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Allan Macdonald

Artist Biography

I’ve drawn or painted more or less all my life, with a childhood dominated by artistic activity, most of it through my own motivation. Several things led to this. My father was a headmaster who actively encouraged the arts as a form of education, which was unusual at the time. Also, we had no television and few other outlets for creative leanings, so early on I became acquaint with the need to generate my own momentum.

Being an artist is a fairly solitary life so the ability to be self motivated as a child has come in useful ever since. I studied at Edinburgh College of Art, getting an honours degree in Drawing and Painting. I learnt little about art but a lot about myself. I kept painting, indifferently at times, but my work changed when I came across the paintings of the Canadian artist Tom Thomson, one of the ‘Group of Seven’. Since then I have painted in many remote parts of Northern Scotland, always carrying boards and canvases with me, not usually sketching but doing full scale paintings.

Once back in the studio, detached from the moment, they are reworked, manipulated, altered. Sometimes even left alone. Anything to make them work. I exhibit in a small selection of galleries. My principal outlet for expression is landscape, but image making is what appeals to me, so portraits and other stimuli often appear in my work.

           The Sound of many waters


This is a collection of paintings mainly sourced from a recent stay in Mangersta, on the South West corner of Lewis.


The title is taken from text from both the Old and New Testament; the book of Ezekiel and the book of Revelation*.Why? Firstly, because it fits the body of work. Also, it speaks of volume, weight, choral power, a coming together, a gathering.  Many, not one, yet sounding as one.

Most of the paintings were done on location. At times, the whole experience can feel like a trip to the theatre. I arrive, I wait. The performance hasn’t begun yet. Then, stage left, the drama unfolds (why is no one else watching?).

An audience of one, the way like it. The performance could almost be just for my benefit. Cataclysmic seas, blasting  gold light, sheet metal clouds, a dark engulfing, the pounding onslaught.

And the constant sense that this is Act One, Act Two has still to come. Richard Bergh, the Swedish essayist and painter said: ‘…in the North, art is not a product of happiness: it is a product of longing”. The source of that longing may vary -  Heaven, Eutopia, a Golden Age -  but the premise is accurate.  What’s around us is an unfolding,  a precursor, a forerunner, a hint, a prelude; or as is written on  each sign in everylay-bye in the Highlands, a Passing Place.

Part of the magnetic appeal of the sea is that it bears a universal imprint. It is always the same, yet it is never the same. A bit like us. Or like fire. Or music. Or an atom. We know what’s going to happen, yet when it happens, we are hooked. How can something so full of repetition be so rich in variation?

And then the retreat, the wayhome, pulling back, refuge from the barrage, from the saline sledgehammer, pile driving the broken headland.

What was that all about?

So here I am, trying. Trying what? Trying, with paint and canvas, to understand that there’s more. Then earness of it all.

Allan MacDonald

*(‘And the sound of his coming was like the sound of many waters.’ Ezekiel 42v2. Also; ‘I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the sound of many waters.Revelation 19v6).

Selected Exhibitions 

Untamed Tatha Gallery, Newport on Tay.   2020

Balavoulin Art Travel Award.   2019

Kilmorack Gallery, solo exhibition.   2019

Discerning Eye, Mall galleries, London 2019

Browns gallery, Tain, solo Exhibition.   2018]

Regional Prize, Discerning Eye, London   2017

Kilmorack Gallery, Group Exhibition.   2017

Arusha Gallery, Edinburgh, Joint Exhibition.   2017

Kilmorack Gallery, Joint Exhibition   2016

Residency from Rendezvous Gallery, Aberdeen  2016

Browns Gallery, Tain, Group Exhibition.   2015

Panter and Hall, London, Winter Exhibition   2015

Kilmorack Gallery, Joint Exhibition.   2014

Browns Gallery, Tain Solo exhibition.   2013

Directors Purchase Prize, Discerning Eye, London.   2012

Regional Prize, Discerning Eye, London.   2012