A fascinating collection of paintings featuring nature morte by Perth artist Claudia Massie are set to go on display in The Ruthven Gallery, Auchterarder this September.
The A822 exhibition will be Massie’s second solo exhibition featuring nature morte. The subject matter of the first, solely that of wild animals killed on various roads, will be put into a wider context with the collection of paintings extended to include the surrounding landscape, and focusing on the remote pass called the A822.
Richard Demarco, Scotland’s leading promotor of contemporary art praised The Ruthven Gallery for showing Claudia’s first solo nature morte exhibition in 2013, saying that gallery director, Suzanne Hay, had the vision to encourage and show Claudia’s work.
Demarco said: “Claudia takes human responsibility towards nature seriously, and tutoring the younger generation…school children should be seeing this exhibition. Massie is the first artist to have made a mark for the 21st century.”
He went on to compare the thought-provoking body of work to the work of Vincent Van Gogh via Beuys and to Marcel Duchamp.
A822 will show at The Ruthven Gallery, Auchterarder from 19th September – 14th November 2015.
Interview with Claudia Massie
The A822 is an unusual name for an exhibition. Can you explain why you chose this name and what the exhibition is about?
The A822 is a road that runs between Greenloaning, near Braco, and Dunkeld. It passes near where I live and is a road I find myself driving on several times a week. It is an interesting route from a landscape perspective as it moves from the lowlands to the highlands which means there is a stark contrast in the kind of geology and topography found in each half of the route. I decided that it would be interesting to focus only on the landscapes along this narrow line of road and so I spent several months travelling along stretches of it armed with sketchbook and camera. The resulting paintings are not intended to chart the entire road, rather they offer snapshots of the landscape as it alters along the route.
What made you venture away from just painting landscapes (which are presumably more sellable)?
I spend quite a lot of time on the road for one reason or another and I was getting increasingly enraged and despondent about the amount of roadkill I came across. I started painting these dead animals, taking them back to my studio to study, and found the process fascinating. Although it may seem a little gruesome, the roadkill does offer a rare opportunity to study some elusive wildlife (hares, red squirrels) up close. I only take the fresh stuff. For the A822 show, I included some of this roadkill as an extension of the landscape and the language of the road. The fauna is hidden in my landscape paintings but can be seen in the dead animals, the unfortunate and apparently inevitable outcome of a road through nature. Since I began painting the roadkill, I have been presented with numerous animal corpses by friends, mostly roadkill or the victims of cats. I often have a creature in my studio, a partridge perhaps, or a desiccated newt, which has been a ‘gift’. If someone gives me something I have to paint it and some of these creatures, all from the same local area, have made it into the show.
What kind of reaction did you expect to your original nature morte paintings? And was it the reaction that you got?
I didn’t think a great deal about the reaction when I was painting them. I didn’t expect many people to buy them but I was surprised by how many people felt offended or upset by the original exhibition. There were visitors to the gallery who wouldn’t venture inside when they knew what was on show. On the other hand, there was a lot of support too and many visitors found the show interesting and, I think, quite thought provoking. In the end, most of the original show did sell, which was, admittedly, rather astonishing.
Based on this being the second solo show that includes nature morte, will you continue to paint them or will the future hold something new? Any ideas what will follow next or will it be a natural progression?
I think I will keep painting whatever comes my way. I am greatly influenced by my surroundings, and right now that is the Perthshire landscape and all it contains, including the animals. I also teach life drawing (at Glenalmond College) and spending so much time looking at and talking about the figure makes me want to do more painting with human figures in it too. I never know where I’m heading however, I just find out when I get there.