Joan Eardley, Clydebank Museum and Art Gallery, 5 June – 24th October
Situated in the brilliant, newly-renovated Clydebank Museum and Art Gallery are the collections of some of Joan Eardley’s most memorable and cherished works. This is an opportunity to see a collection otherwise scattered across different venues around Scotland. Accumulating pieces from West Dumbartonshire Council with many Scottish galleries including Edinburgh’s Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and Glasgow University’s Hunterian Museum, the four part exhibition takes the spectator through the different phases of Eardley’s career.
Beginning in Gallery 1 with the portraits of local children from Glasgow’s East-End, which Eardley created during her years living in Townhead during the 1950s and 60s, the works depict members of the Samson family whom Eardley was neighbour to during this time. The collection includes many of the most recognisable of her works including Boy on Stool, 1953 and Little Girl with a Squint, 1962 and demonstrates the genuine affection which Eardley had for the children.
The colourful, mischievous depictions of childhood are made more authentic by the additions of sweet wrappers and old newspaper clippings from street corners which are intertwined with the predominantly oil on canvas paintings. Eardley’s beautiful, warm and characteristic depictions of the working class neighbourhoods authentically portray the impoverished but cheerful community spirit of Glasgow’s East End and are accompanied by sketches which show Eardley’s studio studies.
Gallery 2 focuses on the contrasts between Eardley’s time travelling Italy and France in 1948 and her more familiar Glasgow street settings. Sketches of the Bridge of Sigh in Venice are hung alongside oil paintings of a Scottish sweet shop. From here the spectator is led into collections of works and studies of fishermen and seaside landscapes before finishing with a collection of large-scale countryside paintings both closely detailed and bursting with rich colour palettes.
Eardley’s work is full of heart, humility and spirit. Her capability for capturing both the beauty of Scottish countryside as well as the characteristics of urban society is made evident from the variety of works within the exhibition.
[Tara Fitzpatrick – @TFitzpatrick25]