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Issue 87 - Artist in Residence: Jon Scheuler

Scotland Magazine Issue 87
June 2016


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Artist in Residence: Jon Scheuler

Roddy Martine celebrates the work of the late Jon Schueler

Up until now it has been the purpose of Scotland Magazine's ‘Artist in Residence’ feature to draw attention to contemporary, living artists in Scotland. However, the recent exhibitions of the work of the late Jon Schueler at the University of Stirling and the Heritage Centre at Mallaig have happily prompted a renewed interest in his work, which we felt it important to highlight to our readers.

In May, an insightful symposium was held at Sabhal Mor Ostaig, the Gaelic college on the Isle of Skye, accompanied by a compelling selection of his oils and works on paper. For although Jon Schueler was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in the USA, it is for his dramatic depictions of the great skies of the West of Scotland that he will be forever recognised and admired at home and abroad.

Having graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1940, Jon originally set out to become a writer; but the Second World War intervened and he found himself serving as an American Army Air Corps navigator flying over France and Germany, out of Molesworth in England. Whatever that involved, it proved cathartic and when the war was over he soon moved to San Francisco from Los Angeles to enrol at the California School of Fine Arts, where he enthusiastically embraced Abstract Expressionism. The first exhibition of his work took place in 1954 at the Stable Gallery in New York.

However, it was to be in Scotland that he found his life's inspiration. Describing the period in Mallaig from 1957 to 1958 in his autobiography The Sound of Sleat: A Painter's Life, Jon wrote: “I turned to the south and saw the winter sun glowing in the snow cloud; strange image of light burning and dying through the shadows of a changing form. Though the sun was a winter sun, it translated itself in my mind to the most powerful and vibrant colours, reds, yellows, Indian yellows, or sometimes alizarin through blue.” After that first visit, he was determined to return but for various reasons found himself unable to do so until 1970. It was about that time that I encountered him at the Demarco Gallery in Edinburgh, a mecca for creative Scotland. An animated, gentle and engaging personality, I heard afterwards that he had found himself a spiritual base overlooking the Sound of Sleat, that restless body of Hebridean water that was to become the source of so much of his imagery and fantasies.

He had left behind the New York art world again as “A north wind blowing off the sea promised clarity. I wanted to live in the middle of one of my paintings for a year. I wanted to be in one spot and watch the painting change. I saw clouds menacing my mind's eye, and the rain shafts or the mist obliterating horizons and forming new forms with the clouds and landmasses blending with the sea. I chose northern Scotland as my cathedral, because for my needs at that moment, it seemed the only church that would do.” Jon kept a studio at Mallaig until his death in 1992. This year is the centennial of his birth and thanks to Magda Salvesen, his muse and the curator of his estate, his remarkable and powerful canvases are once again making their appearance across the landscape of big skies which he so loved and so poignantly captured in all of their magnificent moods.

Visitor Information

The Paintings of Jon Schueler can be seen at the following venues in Scotland.

Speaking of the Sky: Jon Schueler
Now - 30 July
University of Stirling

Jon Schueler: Sound of Sleat Reflections
Now - 29 October
Mallaig Heritage Centre

Skyscapes: A Centenary Celebration of Jon Schueler
25 June - 31 July
Inverness Museum & Art Gallery

6 August - 17 September The Thurso Gallery
1 - 29 October
Iona Gallery, Kingussie

Expression in Modern Art
Now - 11 September
Paisley Museum & Art Galleries

Schueler: Sea to Sky, Oils & Works on Paper
5 August - 18 September
Resipole Studios & Fine Art Gallery, Argyll

Throughout 2016 Schueler’s art will also be on display at the Museum of the Isles at Armadale Castle, Isle of Skye and at Kelvingrove Art Gallery, Glasgow.

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