A family passion for Scotland’s beauty

Frances at work in her Crinan studio.

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The power of nature in Scotland’s dramatic and uncompromisingly beautiful landscapes have inspired mother and son artists Frances MacDonald and Ross Ryan from Crinan, who will present a joint exhibition at The Scottish Gallery this December.

Their first joint exhibition – A Family Affair – will feature works influenced by Scotland’s islands and west coast. Frances and Ross depict the ever-changing and often harsh weather conditions which frame their Argyll home.

A Family Affair explores their shared artistic tropes as they both represent the landscape of Scotland’s islands and west coast, working in nature, directly in
front of the subject.

Both use oil paint and other media, drawing with the brush or palette knife to make urgent, swift marks that capture the fleeting effects and drama of changing weather.

They also share Crinan, where the Ryan family has run the Crinan Hotel since the mid-seventies, from where Ryan left for school, then art school and set out on extensive travels. But the beauty of Argyll – and his boat Sgarbh – drew him back.

Earlier this year Ross held his second solo exhibition with The Scottish Gallery, but due to lockdown not a single person was able to attend.

Frances has been a regular exhibitor with the gallery for years with her distinctive Hebridean seascapes and landscapes showing the repeated motifs of Iona, The Mull of Kintyre, the bays around Crinan and the view across to Jura and the Corryvreckan.

Like a good modernist Frances is reluctant to give any commentary on her works but Ross, on the other hand, makes extensive notes on his journeys allowing others to understand how hard-won the paintings are, particularly in winter when the harsh conditions create privations and huge physical problems. Each painting becomes a manifestation and record of time and place.

His affinity with the natural world is reflected in his long-term project of setting messages in bottles on the ocean, which brings him encounters as he journeys to meet the people who find them, and make new works at the location of the find.

A Family Affair will be presented concurrently with Mark Hearld’s Menagerie, which will transport visitors to an animal-filled world with a series of prints, woodcut and linocuts inspired by the artist’s love of British flora and fauna.

A Family Affair and Mark Hearld’s Menagerie will be at The Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh between Saturday November 28 and Wednesday December 23.