Watercolour on paper
From a series of 20 studies created between 2018-20
When Alexander Moffat finished his second monumental composite portrait Scotland’s Voices (2016/17 oil on canvas 170 x 230cm), a companion work to his famous Poets’ Pub (1980 oil on canvas 183 x 244cm National Galleries of Scotland (on display Scottish Nat’l Portrait Gallery)), he turned to the landscapes of Italy and Scotland.
The works in this exhibition were created in the latter half of the artist’s seventh decade. The light is different. The colour palette is different. The subject matter is different. Influences are drawn from past experience, indelible in the artist’s memory:
‘Fifteen years ago I travelled to China to take part in a Li River expedition with a group of Chinese artists and poets. It was a rare privilege to spend a couple of weeks concentrating on drawing what was literally in front of me…the spectacular karst mountains that towered above the river. Exchanging ideas with my Chinese colleagues was also beneficial…their ‘landscape tradition’ goes back much further than ours. In Beijing and Xi’an I was able to see examples of painted landscapes from the 11th century and earlier. The entire trip provided further impetus for a more extended period of landscape study.’ – Alexander Moffat
There are no shortcuts to experience. A lifetime’s dedication to one’s profession or art form produces late work that could not have existed by any other means. Late works can be shocking as they often take a completely different path from earlier work. The Matisse exhibition at the Tate Modern in 2014, The Cut Outs was a fine illustration of this. Much has been said about artists’ ‘late style,’ most eloquently by Edward Said. * Not so much has been said about contemporary artists’ late style in today’s environment of the denigration of experience, a collective cultural ignorance of what has gone before.
The influence of the visits to China is most clearly manifested in the Apuan Alps series and within the series, particularly in this tall narrow orientation.
*Edward Said’s posthumously published book ‘On Late Style: Music and Literature Against the Grain’ (London: Bloomsbury, 2006) draws upon his articles, lectures and conversations in this consideration of the late style of composers, writers and artists. I’m thinking here of his discussion of Adorno’s writings on Beethoven’s late work.
Beth Junor Gallery Director