Elizabeth Blackadder (4 stars)

This article is from 2011

Elizabeth Blackadder

Brilliant retrospective of work by one of Scotland’s major artists

Elizabeth Blackadder is a Dame, a Royal Academician and arguably Scotland’s most popular female painter and printmaker. A major retrospective of her work at Scotland’s biggest gallery space was only ever going to draw sighs of resignation from art snobs who value provocation and semantics over talent and craftsmanship. This eternal star of Falkirk is a major artist and this excellent exhibition reminds us that she is about more than just cats and flowers.

Simply but boldly curated to allow the visitor to follow Blackadder’s journey from serious, mildly joyless student portraitist on her continuing search for a personal style through her scholarships and travels in Italy, America and Japan (among others), this show is as much about the emotion of the journey as the archaeology of influence.

Again and again it becomes evident that Blackadder is in search of something deeply elemental, different and very much her own. Her botanical portraits are beautiful but seemingly rootless and alone, her interpretations of Japanese Zen art works in opposition to the subject matter – it is chaotic, vibrant and full of roaring humanity. Her much-loved still lifes shudder with abstraction and skewed perspective. In her most profound paintings, which include Flowers and a Red Table and Grey Table with Easter Eggs, she prostrates herself on the altar of amateurism in search of the individual and the guttural. Blackadder’s brilliance is in the sacrifice.

Scottish National Gallery, 624 6200, until 2 Jan, £8 (£6).

Elizabeth Blackadder

  • 4 stars

Major retrospective of the work of Falkirk-born Edinburgh University and ECA alumnus Dame Elizabeth Blackadder, who turns 80 this year. Her well-loved work covers many media, and subject matter ranges from the everyday to observations made during her extensive world travels.

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