Major retrospective celebrates life of visual artist Stuart MacDonald

Stuart MacDonald
Stuart MacDonald

A major retrospective exhibition is taking place to celebrate the life and work of the late Scottish visual artist Professor Stuart MacDonald OBE.

The exhibition is entitled Stuart MacDonald Studio 203 Revisited, in reference to the Wasps studio where he painted at The Briggait in Glasgow.

Professor MacDonald was a renowned educator and champion of the arts as well as being a talented painter. For almost half a century, he had been involved with the creative life of Scotland, as an artist, a teacher, director, head of art school, educationalist and policy maker. MacDonald was a powerful force in promoting Scotland’s creative talent both at home and on the international stage.

He was also a board member of Wasps, the charity and social enterprise, which provides affordable studio space for artists, creative people and organisations, all across Scotland.

Curated by the MacDonald family, with support and advice from the Wasps team, the exhibition takes place in the main hall of The Briggait until November 15.

The exhibition will feature early to late works, spanning the period between his first group show in 1969 and his last exhibition, which was to be a two man show in Aberdeen with Professor Alan Robb OBE.

Professor MacDonald’s work was mainly abstract, using wide-ranging colour fields. These combine ideas and images that create a pictorial narrative and reflect a personal response to the real and the metaphysical world.

His paintings make use of familiar symbols and historical references brought together with a hard won mastery of his craft. His last paintings, were a series of what he referred to as “tableaus” which were symbolic still lives. His work utilized a beautiful painterly language, making reference to space and architecture.

A statement from the family said: “Art was at the centre of Stuart’s being. It informed his thoughts and beliefs about the world and the questions he considered in his own practice. In every house he built a studio and, at home or abroad, he made drawings or studies regardless of time or place.”

Professor MacDonald was director of The Lighthouse, Scotland’s centre for architecture, design and the city, from 1998 to 2006. For the next three years, until retirement, he was Head of Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen.

He also had a Wasps studio in Aberdeen from 2006 to 2009.

Stuart MacDonald 2In addition to writing articles, books and policies on art, design and education Prof. MacDonald jointly penned many strategies such as Shaping Scotland (The Festival of Architecture 2016 strategy commissioned by The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland). He was also involved with the journals of organisations including NSEAD (The National Society for Education in Art and Design) and INSEA (the International Society for Education through Art).

After retirement he became Emeritus Professor of Creative Industries at the Robert Gordon University and a director of Creative Frontline, his consultancy specialising in creativity, design and innovation.

Andrew Burrell, the chair of Wasps, said: “Stuart had an endless enthusiasm for the arts – achieving a huge amount for Scotland and leaving an enduring legacy.

“He was a very talented artist who became a studio holder at The Briggait shortly after its regeneration in 2010.

“Studio 203 was a place where he loved to spend time and develop his own practice, so we are very pleased to be able to host this retrospective, which will offer insights into the life and work of a man who achieved so much and was a friend and mentor to so many.”

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