Born in Aberfeldy, Perthshire Chris studied at the Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen. One of the leading lights of Scottish contemporary painting, Chris has had many solo exhibitions across the United Kingdom His many awards include the Morton Fraser Milligan, Russell Flint Trust, Glasgow Arts Club Fellowship and Scottish Arts Club Awards. His work can be found in the corporate collections of Murray International Metals, Premier Property Group, Aberdeen Hospitals Trust, Grampian Regional Council, Edinburgh Hospitals Trust, Bulthaup, Scottish Life and the Royal Bank of Scotland.
"....Six and half years separate my older brother Chris and me. Pretty much by the time I came along, Chris was already immersed in the histories and mythologies of the rural environment. As a young family in the mid 1970s, we moved to Tornaveen, a rural area of valleys, farms, forestry, cottages and streams, exposed to the northern elements in the heart of Aberdeenshire in North East Scotland. As two of four children of artistic parents, it did not take long for Tornaveen to become our creative playground. For me, it was the place where science fiction monsters would appear, but I think for Chris, it was the place where he interacted with his own created worlds, with their own borders, invented stories, maps and customs and I remember him creating many notes, diagrams and drawings of these. It all seemed so magical from the glimpses I was allowed as the younger brother into this private fascination.
Underpinned by these early experiences and obsessions, Chris began making paintings of the landscape as a serious concern in his early teens, and a mark of his intent can be evidenced by having worked accepted for both the annual exhibitions of Aberdeen Artists Society and Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolour (RSW) when he was still only 14.
However, Chris’ interests and early academic prowess lead him to study archeology and ancient history at the University of Edinburgh - to the quiet disapproval of our artist parents. Ultimately, academic study gave way to his life’s primary obsession: to paint landscapes. Chris took on offshore and onshore jobs in North Sea oil industries while he returned to exploring his skills and confidence as an artist, developing a romance and a visual response with the coastal areas in the west of Scotland - particularly around Loch Torridon.
Eventually Chris was accepted to study painting at Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen in the early 1980s. While he was a student, I witnessed Chris’ resolve to follow his own path and make and develop his kind of paintings, despite the advent of the fashionable new figuration in the 1980s and the onslaught of conceptual art. Chris held his nerve and continued to develop and make ambitious landscape paintings, which seemed always about the alchemy of paint in response to the land and places he visits; an instinctive compulsion aligned to scientific organisation. During this time, I remember Chris finding great solace and empathy in the work of the Australian painter Arthur Boyd. Chris poured over a television documentary from 1986 on ITVs The South Bank Show which showed Boyd painting under a massive canopy on a beach in Australia, with dripping paint, instinctive mark-making and direct painterly responses. I can still feel this connection with Boyd in Chris current working practices.
Like many graduates, Chris’ immediate post art school career took some time to get going. Chris found himself with that age-old dilemma for artists for the need to support his family and pay for a studio and materials with not enough time or energy to paint and reflect. Relocating to Edinburgh, Chris again returned to working for town planners and landscape architects to support himself - all work which in some small way tapped into Chris’ relationship with the environment, but as far as he was concerned, were about as far away from what he wanted to do as they could be.
Chris continued to find time to make new paintings in the early 1990s showing and selling work and gradually gaining enough confidence to paint full-time. Demand for his paintings soon followed, and whether the work was in response to the Scottish landscape or, as it was during this period, based on Mediterranean excursions, the work Chris produced showed a continuing search for a visual voice and an increasing confidence in technical handling. It is this kind of sheer determination and dedication to find a way to be a self-supporting artist that has driven Chris throughout his life and one that has lead to now nearly 20 years of sustained and continued success. Chris’ paintings have been shown throughout the UK, are in countless private and public collections and he continues to be one of UK’s most engaging landscape painters.
Chris paints all day, just about every weekday of the year, while many other artists underestimate the need for this kind of sustained practice to achieve success. His current studio is testament to his professional discipline, yet is a wonderful and joyful escape into a world of impasto painting, considered and exuberant colour and tone to reveal images that take us to his own vision of the land and sea. Chris tells me he never goes to the studio without a plan for the day, and he often works on a painting for 5 or 6 hours of continuous concentration. [His] new works focus on a combination of responses to locations from where we grew up in Aberdeenshire as well as a fresh approach to the western Scottish coastlines and islands. They demonstrate an artist who is in complete control of his tools, techniques and working methods, to unleash an intuitive, deeply personal response and, in my completely biased view, is now making some of the best work of his life."
Robbie Bushe, Artist and Lecturer, Edinburgh College of Art, University of Edinburgh March 2013
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