Scottish Identity

Scottish Identity || March 31- April 20, 2017

“Where is the coward that would not dare to fight for such a land as Scotland,” Sir Walter Scott asked in the 18th Century. Yet, what does it mean to be Scottish in 2017? Does one have to be born in Scotland to feel Scottish? In a particularly tense period following Brexit, the possibility of another independence referendum, and aftershocks from the United States election, Scottish Identity asks artists to examine their own views of Scotland and her people. We welcome artists of any background to explore their own associations in the aim of presenting a body of work that exposes the nuanced dimensions of this unique country. Works may directly engage with social issues, but they can also address themes such as the natural landscape, historic traditions, personal experience, notions of ancestry, patriotism and politics.

Significantly, of the 25% of Scotland’s residents who were born elsewhere, minority groups are far more likely to claim Scottish identity in Scotland than those who claim an English identity in England. What is it about Scotland that makes her residents so passionate about land and country? Gallery 23 seeks to contribute to the dialogue of what Scotland looks like on the brink of such exceptional national and global change.

Contributing artists include: Philip Braham, Calum Colvin, , John Ayscough, Peter J. Scott, Trevor Jones, Linda Rosalia Gateley, and others.


Featured Artist: PHILIP BRAHAM

Watch the interview.

Philip Braham is a Scottish artist whose paintings and photographs emerge from the Northern European engagement with landscape as a metaphor for the human condition. Some of his more recent projects reflect on the temporal nature of human existence through personal recollection and collective history, set within the slowly evolving landscape that bears us forward. Fidelity to experience is fundamental to his practice, and this brings a poetic grace to his technical mastery of oil painting and silver-based photography.

Well versed in philosophical theory and aesthetics, his work is instinctively grounded in the perception of experience, the longing of memory, and the concept of beauty as seen through the lens of art and theoretical discourse.

Because memory can take the form of sensations, images, and emotions, it lends itself perfectly as a subject to artists. With the idea of memory in mind, Braham frames his experience of the past in different or unexpected ways to change the way we think about our own history. Braham frequently uses water and reflection in his work, an apt metaphor for the interior processes of negotiating the thresholds of life and death.


Philip Braham, The Meeting Place 1, Falling Shadows in Arcadia series, 2010


Philip Braham, Between Worlds, Oil on Canvas, 2007

The white square of paper floating in the water is a courting photograph of the artist’s parents. ‘Between Worlds’ is a work completed shortly after the death of his father when his mother was experiencing common symptoms of the grief process. Such experiences (disorientation, audio or visual hallucinations, feelings of fear, etc…) are viewed by health professionals as a natural defensive reaction whereby the person grieving creates a means of continuing their connection with the person who has died. As Braham explains: “…the painting is my way of recognising the love and loss that she felt even more profoundly than we, their children, did or could. We live with such distances, but maybe paintings can be a site that brings us closer by operating in the overlaps that bind us as human beings.”


Calum Colvin, Vestiarium Scoticum II, Digital photographic print on paper, AP Edition 10, 2005

Unpacking the myths of Scotland’s history, Colvin’s series of photomontages was produced in an experiment with digital cameras for the BBC production ‘A Digital Picture of Britain’. Much of Colvin’s recent work has examined the enduring and controversial presence of Jacobite memories in modern Scotland; in particular, the constant fluidity of attitudes toward history, politics, and nationhood as exemplified by mass-produced symbols such as tartan, Robert Burns, and a romanticised Highland culture.

The central panel of Vestiarium Scoticum II shows a framed section of the boggy field of Culloden somewhere between the Jacobite and Hanoverian lines. A bolt of Stewart tartan fades into the bog suggesting the early origin of tartan in fabric dyes obtained from the land. The multiple layers of images that extend from the centre composition allude to the gradual classifying and dubious codification of clan tartans during the Victorian ‘Balmoralisation’ of highland culture in the 19th century. A foil to this theme emerges with further contemplation of the detail of the grave marker with a square of tartan laid atop. Photographed from a memorial ring at the battle site where visitors often leave mementoes, it along with the presence of the grotesque tam o’shanter clad skull alludes to the tragic human consequences of these historical and cultural shifts.


John Ayscough, ‘THIS IS OURS’: The National Gallery of Scotland, Photograph Giclee print, Edition 5, 2016

Ayscough’s ongoing series of monumental photographs are taken guerrilla style in various public sites throughout Scotland including Parliment, Police headquarters, and the NHS. Posting the same sign reading “This Is Ours’, Ayscough invites us to consider the significance of these sites for our society and the means by which they appropriate culture for their own means.

The painting is Benjamin West’s ‘Alexander III of Scotland Rescued from the Fury of a Stag by the Intrepidity of Colin Fitzgerald (‘The Death of the Stag’) from 1786 in The Scottish National Gallery. This is by far the largest painting in the collection and admirably represents West’s heroic and monumental style. It illustrates a legend in which the first chieftain of the Clan Mackenzie saves the life of the Scottish King. Colin Fitzgerald is shown about to spear a fierce stag who had turned on King Alexander III during a hunting expedition. West includes other huntsmen, horses and dogs whose dynamic poses and striking gestures enhance the dramatic moment.

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