Boarhills Church

33 x 39 cm
Ruth Nicol


Acrylic on board                                      Photo courtesy © Jed Gordon

This is a very interesting and important painting. It’s one of my favourites in the exhibition. Now Boarhills Church is a very pretty little church, as its Instagram images will testify.  It was built from sandstone in the Victorian era as a simple rectangle, oriented east-west. It’s surrounded by planted flowers and the sea is visible to the east.

With such a pretty church, the painterly (and Instagram) convention is of course to focus on the church itself, up close. However, Ruth Nicol instead has depicted the church tucked right into the landscape. The gable walls at either end aren’t even wholly visible.  The foreground is taken up with the agricultural land itself. Along the lower edge is a border of summer flowers – perhaps the lavender planted by Fife schoolchildren at the edges of fields in the East Neuk.  Then there’s a great sweep of golden fields. Yet it’s called ‘Boarhills Church’ – the emphasis is on the church not in itself but as entirely part of the land, within farmlands worked by human hand. As so often in this artist’s work, the building is not seen in isolation but is given energy through the strokes of paint leading the eye up to it, through the surrounding agricultural land. We don’t live in Instagram images – in reality, we live within a vibrant, worked environment. Wherever we are in the world, we’re surrounded close by or farther away by land teeming with life and energy.

This disrupting of the usual ways of seeing the East Neuk in paintings is a recurring characteristic in the artist’s work – compare this small painting of Boarhills Church to Pittenweem Shore and Pittenweem Mid Shore harbour paintings, where again the foreground is not the pretty line of typical Fife houses along the harbour, but instead is taken up with the great harbour walls and the precipitous drop to the sea. Gallery visitor Martin was struck by how much of the foreground in both these paintings is the structure that protects the houses, not the commonly-depicted line of houses itself.

Original, honest, full of energy, with exceptional colour blending and composition.


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