Secret Garden By JP McLaughlin

JP McLaughlin is amongst my favorite artists and has in the past featured heavily amongst my inspirations alongside two others from Scotland. Far from being a traditional Scottish artist, he is a well known and respected global artist with a distinct and easily recognizable style.

Secret garden by JP McLaughlin

Secret garden by JP McLaughlin

The latest of his work titled Secret Garden is a prime example of his more commercially oriented work. The beautifully styled and instantly recognized Red Coat series is an ongoing feature of his work. Secret Garden has the hallmarks of serenity that has become synonymous of these paintings.

A stormy, cloudy sky is broken up with the immediately visible woman in the red coat, in this case, modeled by Debbie Campbell a prolific performer and fundraiser in her own right (as well as the owner of this particular painting). There is a sense of chaos and calm, a contrasting idea that somehow works as we look at her contemplative stance and without seeing her face we know on sight that she is deep in thought, what she is contemplating is open to interpretation.

The casual air of the woman in the Red Coat belies the darkness of the surroundings giving it a softness and a sense that she is relaxed in her contemplation, leaning casually against a wall, she is the epitome of casual elegance and grace in the tumultuous surroundings, a sort of stark reminder that the individual that stands out is the one who speaks softly but carries a big stick, or in this case, wears a brazen shade of red .

The Secret Garden is a nod to the grounds of Hansel Village and gives a touch of the personal to the piece that adds a new depth to the story overall.

The beauty of this piece (aside from the woman in the Red Coat) is the simplicity of the message as per my own interpretation, it speaks to softness in the dark and contemplation in the whirling chaos of the mind. As a piece from the Red Coat series of images, this captures the eye and the mind in a way that makes you want to know her story and as I have seen first hand, opens a discussion on her motives. Cleverly structured JP McLaughlin has offered the art world another conversation starter.

To learn more about JP McLaughlin or to purchase artwork see:

JP McLaughlin Website

JP McLaughlin Facebook

Hard Candy By Stewart Nicol Soutar

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.

Hard Candy' - (A Pokey o' Cut Roak, Easter 1960). Oil on canvas. 50" x 60",

Hard Candy' - (A Pokey o' Cut Roak, Easter 1960). Oil on canvas. 50" x 60",

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:

Stewart Nicol Soutar art website.