Finally got to see the exhibition of the art from Canongate’s absolutely wonderful Great Book of Gaelic, which was launched the previous Xmas. Centurie’s worth of Gaelic poems – in bilingual text – from Irish and Scottish bards and makkars, fromt he time of Columba right up to the 21st century. Each poem has a full-page, colour art piece to accompany it, created by a Scottish or Irish artist, so it is as much an excellent art book as it is a collection of poetry, including work by our national treasure, the writer and artist Alisdair Gray and a fabulously exuberant painting by Paisley playwright and artist Johhny Byrne which is effectively a self portrait of him and the missus – Elfin actress Tilda Swinton – naked on a fast moving motorbike! Cool. Don’t get this in the National Gallery…
Poetry and painting (or screen printing, mixed media etc) probably work together better than most media – true painting is a direct expression of the artist’s vision of people, events, emotions and the world, while poetry too is a medium which, when done well, is a direct translation of the writer’s soul into words they can share with others. Yes, I know you may be thinking many of the finest prose writers can do this too, and I would agree with the caveat that when a piece of fine prose moves you it is often really operating like poetry. Poetry doesn’t necessarily mean rhyme, pentameter and so on – some writers, such as Jonathan Carroll often have descriptive passages which seem poetical to my senses.
Anyway, the artwork from the book is travelling Scotland and Ireland. It opened a year ago in my home city of Glasgow, then off to Dublin now it is in Edinbugh at last. Annoyingly the City Art Centre never advertised it and I only found out it was on when browsing a what’s on web page for Edinburgh and foudn it had been there sicne October, in the City Art Centre which is in sight of where I work every day! It still has about two weeks left and I urge anyone in town to go along and visit it – it’s totally free and as a bonus there are other exhibitions on too, one on pop art and another on Edinburgh monuments, which has a gorgeous scale model of the Scott Monument in pure silver, created by the silversmith’s Hamilton and Inches which normally we don’t get to see since it normally lives in the Lord Provost’s office. Apologies for the dim picture – couldn’t use the flash.