Seeing in a new light
For centuries, artists have been drawn to Venice: Turner, Monet and Whistler all immortalised the city. Today, La Serenissima continues to cast her spell over people who paint, with her labyrinth of ancient streets and canals, dramatic sunrises and sunsets over the lagoon and the mesmeric play of light on water.
John Lowrie Morrison had no intention of painting Venice. When he visited for the first time in August 2012, as a fortieth wedding anniversary celebration with his wife Maureen, he was not looking for material. But he found it all the same. Within weeks of returning home, he was painting Venice, and continues to do so nearly two years on. The light of the Adriatic has found its way into his Argyll studio.
The impact of his visit to Venice is something John is only now beginning to understand. He has been painting the landscape of Scotland - particularly Argyll and the Isles - for more than 40 years, but is now approaching these landscapes in a new way, a change he attributes to Venice. He says, simply: “It has given my painting a new lease of life.”
In Venice, he was drawn to sunrise and sunset. He says: “Venetian sunrises and sunsets are quite spectacular, very moody and misty, with the details taken out. Venice has changed my use of colour because of all the different hues there. The nuances of colours are different because there is a higher intensity of light, but at the same time it is moodier, mistier. It’s all very different from the West Coast (of Scotland), but it made me look at the West Coast in a different way.”
Many of the Venetian landscapes in this show sparkle and dance with light and colour. In a painting such as ‘Daybreak in the Lagoon’, the buildings themselves become indistinct, secondary to the drama being played out in the sky and on the water. In ‘Night Falls on St Mark’s Square’ the dark frontage of the basilica is illuminated by darts of colour against a crimson sky.
In the same way, a greater boldness of colour and freedom of line has crept in to his recent paintings of Scotland, places familiar to John since his Glasgow School of Art days: Knapdale, Grogport, Machrihanish, the Outer Hebrides. So there is a new drama in the stormy sky over a croft in Gigha, a mistiness to evening light. He has returned again and again to these landscapes developing his style, a progression which was clear in his Retrospective exhibition, A Passion for Colour, at Clydebank Town Hall Museum and Art Gallery in 2013. Now, he returns to them again, but he is seeing them in a new light.