Fire in the blood for artist Iris

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‘Why are your pictures always on fire?’

The point of this question, posed by one of artist Iris Peploe’s two brothers, becomes clear with one glance at her work.

Iris loves colour – more precisely, glowing oranges and reds – in her paintings. And Mid Argyll has been the subject of many of her recent colour-charged pieces.

The 23-year-old from Edinburgh has been at Crinan since Easter, working at the Crinan Hotel with owner Frances Ryan, herself an accomplished painter under the name Frances MacDonald.

‘Frances noticed my work in Edinburgh and asked whether I wanted to come to Crinan for a while,’ explained Iris.

‘Part of the deal was that Frances would let me put on an exhibition of my work.’

Her work has been on display this September at the Crinan Gallery and coffee shop, with the exhibition due to end when she returns home at the end of the month.

Iris has her distinctive, vibrant style – but her trademark love of colour may not be entirely her own. Art runs in Iris’ family, with her father being an Edinburgh art dealer and her grandfather Dennis a noted painter.

Iris with one of her paintings at the Crinan exhibition

But it was the father of Dennis, Samuel John (SJ) Peploe – Iris’ great grandfather – who really put the family name on the artistic map.

SJ Peploe (1871 – 1935) was one of the group of four artists known as the ‘Scottish Colourists’. Born in Edinburgh, he studied art in Paris and lived there from 1910 to 1912. On painting holidays in northern France he was introduced to the use of bold colour, inspired by the bright sunlight. He later experienced the same intensity of light while painting, usually far from signs of human habitation, on the island of Iona.

French painting proved a powerful influence for Peploe throughout his life and his work is described on the National Galleries Scotland website as ‘…characterised by tight composition, strong colour and assured handling’.

SJ Peploe’s great-granddaughter has certainly inherited the gene for the love of colour, and there are those today who see distinct similarities in style between Iris and her famous forebear.

Art has surrounded Iris all her days, and she studied art history at the University of Glasgow and is keen to continue her studies at Leith School of Art.

Her experiences in Crinan, however, have also taught her a great deal.

Iris said: ‘I have exhibited before in Edinburgh, but it is miles different holding an exhibition in a place like Crinan. It is far from easy to organise, and Frances and her son Ross have been so helpful to me.’

She added: ‘The area is just beautiful, and I love walking around and capturing scenes as I find them. I love painting landscapes, and the Crinan area offers so much.’

With her exhibition and visit to Crinan about to end, Iris concluded: ‘I have really enjoyed my time here.

‘I want to thank Frances and her family – in fact everyone in the village has been really supportive.

‘I didn’t know the area at all when I arrived, but I’ll certainly be back.’