In a first for Scotland’s provincial art galleries, Maspie House Gallery in Falkland will host a remarkable collection of paintings from revered Scottish artist Bill Gillon. With some artworks being premiered for the first time anywhere and others enjoying their initial showing outside of Edinburgh, the exhibition is expected to attract art lovers and enthusiasts from across the country.
The show opens on Thursday 22 October in the historic Fife town and will feature 10 pieces from the reclusive painter who now suffers from Alzheimer’s and no longer paints. Focussing on his work from the late 1980s up to the noughties, the show will illustrate Gillon’s eclectic style, deft skills and varied inspirations that stirred him to create some of his most powerful work.
“Bill Gillon’s work is contentious and beautiful, and we are extremely excited to be premiering this collection in Fife,” said John McLaren, owner of Maspie House. “Until recently, Bill’s work has remained elusive, much like the man himself, so when the opportunity arose to display his paintings, we jumped at the chance. Maspie House has a reputation for showcasing some of Scotland’s most admired artists, and with this special exhibition of Bill’s work, we are looking forward to displaying some of his never-before-seen paintings.”
Four years ago, many of Gillon’s works were unearthed for the first time when his family assumed responsibility for his estate following the onset of Alzheimer’s. Today, his children Stephen and Nick along with Nick’s partner Barbra curate the collection which covers 50 years of their father’s unyielding devotion to his craft.
“He lived alone for 40 years in a big Victorian flat,” explained Stephen Gillon. “When we went to clean it, there were rooms that couldn’t be opened because of the amount of work that was stored inside. There was about 400 pieces and a reasonable number of them had never been seen before. It took months to clear the house.”
To give his father’s work the recognition it deserves, Stephen committed himself to showcasing the artworks starting with an open viewing earlier this year and an exhibition at The Scottish Arts Club in Edinburgh. The latest chapter in his campaign has resulted in the show at Maspie House Gallery, which is run by husband and wife team McLaren and Peta Hay.
“What impressed me and made us go to Maspie Gallery was their attitude,” explained Stephen. “They were so interested in my dad’s work and had such a different take on it. When I first met John, he was so enthusiastic. My old man didn’t like many people, but he would like them.”
Despite his role as a committed art teacher at various Edinburgh schools and colleges and his tenure as president of the Society of Scottish Artists between 1983 and 1986, Gillon had increasingly shied away from public engagements before suffering a suspected stroke four years ago. As a result, his work has often been difficult to view making the exhibition at Maspie House Gallery all the more prevalent.
“Bill Gillon is one of those artists who, for various reasons, has remained under the radar despite his talents,” said McLaren. “To premier some of his work in Falkland is a real honour and we hope the show will not only draw attention to his insightful and often powerful imagery, but also shine a spotlight on Alzheimer’s and the devastating affect it can have.”
Throughout the exhibition, 50% of the profits will be donated to Alzheimer Scotland.