Sometimes, sadly not often enough, architecture and art come together in unexpected ways which heighten the experience of viewing art. In the last space of the exhibition ‘Cradle of Magic’ at Newport Street Galleries, the immense shapes of the jagged sawtooth roof which allowed natural light down into the former workshop below take on a sinister oppressive form, pushing down relentlessly like an architectural sword of Diocmes towards the head of the viewer as he looks carefully into the soul of John Bellany’s dark melancholy paintings.
Two Scottish artists – John Bellany (1942-2013) and Alan Davie (1920-2014) have come together in a masterful show in the tall high spaces of the Newport Street Gallery. Near-contemporaries, but different in style. Davies’s paintings incorporate historic references, shapes, symbolism and, latterly, musical influences – he was also a jazz musician ; Bellamy’s work started as light and colourful, often referencing back to areas of Scotland in which he had lived, but became melancholy and dark after a visit to the Buchenwald Concentration Camp in 1967, one of the paintings in the last room, ‘Porquoi’, having a direct reference to the concentration camps and the atrocities that man is capable of doing to his fellow man, with other images including the 3-piece ‘Homage to John Knox’, ‘God is Love’ and ‘My Grandmother’, all reflecting dark aspects of life.
Immensely powerful pictures – an exhibition worth seeing for a greater appreciation of the work of both these artists and should have been held at one of the Tate Galleries, but then Scottish artists generally are under-represented at both of the Tate Galleries, not do the Galleries have the spaces to match those at Newport Street; the effect would not be the same.