Hannah Maclure centre, University of Abertay
Monday 4 Feb - Friday 26 April
The exhibition Synchronise our Eyebrows held at the Hannah Maclure Centre at the University of Abertay until the 26th April 2013 offers the rare opportunity for art lovers and those interested in Dundee and its culture to discover or re-engage with the work of Dundee-born artist Vincent Rattray.
This is an important event for a number of reasons. Organised by Abertay University curator Clare Brennan in collaboration with the artist’s son, Evan Rattray, this show gives the people of Dundee and the city’s visitors the chance, some 12 years after his death, to appreciate Rattray ’s work within the formal space of the gallery, situated in the geographical heart of a city that was central in his life. Whilst the exhibition celebrates Rattray’s work and love of Dundee and its peoples, the show also gestures in different ways to the importance of his creative community and, notably, his friendships with fellow artist Jimmy Howie and the musician, Michael Marra.
Synchronise our Eyebrows is a line taken from one of Marra’s songs and in a sense, the show highlights artists in conversation making explicit as it does the friendship between Rattray and Marra, each primarily working with their own preferred medium (art and music respectively), and each gifted, creative and also interested in people and their lives. The expression of these relationships is achieved by bringing together Rattray’s paintings and lines from Marra’s songs, selected as titles for the former’s paintings. Keen observers of life, both artists were endowed with expressive eyebrows and a sharp wit. For people familiar with these artists and their work, the exhibition offers a great opportunity to reflect on their contribution to the local artistic scene and Dundee’s cultural heritage. For visitors discovering their work, it offers a great way into Dundee’s very soul.
Rattray’s paintings often resulted from his observations of the world around him, the community, people and their foibles, their stories, the streets and features of Dundee; his images also reflect a great interest in and a love of nature. It is a also welcome reminder of Rattray’s talent and humour. Synchronise our Eyebrows is also an important event because the cultural history and energy of the city is immortalised by Rattray through people and their narratives that appear centre-stage in his work. As the paintings are not dated, the exhibition imparts no clear understanding of his evolution as a painter and instead offers more of a sense of the breadth of his idiom. A talented draughtsman with a great attention to detail, Rattray would spend hours wherever he was creating images, playing with form and colour, sketching, drawing and painting; a narrative would emerge and meet him half way on the canvas, paper or board.
Rattray was a highly social man who was appreciated by many for his personality and his great sense of humour. This is clearly evidenced in the two little videos that play in a loop as part of the show. These give the public the opportunity to see and hear his artist friends and family speak about the man and his work. Their testimonies and reflection on both also provide an insight into this small artistic community in the West End of Dundee, where Rattray and his friends often met and quick-wittedly engaged with and reflected on the world.
Synchronise our Eyebrows is a poignant reminder of the creative energy that found expression in our midst in the not too distant past; it is a tribute to friendship and a celebration of contemporary Scottish art and an expression of the love shared by the artist with his community.
For further information and a video of the exhibition please click HERE