Monday, 9 February 2015


In the new group exhibition at Union Gallery – Streetlife – there is an enjoyably strange work by the Glasgow-based painter Frank McNab.

It shows a headscarfed woman laden with shopping in mid-air in the void at the centre of a tenement's common stair.

McNab says he's drawn to these spaces – neither quite indoors nor out, home or abroad – but the ambiguities redouble as one starts to wonder whether the woman depicted here is falling, floating or ascending.

Is she even alive? On closer inspection, that cadaverous face suggests she may be a domestic spectre. Or that this vision may be some projection of herself, her wish not – for once – to have to trudge with her quotidian or heartfelt burdens up the turning stair.

The work is titled 'Oh for the Years I Have not Lived But Only Dreamed of Living', which helps a little but doesn't ground the painting in any one definitive interpretation.

I find its blood and nicotine-coloured suggestions touching, creepy and evocative, and it was one of my picks in a show featuring several strong works by both established and emerging talents.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014


The Christmas exhibition, newly opened at Union Gallery on Broughton Street, features work by over a dozen contemporary artists: sculptors, painters and ceramicists at various stages in their careers from around Scotland and beyond.

There is no single theme which unites the pieces on show, so here instead are some thumbnail responses to five of them, to which you are welcome to add your own thoughts on favourites between now and February.

Delightfully rain-splashed is the scene above, titled ‘Hanover Street’, by Henry Kondracki. It looks to me like Festival weather, and perfectly captures the sense of colourful excitement in the city at that time of year.  

It doesn’t feel as if the artist plans to stand still. That bus may take him south to the High Street. That slope may lead him north into Stockbridge. One way or another, some discovery awaits.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Reviewed by Rhys Fullerton

The Stare

For many contemporary artists, getting their work exhibited can often by the hardest part of the process. Owning your own art gallery should make it easier, but for Alison Auldjo, owner of the Union Gallery, this is her first exhibition in three years. Auldjo is an artist in her own right, but running a thriving contemporary art gallery in central Edinburgh can be time-consuming and leave little opportunity to paint. Lifelines is well worth the wait.

Auldjo’s ability to paint landscapes is clear and seems to be second nature. The relationship between the artist, the environment and nature is evident in every painting on display. One of the highlights is one of the smaller paintings on show – ‘Rural Mysteries’. The bleak landscape is scratched into the canvas and the setting sun is almost insignificant, its light and heat won’t be able to win the fight against the changing of the season.

When Auldjo combines nature and people in her landscape paintings, we learn more about the artist and see a deeper thought process.


Skye-based James Newton Adams’ paintings in his solo exhibition at the Union Gallery are mostly of people and places in the Hebrides or west coast of Scotland. 

They are rendered in a style which looks, at first glance, rough, childish and unconsidered. A second look, though, soon reveals some very subtle brushwork and a more complicated approach: a process of paring down, refining each scene until what remains is a kind of irreducible narrative essence.

What emerges could be about a longed-for meeting on the beach, the concealed loneliness of an individual or the contested, shifting spaces we share with others. At their best, Adams’ works simultaneously map geography, action, economy, appearance, climate and the unseen threads of spirit and community which link them.

All this, in wonderfully thick, textured, gneiss blues and Atlantic greys, rust reds and lifejacket orange. Here too are the nicotine browns of bars, sombre Presbyterian greens, and the energising white of sea spume, cloud and marauding gulls.


‘Kill'em! Strangle'em! Don't let go! Kill'em! Kill'em! Kill'em ALL!!’

So says Chucky in the 1988 horror film Child’s Play, capturing rather neatly the dark territory children enter alarmingly often and quickly with unfettered imagination.

Play can be profoundly creative and amoral. It gives licence to the violence of make-believe. It sets few bounds. It rarely apologises. It is the kitten's enjoyable rehearsal of a kill.

Something of that liberating darkness pervades much of the new work at Union Gallery, a group exhibition by seven artists invited to respond to Child’s Play as a theme by gallery director Alison Auldjo.

I am new to the work of Mary Archibald, and pleasantly unsettled by the rumpled, rottten-potato quality of her effigies. ‘Ma Hoop’ and ‘Ma Ba’ recall the feral qualities of Archibald’s own childhood. She speaks of ‘bringing to life’ these pieces, of letting her inner ‘bad girl out to play’. I found 'The Christening' (above) absolutely terrifying.

Thursday, 10 July 2014


The Union Gallery celebrates its anniversary this month with a group exhibition featuring work by some of the artists who shown here over the previous five years.

No particular theme prevails, although there’s a general lightness of touch which matches the season and the sunshine-flooded premises.

What follows is a selection of personal favourites, from which others are omitted mostly for reasons of space or some difficulty in photographing them adequately. More images will follow later in the month.

First up is Tadeusz Deregowski’s postcard-sized oil, in which he has reached by his own circuitous route a quickening of texture which reminded me of Cathy Campbell's ‘Afternoon Spider Plant’, shown here last year



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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.