An Education in Scottish Art

17 Mar 2010
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When Glasgow painter Richard Wright scooped the prestigious Turner Prize at the Tate Gallery in London in December 2009, he cemented Scotland's place at the forefront of the contemporary art scene.

Scotland: fertile ground for artistic greats

When Glasgow painter Richard Wright scooped the prestigious Turner Prize at the Tate Gallery in London in December 2009, he cemented Scotland's place at the forefront of the contemporary art scene.

For centuries, Scottish artists have enjoyed notable success within the global artistic community. From 18th Century Edinburgh portrait painter Sir Henry Raeburn right through to Jack Vettriano, and his sell-out shows in New York and Hong Kong, Scottish artists have inspired awe and respect.

This trend shows no sign of altering either. Observers only need to look at recent major award lists to appreciate the influence Scots or Scottish-trained artists are continuing to have upon the wider artistic world.

Incredible facts

Wright's Turner Prize victory was the country's fourth in fourteen years a remarkable statistic for a small country. Douglas Gordon (1996) Martin Creed (2001) and Simon Starling (2005) have all landed the coveted prize previously.

Since 2005, an astonishing 30% of Turner nominees have learned their techniques in Glasgow. Indeed, Wright and fellow Glasgow School of Art graduate Lucy Skaer were both in contention for the £25,000 winners prize, with Wright's fresco in gold leaf finally earning the judges' vote.

When London's Institute of Contemporary Arts established the Beck's Futures award to find the best British young talents, Scotland boasted three winners in seven years.

The facts present a compelling argument: not only is Scotland a great place to view ground-breaking works, the nation is also a fertile breeding ground for award-winning talents.

New Kids On The Block

One of the latest in a long line of Scots creating ripples in the international marketplace is Linda Florence. The Lanarkshire youngster was first inspired by art after visiting Kelvingrove Art Gallery in Glasgow as a child.

With her mother's guidance, she would enter the regular drawing competitions. Now, many years later, she is a British Design Award winner with a studio in Detford in London and a visiting Professorship at the celebrated Weissensee School of Art in Berlin.

Her intricate hand-printed wall and floor designs decorate Ted Baker fashion stores in Orange County, California, Dubai and Glasgow. She undertakes artist workshops in Hamburg and China. She has also completed commissions for the private homes of international celebrities.

From her own experience, she feels Scotland's artistic culture, and the quality of its art schools, are the chief reasons for its production line of stars.

"Scotland has definitely done well when it comes to producing great artists", agrees Florence, who gained a first class Bachelors Degree in Design at the renowned Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in Dundee.

"Many leave and go on to develop an international profile. I have friends like Richard William Wheater and Adele Brereton who are from England but crossed the border to study in Scotland.

"Not only is it a very inspiring and beautiful place to study but its strength is that it also has lots of very diverse, small, galleries and collectives working in Scotland and they are producing some very interesting and new work."

Excel In A Friendly Environment

After graduating in Scotland, Florence moved to Central Saint Martins College of Art in London. Having studied in both countries, she believes Scotland has one major selling point for a prospective student dreaming of becoming a Turner Prize nominee.

"In Scotland, the degree is four years long in the same art school, which means you stay with the same group of peers. In England, students do a foundation year first then a three year degree. This often means moving schools after the foundation year.

"I appreciated staying with the same group of friends and these friendships have lasted to this day; resulting in work opportunities long after leaving college. I was also inspired by others working in disciplines which were different to my own."

Talents To Be Discovered

Florence believes real art buffs can discover what makes Scotland such a vibrant artistic hub by visiting some of the smaller, independent galleries as well as the larger, well financed, establishments.

She believes visitors happy to go off the beaten track can find many hidden treasures and tap into the creative energy that continues to make Scotland such an artistic breeding ground.

"I like to visit the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh and Edinburgh Printmakers Studio. I like the Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA) in Glasgow and Dundee Contemporary Arts (DCA). On my last visit to DCA, they were exhibiting new work from an international artist alongside some very good recent work from a local collective in Dundee. It is this diversity which makes it an inspiring place to view art or study and create art."

Major festivals like the Glasgow Art Fair and Edinburgh Art Festival are great events at which to see challenging pieces from overseas and local artists.

With Turner Prize winners being made here and plans for an off-shoot of London's famous Victoria and Albert Museum to be opened in Dundee, the time has never been more ripe to view art and artists in Scotland. When it comes to the next big prize, don't be surprised to see a Scot among the names.

Find out more about studying Art in Scotland

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