunday
Traditional Simnel Cake for Mothering Sunday

A Simnel cake is a light fruit cake covered with a layer of marzipan and with a layer of marzipan baked into the middle of the cake. Traditionally, Simnel cakes are decorated with 11 or 12 balls of marzipan, representing the 11 disciples and, sometimes, Jesus Christ. One legend says that the cake was named after Lambert Simnel who worked in the kitchens of Henry VII of England sometime around the year 1500.

Art & Craft Collective has a wide range of cards and gifts perfect for Mother’s Day – please do pop in and see us and the lovely selection on offer.

Hello from the Caspian Sea!

Our lovely Collectivist Donald, from Ando Art is at his ‘day job’ in Kazakhstan at present (he is a zoologist) but has sent us a wee ‘electronic’ postcard with some fabulous photos!

Ando Arts
A young seal swimming in the Caspian Sea

“We haven’t managed to get out to the site yet due to there still being sea-ice present. So we have been somewhat kicking our heels in a wee port town called Bautino on the shores of the Caspian Sea.

I wouldn’t describe it as the most picturesque or entertaining place I have ever visited, and I have ended up spending fair bit time here over last few years!

Looking like the last ice has almost melted so we should hopefully head up for last bit of this stint out here at the start of next week.

Ando Arts
Popping up to say hello

Thought you might appreciate some pictures of these Caspian Seals which is one of the main reasons I am out here. They congregate in their thousands in NE Caspian regions in winter/spring to give birth and then undergo their annual moult. We are here to check that they aren’t disturbed or harmed when dredging work is underway!”

Ando Arts
Swimming about

Have you ever seen such a lovely creature? How can people kill them so cruelly? Thank goodness for Donald – there to protect them!

Ando Arts
Lots and lots of seals! Basking?

CASTAWAY – David Dalzell, The Wandering Artist

I hope you enjoy the first in what will be an occasional series of guest blogs from our Collectivists.

Entitled ‘Castaway’ in an homage to the marvellous ‘Desert Island Discs’ I have asked our artists to choose five pieces of art which they would like to take with them to their island hideaway and instead of a book and a luxury, to select the artist that they would most like to share the island with and the equipment that they would most like to take with them. (I will give them an unlimited supply of paper!)

Our first Castaway is David Dalzell – The Wandering Artist

David is one of the original members of the Collective and I have known him for several years. I am thrilled that he decided to join us and have enjoyed seeing the development of his technique over the time that I have known him. As his title suggests, he travels a great deal and we don’t see as much of him in Edinburgh as we would like but always look forward to his visits!

Before the arches met (1930)
Grace Cossington Smith
Crayon and coloured pencils over pencil on cream wove paper

Travelling around the planet, painting and gaining experiences of different cultures and creative endeavours gives me a sense of furthering my career in a self-directed, and self-taught manner.

My travels to Australia have opened my view to a much larger canvas. Grace Cossington Smith is noted as one of the most important artists of the twentieth century. Smith is seen as being instrumental in helping to introduce the post-impressionist school of painting to her country. Some of her more well known pieces included depictions of the Sydney Harbour Bridge as it was being built. Smith gives a true sense of being a pioneer, both in her subjects and herself!

Faithful Unto Death (1865)
Edward John Poynter
Oil on panel

The look on the soldier’s face is mesmerising. Is he fearful? Resolute? Is he standing guard, facing certain death, or about to flee? Is he about to help the people, such as those in the background, who are facing certain death?

Although never faced with such dramatic choices myself, this painting by John Poynter often reminds me of my sense of values in the world. Be it as a scientist in Universities, administrator or graphic designer in the National Health Service, or as an artist in the world at large, the sense of being faithful to a cause, under whatever circumstance, resonates with me. A postcard of this painting follows me wherever I go.

Superficial anatomy of the shoulder and neck (recto)
Leonardo da Vinci

My first career was as a biologist, and blending the worlds of art and science is always a fascination to me. To view drawings by this master artist and genius is always a source of awe and inspiration. The example of such an identifiable drawing style, whilst learning about the scientific and natural world is a touchstone of masterful skill and human development.

The Corpus Clock

I saw this enchanting piece of sculptural engineering twice, once in Edinburgh and once in its home city of Cambridge. Created by 200 engineers, sculptors, scientists, jewellers, and calligraphers, the design engineer was Stewart Huxley, the chronophage was sculpted by Matthew Sanderson, and the graticule was designed by Alan Meeks. I see this as a wonderful example of human endeavour and invention.


Perhaps my favourite form of craft and, indeed, art can be seen in what are often humble and simple objects.

The Japanese art of Kintsugi, or “Golden Joinery” helps us view the beautiful and complete story of an object, no matter what its history. Beauty in the broken. Beauty in the imperfect. The precious philosophy of both the impermanent nature of things, and celebrating the journey of any object, and indeed person…

Which artist would I take with me on the island?

Vincent van Gogh – to learn from a self-taught man, who studied and mastered his peers’ techniques, before developing his own unique style and pursuing his artistic career without notable commercial success (he sold only one painting in his life – to his brother)! What lessons could be learned by speaking to him! Yes, coffee with Vincent…as long as I had coffee on the island!
Yes David, coffee will be on tap!

What art equipment would I take?

A full set of oil paints…of all media, this is the one where I hesitate the most, and being stuck on a desert island may give me the time, and seclusion I need to master it, and to develop my own style!

Own MY Own

We are launching a new scheme today to make art ownership easier! It’s not original but imitation IS the sincerest form of flattery and we hope it will help customers to take home a piece of art that they love.

We’re calling it Own MY Own and offering customers the opportunity to spread the cost of their piece over three to six months.

Own MY Own is available on any piece (whether painting, print, sculpture or jewellery) priced at £150 or more. The way that it works is as follows:

– choose your piece (or pieces!)
– decide on your payment term (three months, six months or somewhere inbetween)
– pay your first installment
– pay each month until you have paid in full
– take your art home! (Or have it delivered)

You can choose to pay by standing order or you can come in each month and pay with cash or a card – whatever is most convenient for you.

All payments are non-refundable.

Please be aware that if you miss a monthly payment or stop your payments before the end of the payment term, the work will be returned to the sales floor and offered to other customers.

We want you to be sure about your choice and happy with it, so we are happy to bring the work or works that you are interested in to your home so that you can see how they look ‘in situ’ and make your final decision.

So, for example, if you have fallen in love with ‘Edinburgh Electric’ by Alan Kay (£550) you can choose to make an initial payment of £100 then five monthly payments of £90 and it is yours! It is as simple as that!

If you would like to discuss the scheme further or there is a piece that you want to buy, please be in touch. You can email or call the Gallery on 0131 629 9123 and speak to Linsay, the gallery owner.

We love art and we want as many people as possible to own the art that they love – hopefully this scheme will help you to do so.

Finally found what I’m looking for

The search for premises began just before Christmas last year when I saw a vacant shop on Newington Road – that turned out to be a complete non-starter for reasons I won’t bore you with but my top tip when looking for commercial property?  Get a really good surveyor on your side.  I did and after another couple of no- goes (for better reasons: someone else had got there first, so at least I was in the right ballpark)  Scott Mitchell from Edinburgh Commercial Property found me the perfect premises: (drumroll please……………….)

93 Causewayside, Edinburgh EH9 1QG became mine in the middle of June – hurrah!  Then the real work began!  We are currently adding super fab lighting, painting the walls, preparing the floor and pulling together the display items and sorting out the storage for all our lovely artists.  We are on course to open the first weekend in August with a couple of ‘meet the maker’ events and craft demonstrations.  Watch this space for updates!