‘Jock McFadyen is like a tourist without a guidebook,’ wrote Tom Lubbock in the catalogue for the artist’s solo show at The Imperial War Museum in 1991.
Thirty years later McFadyen continues to paint the contemporary landscape without an agenda and Lost Boat Party, at the Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh, perfectly describes his approach to the visual world – floating about and seeing without meaning or judgement.
The exhibition includes the urban dystopia for which the artist is known alongside the romance and grandeur of the Scottish landscape, warts and all.
Lost Boat Party comprises 30 paintings from the last few years and as an adjunct there is a separate display of the artist’s more graphic figurative paintings in a nearby grand New Town apartment.
This exhibition, in McFadyen’s 70th year, will be followed by a series of shows at important galleries around the UK.
Together they show his progression from growing up in Glasgow, studying at the Chelsea College of Art, working with the Royal Opera House and Imperial War Museum and, most recently, curating the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Art.
McFadyen has always been as interested in the gritty detail of everyday life as the sprawling UK countryside and his work seamlessly combines the two in his derelict landscapes complete with weathered buildings. His overpowering and dominating skies are deliberately painted in such a way so that the physicality of the work is unavoidable, the scale being sublime and destabilising.
McFadyen is fascinated by the properties of paint, the way it transforms on different surfaces and the many different methods that can be exercised for its application. Alone in the landscape, where sky and ground come together in a similar palette, our imaginations can run wild, guided by his expressive textures and brushstrokes.
Exploring the UK on his collection of vintage motorbikes, McFadyen uses painting as a method to record what he sees – in the same way a tourist may take snaps on their iPhone.
Since 2006, McFadyen and his wife, violinist Susie Honeyman (Mekons and Little Sparta), have run the Grey Gallery, a nomadic entity without walls working with artists, musicians and writers on a project basis.
Lost Boat Party is also the title of a new album from Little Sparta released by Grey Gallery Records and there will be a series of live performances by Little Sparta and Sally Timms to accompany the show.
Christina Jansen, managing director of the Scottish Gallery, said: ‘In 2020, Jock McFadyen turns 70 with a new monograph and exhibitions across the UK. Lost Boat Party presents McFadyen’s uncompromising vision and unflinching eye, surveying urban decay, desolate landscape and the human condition.’
McFadyen was born in Paisley in 1950 and brought up in Renfrew. As a teenager, he attended Saturday morning classes at Glasgow School of Art and, in 1966, his family moved to England. He attended Chelsea School of Art from 1973-77 and has lived and worked in London over the last 40 years.
He has had over 40 solo exhibitions and his paintings are in 30 public collections including the Tate, British Museum, V&A and Scottish Gallery of Modern Art as well as corporate and private collections in the UK, Europe and the USA.
In 1981, he was appointed Artist in Residence at the National Gallery London and, in 1991, he made a solo exhibition about the Berlin Wall at the Imperial War Museum London which toured to Kelvingrove Gallery in Glasgow.
Jock McFadyen: Lost Boat Party will run from Thursday, 30 July until Saturday 29 August, at the Scottish Gallery, 16 Dundas Street, Edinburgh. For more details visit www.scottish-gallery.co.uk