One of Scotland’s greatest living artists has paid tribute to Joan Eardley on the 100th anniversary of her birth in 1921.
John Lowrie Morrison, more popularly known as Jolomo, was inspired by his compatriot, who created many memorable works, both in Glasgow and on the north-east coast at Catterline, before her premature death aged just 42.
Joan Eardley set up a studio in Glasgow
In 1949, Eardley set up a studio in the deprived and overcrowded Townhead area of Glasgow and, just a few years later, Jolomo was introduced to her work and was impressed by the striking paintings she was producing.
He recalled: “I first came across Joan and her paintings in the late 1950s when I was a pupil at Dowanhill Primary School on Highburgh Road in Glasgow’s West End.
“In Primary 7, we would have a lovely relaxed Friday afternoon – one week, we would go a few blocks down Byres Road to Church Street Baths, and on the alternate Friday, we would go into the depths of Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum where the wonderful Jean Irwin educated us in many genres of art and design and also geography, archeology and natural history.
“On one occasion, Miss Irwin showed us all a photograph/print of a Joan Eardley painting of Townhead children – I just loved the painting and will never forget the feeling that this artist was really special.
“Her work was just so expressive which made me a fan of her work because I had just discovered expressionism.”
‘Her work lit a flame in me’
“It made me all the more determined to become an expressionist painter.
“What really bowled me over though was going to see Joan’s memorial exhibition – again in Kelvingrove Art Gallery in late January 1964 – when quite a few us from Hyndland Secondary art department went along.
“During my first year at Glasgow School of Art, we had to copy an old master’s painting – I copied Joan’s 1958 work ‘Glasgow Children’ which Miss Irwin had showed us back in 1959.
“However, I then got into terrible bother with my tutor – she told me to destroy the Eardley copy immediately and paint a copy of a Manet.
“But I didn’t destroy it ”
“At the end of my time at the GSA in 1971, my tutor Geoff Squire took me in his old open-top Lagonda to see Joan Eardley’s studio in Townhead…a place which was waiting to be totally demolished.
“The studio was absolutely dreadful and the conditions in which she had worked were dank and horrible with some sketches still strewn on the floor.
“Geoff suggested I take some of the sketches home, but I couldn’t steal some of Joan’s work even though some of the drawings were just doodles and were soon to be consumed by the demolished building.”
Jolomo watched Joan’s studio being demolished
That memory has never left Jolomo after half a century, but he has been inspired by the bold fashion in which his predecessor lived and worked with a ferocious zeal and zest for life.
He, too, has become renowned for portraying the often mystical and mesmerising qualities of Scotland’s rugged coastline and his works have attracted the attention of many A-list figures, including pop stars Sting, Madonna and Simon Le Bon, actress Sophia Loren and chef Rick Stein.
But he still regards Eardley as one of his inspirations.
He added: “I remember that I went back down the spiral staircase and went out to the back court along with Geoff where we took some black-and-white photographs which I still have in my possession.
“The following week, I went back to McAslin Street and I watched Joan’s studio being demolished.
“I think what grabbed me and still does was not just her expressionist style, but also her fantastic use of colour. It’s what made me one of her fans”.
A new exhibition of Jolomo’s seascapes and other works, with an emphasis on storms, is on show at the Tolquhon Gallery near Ellon this month.
Further information can be found at tolquhon-gallery.co.uk