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Scottish art behind the scenes

By Neil Cooper, 17.11.2023
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Sekai Machache, image courtesy of Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert

If the artists’ studio is a sacred place, Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert’s photographs of forty-five artists in their workplace are a rare access-all-areas pass into a world where imagination is channelled into hard graft. Sutton-Hibbert’s cross-country and cross-generational peek behind assorted curtains doesn’t so much reveal displays of genius at play as make pin-ups of his subjects while on a break from the daily grind. With the rooms pictured awash with the acquired clutter of endless works in progress, from such an up-close and personal set-up, a much bigger picture of each artist’s world taps into the personalities that inform their process. 

Peter Howson, image courtesy of Jeremy Sutton- Hibbert

Tessa Lynch sets the tone with a smile as she holds on to a full-length mirror. The mirror Helen Flockhart looks into causes her image to become part of the wall of pictures that surround her. Graeme Wilcox too could be one of his own head and shoulders portraits lined up behind him. 

Reflection comes too from Sekai Machache, whose stance mimics that of the elaborate costume next to her. There are more smiles come from Saoirse Amira Anis, who sits clutching a mug as she beams into the camera. There is laughter as well from Christine Borland and Amanda Seibaek, both seemingly at ease with the camera in their space. 

Jacqueline Donachie stands with a hand on hip and an ‘are we done yet?’ type shyness. Gareth Fisher, hands in pockets beneath an apron from which a shirt and tie peek out, stands similarly firm in front of his sculpted figures.

Jacqueline Donachie, image courtesy of Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert

More playfully, Eddie Summerton sports a carved tree trunk mask like a character from some 1970s kids’ TV folk horror. Anthony Schrag bends over backwards beside his living room window. Stephanie Smith and Eddie Stewart’s faces are obscured by what looks like a girder laid out with one end balanced on an easel. Raydale Dower sports yellow plastic shades, sitting in the sun as he tootles on a clarinet. And John Beagles and Graham Ramsay stand with cardboard boxes over their heads, the ultimate showroom dummies.

There is gravitas too. Alexander Guy sits with coffee cup like some old school boho in front of a painting of a coffee machine. Sam Ainsley sits at her desk, scrutinising a line up of brightly coloured small canvasses with gimlet-eyed intent. The lines on Peter Howson’s face resemble the deep-set indentations in the features of the characters in his paintings. Sandy Moffat stands in front of several paintings of Hugh MacDiarmid and all the other writers he immortalised, now finding himself under Sutton-Hibbert’s lens and recognised as a similar elder statesman.

Rachel MacLean, image courtesy of Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert

Drawn from a bigger portfolio that currently stands at 115, Sutton-Hibbert cuts through the myth of the artist while perhaps adding to it. The easy intimacy of the project is perhaps summed up best by Rachel MacLean, who stands surrounded by green screen, unadorned with the cartoon like disguises of her films and revealed at last in a world where art, life and work become one.


Artists of Scotland is exhibited at Stallan Brand Architecture & Design Gallery, Glasgow until 21st December.