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Issue 82 - Artist in Residence

Scotland Magazine Issue 82
August 2015

 

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Artist in Residence

A series in which Scotland Magazine celebrates Scotland's artists and artisans. Roddy Martine meets Andrew Hillhouse

Sometimes you come across a major talent almost by accident, and it was on a visit to Cockenzie House and Gardens in East Lothian that I was diverted to an exhibition of acrylic paintings by Andrew Hillhouse.

Of course, the moment I saw them I realised that they were familiar. I had already seen his
The Battle of Bannockburn on display at the Smith Art Gallery and Museum in Stirling; also, The Battle of Prestonpans – The surrender of Cockenzie House, hangs over the fireplace at Cockenzie.

More fool me, I had somehow culpably assumed from their distinctive style and incredible detail that they were the work of a distant provenance. It never occurred to me, nor was I told at the time, that the artist was living and working nearby in East Lothian.

Andrew Hillhouse was born in Prestonpans and still lives locally. More to the point, his day job is as a technician in the School of Landscape Architecture, ESALA, Edinburgh University. Along with being a musician and playing in bands, he considers drawing and painting to be a hobby.

Some hobby! Using watercolours and acrylic, he some years ago began to experiment with perspective and working on grids which were essential for large battle scenes. “Patience rather than talent,” he insists modestly. “You have to be prepared to put in the time.”

To begin with his illustrations were used for book and CD covers, advertisements and publicity marketing material. However, as his portfolio grew so did his reputation and in 2010, the Battle of Prestongrange 1745 Battle Trust commissioned him to revisit the most famous scenes from the 1745 Uprising.

The results are spectacular in their accuracy, nothing spared, the full turmoil and drama of these life changing iconoclastic events played out to the full.

Naturally Andrew has his heroes and not least among them is William Wallace. “His actual story is so much better than it is in fiction,” he observes, and alongside
The Battle of Stirling Bridge, Andrew has celebrated the spirit of the man with a series of powerful images, some of which are in black and white. Another hero is the Black Douglas. “I was on holiday in Andalucia and was able to visit Teba, where Sir James died fighting the Saracens on his pilgrimage to the Holy Land with Robert the Bruce's heart. It's so good that they have a memorial to him in the middle of Spain.

“Everyone in my pictures is remarkable,” he reflects. “People talk about the romance of history but they never stop to consider just how brutal and violent everyday existence was for the people who fought in those battles. You had to be incredibly strong and determined just to survive.”

Yet Andrew is himself clearly influenced by the romance not only of long ago events, but of Scotland's landscape, as can be seen with his evocative paintings of Glencoe, Eilean Donan and Tioram castles and Elgol, Loch Scavaig on Skye.

“As an enthusiastic hill walker and climber, I always read up on where I'm going before I set off,” he explains. “In every glen you drive through in the Highlands there is a story and you really feel it. This happened here. It’s real!

“I love the way that in Scotland you are never more than an hour from solitude,” he concludes. “When you feel the heat going out of the rocks at the end of a day, that's when the past comes to life.”

PICTURE CAPTIONS

The Prince in the Heather
After defeat at the Battle of Culloden, Charles Edward Stuart, Bonnie Prince Charlie, became a fugitive, hunted all over the Scottish Highlands and Islands for six months. The price of £30,000 (an enormous amount for the period) was put on his head, but no highlander betrayed him; many, indeed, risked life and limb to assist or shelter him. At Elgol, south west Skye, he was sheltered in the house of Captain John Mackinnon. Here loyal clansmen keep a close watch on Government ships scouring the coastline of Loch Scavaig for the Prince. In the distance, the lofty heights of the Cuillin ridge loom over the beautiful
Loch Coruisk.

Generals of the Army of Scotland – Andrew de Moray and William Wallace.
After the capitulation of the Scottish nobility and aristocracy to English forces at Irvine, young hotheads Andrew de Moray and William Wallace were the only effective Scottish commanders left in the field. Here they are shown deploying their combined troops from the vantage point atop the Abbey Craig onto the flood plain surrounding Stirling Bridge on the morning of 11 September 1297. Shortly, they would face and defeat a vastly superior English host and earn their place in history.
www.andrewhillhouseprints.co.uk
aahillhouse@sky.com