“Like everyone else I have been unable to travel far in any direction in the last year but if I had been it would be to the North: that is the source of my work and, like a compass needle, the direction I am always drawn to.
Apart from not being able to travel, lockdown has not been very much different in terms of the day to day routine for many artists including myself who are accustomed to work in a fairly solitary way. In that I have been fortunate.
One of the things I have missed though is the experience of visiting galleries. I am so pleased that the Open Eye will be able to welcome visitors to this show.
If we had any doubts about the value of experiencing art these have surely been dispelled by the pandemic. It seems that for many of us isolation has intensified the desire to appreciate art in all its forms.
Unless artwork is made for the computer screen there will always be a need to experience the physical piece rather than its virtual reproduction. Like many artists I labour at getting a particular quality, working on a surface till the colour and texture satisfies. My work is often three dimensional, but even pieces that are largely on a flat plane are intended as objects in themselves as much as images that represent something other.
Once I am able to travel I will head north to the Pier Arts Centre in Stromness and stand in the room overlooking the harbour surrounded by the works of Ben Nicholson and Alfred Wallis. I will see the fishing boats tied up and the sun glinting off the sea through a Barbara Hepworth sculpture. I will look at the paintings and listen to their ’surface noise’.
Alex Malcolmson. May 2021
Alex Malcolmson creates box constructions, paintings and sculpture incorporating nautical and natural elements. Frequently a construction will start with a discovery. This may be a piece of timber washed ashore, a rusty washer or perhaps an old sea chart. This catalyst for the work may even become integrated into the piece or equally it could be set aside having done its job in plotting the course a work will take. Some pieces, like the carved and constructed birds and the ship ‘dioramas’ are closely related to their folk art ancestors.
His work explores both figuration and abstraction, employs both art and craft and plays with the boundaries between these terms. Often the work is driven by a desire to create something that hovers in the area between the object itself and the illusion that is possible within a frame.
Alex Malcolmson was born in Shetland in 1955 and studied drawing, painting and printmaking at Edinburgh College of Art. He worked in the Northern Isles for several years, teaching, painting and exhibiting before moving back to Edinburgh to work as a curator. For 25 years he ran Godfrey & Watt in Harrogate, a gallery which exhibited fine work by makers and artists from throughout the UK. Since 2009 he has concentrated on making box constructions, paintings and sculpture.