we dont accomplish our love

12 August 2015

Word of mouth is the happy fall back for exploring Edinburgh’s festivals, when thousands of shows shovel their star ratings at you in a noisy clamour for time and attention. So when a Scottish artist and retired teacher, asks what’s interesting in the Edinburgh Art Festival this year, we talk MC Escher and John Bellany – and I tell him to go see Audrey Grant’s show, at the Union Gallery in Broughton Street.

The exhibition is not actually in the festival. Established galleries in the city have to opt in financially to get a mention there and some have declined to do so. But that does not prevent them showcasing their top offerings. Grant, though just turned 50, is an artist to watch, and the word of mouth on her work is very good.

For customers of the Union Gallery, and of Painter and Hall, who now represent her in London, Audrey Grant is also an artist to buy. By opening night, of 18 paintings in the exhibition, all but three or four had sold. Her last exhibition at Panter and Hall has now entirely sold out; she will go back to Pall Mall, with a solo exhibition in the gallery’s larger upper space, and who knows if she’ll soon be lost to London entirely.

Introducing Grant’s exhibition two years ago, the critic Jan Patience wrote how she scratched her head for days to articulate how the works affected her; I did the same. The solitary figures she paints carry an immediate, accessible charm. These still waters run deep; scratch the surface, absorbing, grave, thought-provoking. They are from an artist in a later-life career, making a series of interesting shifts through different degrees of abstraction.

We project our own imagination on the characters in Grant’s paintings; but they are caught in their own worlds. Dancing, walking, sitting, they might crane their necks to catch something in the distance; but they look away. Painted often in pairs, they may have relationships with each other, but are not looking for us; we are observers of their introspection. They are both still, and sometimes full of frozen movement.

The picture Grant picked for her catalogue cover is particularly interesting. It’s title is Siehe, wir lieben nicht, wie die Blumen, aus eniem enzigan Jahr – (No, we don’t accomplish our love in a single year as the flowers do.) The line has a bittersweet Shakespearean feel, but it is by the Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke, who died in 1926.

Siehe, wir lieben is one of the more difficult pieces, and better for it, and remained unsold at time of writing. The girl, in blues and blacks, has a childish snub nose, sits rigid, straight-backed, as if struck, her clubby feet planted on the ground. There’s something wild, apocalyptic, in the way she’s been spattered with drips; paint pours down from her hair over the chair.

The exhibition, With all its eyes the natural world looks out into the Open, takes its title from Rilke’s Duino Elegies, his best known work. The poet began them in 1912, but struggled to fight off an artistic depression, with his life as a German who had lived in Paris upended by World War I. Grant’s technique includes scratching down through layers of paint, and she scars Rilke’s words into the surface.

In Paris Rilke became obsessed with Rodin. And Grant spent a couple of years sitting in on rehearsals of Scottish Ballet, filling her sketchbooks; four or five of the paintings are ballerinas, spindly legs moving in a whirl of motion, causing paint to fly off their dresses, and one thinks inevitably of Rodin’s or Degas’ dancers.

The largest piece, titled Welt war in den Antlitz der Geliebten, (World was in the face of the beloved), could be a forlorn African girl standing in a yellow veldt, bow legged and with a great feeling of space around her.

Some faces are have clear profiles, others are erased with paint. The dancers are poised and dainty; a male figure walks with hanging hands, in daubs of bluesy greens, full of calm and reflection. Some of Grant’s people are expectant and looking out, others, surprised. One could surely be a teacher, on a cigarette break.

Grant formerly worked in education at the Edinburgh International Festival. She went to Leith School of Art only in 2001, and has made the transition to full time artist just recently, after the success of her first shared show at the Union Gallery in 2011.

The show includes a series of reworked photographs of the sea, glazed over with smeary yellow grease, and gold leaf, exploring the theme of natural philosophy. It’s an interesting departure,also with its own intellectual underpinning, and at least of the six pieces work well; but they struggle to stand against the paintings, for now.

Grant’s figures are maturing through different styles of abstraction; where the palette in her show two years ago was chalky reds and greens, here it is thicker yellow, grey and black. She speaks of being inspired by Frank Auerbach, and Leon Kossoff, and there are interesting similarities.

“They are single, solitary figures which I do,” she said in an interview, “worked on by building up layers of paint, added and subtracted to, with palette knives, rags, scraping on and scraping off until I feel an image beginning to assert itself. They are nobody and everybody, invented and imagined, and come about through the act of painting. These figures connect to a sense of who we are, a sense of vulnerability, I suppose, and awkwardness in the world.”

Read the original review at the Arts Press website

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Strokes that Bind

Henry Jabbour Seated Man

Henry Jabbour at the UNIONgallery

12 March 2017

Like many others locally, we’ve missed the Union Gallery since its removal from Broughton Street to larger premises on Drumsheugh Place.

A visit to the West End on Friday showed that Union’s owner Alison Auldjo has lost none of her knack for finding and nurturing great new talent, most recently that of Henry Jabbour.

Jabbour came late to painting, and was already a successful scientist with the Medical Research Council by the time he joined Leith School of Art in 2005. Consumed by this new calling, he became a full-time artist two years later.

This Life to Me is his first solo exhibition, and it’s a phenomenally successful debut.

Review: This Life To Me


‘Scientist who quit job to paint lands first solo art exhibit’

By Eleanor Duffy

Henry Jabbour quit his medical research job in order to pursue a love of art

henry jabbour

Photo - Colin Hattersley

An Edinburgh scientist is to open his first solo art exhibition after leaving behind his career to follow his dream.

Henry Jabbour worked for nearly 20 years in the Medical School at Edinburgh University but quit in 2010 to pursue his love of art full-time.

Despite training to be a biologist, Henry found his true calling in painting and has since studied at Leith School of Art in Edinburgh and the New York Academy of Art.

His prints and portraiture work have won praise in the art world and he is now preparing for the launch of his first solo exhibition this weekend.

Sapphire Skies

roscullen tulips 2016 ii jenny matthews

A solo exhibition by Jenny Matthews: UNIONgallery – a bouquet of fragrant flowers

6 September 2016

UNIONgallery is owned and managed by contemporary artist Alison Auldjo. Originally opening on Broughton Street in 2009, the stylish new premises at the West End has the ideal space and design over two floors to show solo exhibitions, mixed collections, crafts and sculpture. The emphasis is on showing work from established painters who do not exhibit in Scotland, to exciting new Scottish and international talent.

Jenny Matthews studied at Edinburgh College of Art under Elizabeth Blackadder DBE, John Houston and Ann Oran, graduating in 1986. Since then, she has earned a fine reputation as an accomplished watercolourist, exhibiting in the UK and abroad.

Stepping into the Uniongallery to see her new solo exhibition, ‘Sapphire Skies,’ is like taking a stroll across country meadows and along the seashore, so tangible that you can almost smell the fragrant flowers. The soft shades of pinks, mauve, coral red and corn yellow, capture their natural beauty and texture, from beautifully arranged vases and bouquets to land and seacapes and decorative still life compositions.

Here are the first buds of Spring and Summer gardens, a flourish of sweet peas, irises and parrot tulips, as well as pretty thrift and lichen sprouting along the rocky shore at St. Abbs. The artistry is exquisite, meticulous botanical drawings, detailing each petal, stamen, puffs of pollen and green leaf, enhanced through the subtle tone and translucent quality of watercolour.

Jenny Matthews | Union Gallery

Three Jenny Mathews paintings at the Union Gallery

16 August 2016 Adam Barclay

UNIONGallery, 4 Drumsheugh Pl, Edinburgh
Exhibition continues until September 12
Open Monday to Saturday 10.30am – 5.30pm

The UNION Gallery had their first solo exhibition launch at their new premises on Drumsheugh Place this week, and what a strong first impression it was! The new space, previously a low ceilinged charity shop, is unrecognisable as a classic Edinburgh gallery, resplendent with cornicing and high ceilings! It makes for a fantastic space to show off the works of award-winning water-colourist Jenny Mathews in her third solo exhibition.

The pieces on display are varied in style and dimension but all share a distinctly high quality and impressive artistic feel. With several pieces having been reserved even as they were being hung, it was obvious that Jenny’s work is in high demand. Large works to tie whole rooms together were displayed, alongside horizontal sets, unusual for the artist, and smaller high-detail pieces. Jenny studied botanical illustration under Dame Elizabeth Blackadder and the inspiration is clear in her work, supremely detailed botanical images but with a clear style of her own.


Ophelia Bathing

17 July 2016

When Alison Auldjo began converting a former charity shop into the second incarnation of the Union Gallery, removing a lowered ceiling and turning a pokey back storage room into a well-lit stairwell, she knew exactly the picture she wanted in the space. It was Phil Braham’s Ophelia Bathing, a painting she had seen in the Scottish Gallery a few years ago, when it was ‘best in show’ but went unsold. “I went to see him to tell him about the new place, ‘Phil, come and see the space, you will see exactly what I mean about your painting’,” she said. The work  uses a backdrop from the Water of Leith; Ophelia is bathing, not drowning, It is unobtrusively thought-provoking: the bather’s shoulders above smooth water, calmly swimming a ladylike breast-stroke, in a moment of reflection, before Hamlet stirs things up.

Auldjo put a second considerable picture by Braham in the window of her gallery for its reopening a few weeks back. The work, 21st Century Sublime, shows rolling hills around a Scottish valley cloaked in misty skies, the kind of view you’d find coming down from a Munro, but Graham’s last touch was to put a fighter jet flicking across it. “We have all seen scenes like that in the Highlands. It’s eery, it’s quite bleak, but it’s beautiful,” said Auldjo. My first ill-thought guess is Glencoe; but it’s more the gentler landscape of Aviemore, where two low-flying planes roared past on a recent walk, their sound gathering behind them.

When Auldjo closed the Union Gallery in Broughton Street, after seven years on a wonderfully prominent corner of one of Edinburgh’s couthiest streets, I had wondered if she would really be back. There are too many stories of galleries that seem to wilt under pressure: in Edinburgh the old Doggerfisher, the recently downsized Ingleby Gallery, in London the impact of skyrocketing real estate. I’ve heard old dealers lately saying traditional Scottish art markets are dead, and artists facing hard times, though that is not exactly new.

From The Blog

Art Scotland Interview with Kevin Low

Sisters IV

16th August 2017

Kevin Low is an artist living and working in Glasgow, his new exhibition Women & Men is currently on show at the Union Gallery in Edinburgh.

What drives your passion – when did you know that art is what you wanted to do?

It’s an obsession. It’s something I have to do, or I get sick. I hesitate to say that because I think that’s how most artists feel. I don’t have a choice. That makes it sound like it’s a chore, like being bullied by the subconscious, but nah, it’s a bloody thrill, every time. There is nothing better in the world than creating stuff.

As a kid, I grew up on a farm. I expected to become a cattleman, I really did. It was a very small world. I think it was pop music that gave me that first buzz in my gut, that invitation to step away from the ‘real world’. Mr David Bowie, I owe you a lot.

Zone One Arts Interview with Henry Jabbour

College Porter 2 by Henry Jabbour

You trained initially as a biologist and worked as a scientist, has this part of your past influenced your current art practice of painting people?

I am sure it has but sometimes it is very difficult to pinpoint how.

I firmly believe that the way I look at, and my empathy towards, the human figure is hugely influenced and informed by my past experiences (being brought up in Lebanon at the time of the civil war) and my subsequent education.

Scots Magazine - Cannae Miss it

The Cannae Miss List: March 3 – 9

HenryAnd Dennis

 Photo - Colin Hattersley

Dennis the Dog and his new best friend, artist Henry Jabbour, would like you to have a look at the Scots Magazine's website. There's a tremendous photo of Dennis there, and something about a great new exhibition. But the photo of Dennis is just the bestest thing ever!

While we admit we're a little biased, we have to agree with the Scots magazine (and Dennis) - this is a great exhibition of exquisite works by Henry Jabbour, and you really shouldn't miss it!

Read the full article at the Scots Magazine website


Press Release: James Newton Adams




The exhibition will open on September 4th at the Union Gallery in Edinburgh. With a selection of new paintings and wrought iron sculpture, James invites viewers to look and, as the show’s title suggests, see, through the eyes of the characters in his created world. Using his distinctive and very direct style, the artist reflects on his own experience of life in the Highlands and Islands.