Edinburgh College of Art
27thJuly – 25thAugust 2019
Fully Awake is a cycle of exhibitions with an intergenerational approach to how painting is taught. Thirteen artists currently teaching at UK art institutions will show their work alongside that of two guest artists, one of whom they have taught, and the other who has taught them. Exhibiting artists include Sonia Boyce, Alexis Harding and Dan Hays. The show has been curated by Ian Hartshorne and Sean Kaye for the organisation Teaching Painting.
I chose to nominate James Morrison as a tutor who had influenced my approach to painting, and Blair McLaughlin, a former student who is forging a successful career. I selected one painting each, to exhibit alongside ‘Spectral Vision on High Ground’ (2017).
‘Back to the Drawing Board’
Roger Billcliffe Gallery, Glasgow
31stMay – 30thJuly 2019
Roger Billcliffe Gallery is staging a summer exhibition devoted to contemporary drawing in Scotland, addressing the challenge that drawing is no longer taught in art schools and therefore has become irrelevant to contemporary practice.
I was delighted to find that one of my drawings had been selected for the front of the invitation card, given that the selected artists represent the very best of contemporary Scottish art.
‘A Year Closer to Home’
A photographic diary by Philip Braham
Published by BLURB, November 2018
During the first year of our move from Edinburgh to Crieff in rural Perthshire, I documented our new surroundings as the seasons changed, exploring the landscape with fresh and eager eyes. I gave this book the title ‘A Year Closer to Home’ because I came to understand that the idea of ‘home’ need not be rooted in the impressions imprinted during childhood, warm and strong though these are, but that the sense of a longing-to-return might instead be for a destination that still lies ahead: a horizon that has now come into view.
In Time and Silently The Scottish Gallery, Edinburgh
I opened the 2018 season of exhibitions at The Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh with a solo show comprising 38 recent paintings. The title was taken from the final line of the final poem In Time that Seamus Heaney wrote 12 days before his death in 2013. Like the poem, this body of work considers the temporal nature of our existence that is overshadowed by our immanent nonexistence, yet a kind of transcendence is afforded through the ecstatic acknowledgement of the abundance of nature, ever renewing.
Ages of Wonder Scotland’s Art from 1540 to Now
The Royal Scottish Academy has mounted an historic exhibition highlighting works from its impressive collection, and I was pleased to be included in the selection as one of the recipients of the RSA Morton Award for lens-based media. ‘Falling Shadows in Arcadia: The Offering’ was acquired from my solo exhibition at the RSA in August 2010. The exhibition runs from 4th November 2017 – 7th January 2018.
Hermeneutics of Practice University of Dundee
This summer Professor Nicholas Davey retired from teaching Philosophy at the University of Dundee, but his legacy lives on through his extensive writings on Gadamer and Hermeneutics. In honour of his enormous influence, colleagues and ex-students presented papers that attempted to address meaning/significance/interpretation in contemporary art practice and institutionalised knowledge production. I was delighted to give a talk on the ideas behind the new series of paintings to be exhibited at the Scottish Gallery, Edinburgh, in January 2018, titled ‘In Time and silently’
The Vigorous Imagination Revisited Roger Billcliffe Gallery, Glasgow
Roger Billcliffe showed recent examples of works by all 17 artists originally selected for the survey show back in ’87. The original exhibition was realised after Frank Dunlop, the director of the Edinburgh International Festival, got wind of the protest that Ian Hughes and I had staged on the steps of the Royal Scottish Academy in 1985. He introduced us to Timothy Clifford, then director of the National Galleries of Scotland, and he agreed to present the largest exhibition of contemporary Scottish art up to that date. The Vigorous Imagination remains one of the most popular exhibitions that the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art has presented.
The Vigorous Imagination: Then and Now The Fine Art Society, Edinburgh
This exhibition marked the 30th Anniversary of the ground-breaking exhibition staged at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art during the Edinburgh International Festival in 1987. All 17 artists were represented by historic examples and new work, and the show at FAS and Roger Billcliffe in Glasgow got great media exposure.
Scottish Identity Gallery 23, Edinburgh
I was the featured artist in an exhibition at Gallery 23, curated by Dr. Julie Hansen. The show ran from 31st March to 20th April.
Critic’s Choice Bohun Gallery, Henley-on-Thames
I was among the artists selected by Clare Henry to show in her Critic’s Choice exhibition at Bohun Gallery from 4th – 27th February 2017.
A Wind from the North update:
The Times published an excellent review of the exhibition on November 8th 2016, perceptively written by Giles Sutherland. To read it without the paywall go directly to Giles’ blogspot by following this link:
The painting reproduced in The Times review was an important earlier work from 2006 that led to a series titled ‘Drift’ in which photographs move into constellations on the surface of water.
A Wind from the North
My first solo exhibition with the Roger Billcliffe Gallery opened in Glasgow on 29th October 2016, and will run until 22nd November, The reception to the new work has been fantastic, and I am delighted with how the show looks in the elegant space. The Herald published an extensive review on the opening day, which was hugely supportive:
One of the paintings that attracted quite a bit of attention was ‘Traces in the Dew’ which was the final canvas completed for the show.
I was invited to contribute to a beautiful exhibition at the Scottish Gallery, Edinburgh in July 2016, featuring, among others, two artists I admire enormously: Derrick Guild and Victoria Crowe. One of the paintings I included was ‘Copper Beech’, shown below:
Union Gallery opened the doors to its beautiful new gallery in Edinburgh’s West End in May 2016. I was pleased to show two major paintings in the inaugural show, ‘Ophelia Bathing’ and ’21st Century Sublime’. The works are prominently displayed, in the window and over the stairs to the lower gallery, and I am grateful to owner Alison Auldjo for her enthusiastic support.
The End(s) of Art
In March 2016, I organised a symposium with Oisin Keohane at the University of Dundee, that brought philosophers, artists and curators together to discuss whether art, as an ontological experience, is over now.
The title of the symposium comes from the thesis proposed by Arthur Danto in 1984, that the collapse of modernism in the 1960’s marked the end of the era of art. He describes the contemporary era as post-historical, beyond the pale of the narrative that drove the avant-garde, and the self-consciousness period of postmodernism with its identifying stylistic tropes. There are no boundaries to push against in the truly pluralistic present. Anything may be considered as art; therefore nothing has significance in a transcendental or ontological sense. This presents real difficulties for museums, critics, theorists and engaged practitioners in art, in attempting to justify its continuing importance. What follows, in the absence of critical consensus, are discursive arguments on a local level, with an ebb and flow of ideas emerging and subsiding with time.
While artworks will continue to be made, their function will not be enlightenment in an ontological sense, but will merely service a market and function as the visible signs of wealth, taste and power: currency among the global collectors that continue to acquire the work. This argument often underpins the writings of Marxist-leaning critics, for whom significance is diverted away from the thingness of the artwork to its reception as a conspicuous badge of power in global politics.
Roger Billcliffe Gallery
I am delighted to join the Roger Billcliffe Gallery roster, and I will show a group of paintings in response to the theme ‘September Song’ from September 1st in Glasgow. These works were completed this summer as part of a series of nocturnes.
Pentland Fine Art
I was pleased to be invited to contribute a group of paintings to an exhibition at the recently opened Pentland Fine Art gallery in Aberdeen. ‘Between Worlds’, ‘Love Letter’ and ‘Border Post’ were chosen for the group exhibition which took my title ‘Between Worlds’ as its theme. July – August 2015.
I presented a paper at the inaugural conference ‘Hermeneutica Scotia’ at the University of Dundee (May 2015) which sets out my philosophy about the autonomy and integrity of the artwork that still opens a possibility of it transcending its object status. This runs counter to many recent commentaries that foreground the social impact that art can extort: context is more significant than the work itself. While I acknowledge that art can have a political dimension, it is shortsighted to think that the impact of an artwork is contained within the horizon of the time it was produced. Art can transcend temporality, and the best works being produced today most certainly will! The paper has been published on Academia.org and the abstract submitted was as follows:
Painting Itself (Out of a corner)
In David Joselit’s influential essay ‘Painting Beside Itself’ he examines the place of painting in a digital economy where the image of the artwork is disseminated globally, and its power (both politically and economically) is inflated correspondingly. He describes paintings that consciously engage with networks as ‘transitive’ in that they are submitted to infinite dislocations, fragmentations and degradations, escaping the modernist trap of reification. The centrifugal effect of the Internet on the dissemination, reception and marketing of the painting as image, in an age where images proliferate as never before, supersedes the significance of the painting as object. What is at stake is the concept that painting (both as verb and noun) maintains fidelity to experience, and that its value can only be judged before the work itself.
In my paper I will examine this claim with reference to Hegel’s definition of Art in relation to Spirit, to test Joselit’s proposition that art is now at its terminus. In defiance of the glossy/operatic/diaristic/ironic/satirical/primitive/psychedelic imagery that has come to define our era, I call for a return to authenticity by fastening to the world in willful naivety, buoyed by Merleau-Ponty’s insistence on the primacy of phenomenology and ‘indirect ontology’ in ‘Eye and Mind’ and through a reappraisal of Michael Freid’s concepts of Absorption and Theatricality, to provide a centripetal balance that returns the object and the place of painting back to itself.
Touched By Strangers: An Archaeology of Intimacy
After three years quietly working on a new photographic project the series is finally complete and collated in book form. It is titled ‘Touched By Strangers: An Archaeology of Intimacy’. The images document a woodland site, notorious as a ‘dogging/cruising’ location, on the outskirts of Edinburgh. I recorded the material traces of intimacy rather than the acts, and the series reflects the social tensions that arise when public and private worlds collide. I hope to exhibit and publish this work in the near future.
Commissioned paintings form an increasing proportion of my output but they don’t receive the same level of exposure as exhibited works: they are not reproduced in catalogues, nor are they discussed in reviews, and they are only seen by people connected to the client. Nevertheless they can be just as significant to one’s artistic development as self-directed works. Two examples of recently commissioned paintings are shown below, and their luminosity results from the quality of the pigments used:
I have embedded a link to a video walk-through of my solo exhibition at The Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh in January 2014, where I talk about some of the ideas that generated this body of work: