Francis Convery: Hindsight 27 June 2021 – 25 July 2021

The Academicians’ Gallery, Royal Scottish Academy of Art & Architecture, The Mound, Edinburgh

Francis Convery RSA (2021) Black Isle, mixed media on canvas 102 x 154 cm. This work is framed in a grey stained wood frame.

The Royal Scottish Academy is currently presenting Hindsight, an exhibition of new paintings by Francis Convery RSA. This exhibition has focused upon the process of constant revision towards resolution that underlies Convery’s practice, Hindsight explores the sense of flux that defines these vivid paintings of the Scottish landscape.

During the artists talk on Wednesday 7th July, 7pm via a Zoom webinar the artist discussed and fully reflected upon his work. There was acknowledgement of being an observational painter, as he often works without any visual references, drawing on the changeability of the rural Angus landscape that surrounds his studio. The paintings evoke the ever-changing face of this north-easterly landscape, with figures often caught in moments of transience: crossing a foot bridge or resting in the shade of the forest canopy. In paintings like Black Isle Convery conjures a strong sense of place with abstracted shapes which hint at the soft curves of the coastline which I particularly like. On seeing the exhibition in the flesh, I could appreciate the artists technique up close to see the layering effects of paint and the expressive quality of the imagery, of its capacity to evoke emotion. Convery’s paintings tend to be characterised by a colourist sensibility and changeable form.

For Convery the paintings in this exhibition are a product of the upheavals of the last 18 months. Even though Convery’s daily routine at his rural studio has continued relatively unaffected, the series titled Working from Home shows that recent societal changes are permeating his subject matter. Another series reflects on the floods on the River Dee in October 2020 which Convery describes as ‘shocking in their suddenness, adding to a local experience that was increasingly like a Biblical epic: the plague… now the flood’.

Francis Convery RSA (2021) Freewheeling (Deeside Cycle Path). Mixed media on canvas 200 x 140cm. The artist continued to work successfully from home throughout the pandemic.

Drawn to this altered ‘water world,’ Convery sought objective observation in this newly unfamiliar landscape. Throughout the exhibition, a sense of change and fluidity in daily life is present, with Convery’s sense of ‘hindsight’ constantly underwriting this notion. Relying on intuition, rapid revisions, painted, with swathes of paint, sweet harmonies and explosive, contrasts, his paintings are captured recollections, full of colour and life, within swathes of evocative and stimulating ranges of colour to encapsulate life… I felt drawn to the intuitive nature of his approach to painting, of his ability to construct a narrative layer by layer through textural mark making with innately organic and  instinctive relating.

Francis Convery RSA (2020) Flood 2 Mixed media on canvas 50 x 60 cm. Framed in a grey stained wood frame.

Convery is an intuitive painter, interweaving the shapes, textures, and colours of the landscape with a gestural touch that relates to the abstracted lines of the Edinburgh School, namely William Gillies RSA and Robin Philipson PPRSA, but also to the bold colours of John Bellany HRSA and Alan Davie HRSA. However, the elegance of Convery’s composition defines his style. Often using a geometry of serpentine trees to add lofty verticality or bridges and paths to bring strong diagonal thrust, Convery marks out a stage set for each scene. Reminiscent of Uccello and the Renaissance masters, this depth of field renders the viewer surrounded, wholly engulfed by the ethereal landscape.

Also particular to Convery’s style is the use of pattern, decorative shape and collage which seemed to resonant with me, of the influence of the famous textile trade of his hometown of Paisley. The artists use of collage, pattern and shape were specifically appealing given my own creative practice in textiles.  Convery very much champions the use of these mixed media techniques in painting which has had a considerable impact on other artists and continues to influence younger generations of artists across several disciplines beyond painting into textiles and mixed media. I was struck with his relationship to painting, of the use of both his emotional state and sense of place to realise his thoughts and processes, of nature reclaiming environments, of a pattern of work increasingly based upon abstract expressionism. 

Francis Convery RSA (2020) Flood 3 Mixed media on canvas 60 x 50 cm. Framed in a grey stained wood frame.

Francis Convery reflected upon his relationship with the RSA, of the first time he exhibited at the RSA while still an art student at Edinburgh College of Art and how he has continued to exhibit annually thereafter to present day. He then spoke of how he felt honoured in doing so, of challenging himself to produce his best work as he considered such exhibition opportunities to be a highlight for him coupled with his enduring affinity with the annual exhibitions at the RSA. The artist spoke of his sense of responsibility to produce good work which entails many months of reflection and painting to ensure his work is properly resolved, sufficiently distilled yet accessible as a visualisation, but neither literal or illustrative, which captures a real sense of him, his experiencing and who he is.

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