Intentional or not there is something about the painting Hard Candy by Stewart Nicol Soutar, that makes me think of my childhood and everything candy coated and sweet yet still has a little of the edge I have come to expect from the artist himself.
Yes, the title itself does imbue a sense of the nostalgic, it does go a little deeper in the usual abstract sense that only Stewart Nicol Soutar seems to be able to do and gives a depth of something dystopic whilst maintaining that nostalgic edge in the same breath, a neat trick that I have yet to see another artist pull off with the same degree of aplomb.
The painting itself conjures up images of my childhood with the “poke a sweets” or “a 10 pence mix up”, the white paper bags so often thin tantalised, hinting at a secret inside, did you get your favourites? Or was it a random mix, something new to taste? The specks of colour hinting at the delectable treats inside, the twisted edges holding closed the bag till you could get outside the shop and delve into its delights.
The background reminiscent of the box, a standard of the local newsagent or sweet shop was the box of “mix ups”, so often filled to the brim with these paper bags the image in and of itself sets your taste buds into motion like a Pavlovian dog anticipating a treat.
Somewhat darker (and perhaps more personal) is the lower edge of the bag, yes the sharp edges curled up are exact replicas of the childhood treat but also hinting at something more sinister, sharp teeth waiting to devour perhaps, a touch of the darkness in my own mind or that of the artist its open to the interpretation of the viewer, which is how it should be when viewing art.
With an overall sense of mystery I err on the side of nostalgia for my youth in what could be seen as a departure form his usual darker social commentary, it is still an insight into both (my own mind) and the artist, perhaps longing for a youth that is at the heart of us all and a testament to the Stewart Nicol Soutar that it opens your eyes to what is either a youthful reminiscence or something darker, a message, a sigh for long lost whims and hopes that were simpler or a sinister message to the unfortunate children who view it: what is now a pleasurable escape and sweet moment is really a trick and that those sharp callous teeth are waiting to bite.
For me, the overall theme of the painting is truly open to interpretation but ultimately has all the hallmarks of a nostalgic, wistful trip down memory lane and I intend to stick to my gut instinct and hold true to the memories it brings up, and let (you) the viewer decide its nature.
To learn more about the artist see the: