25 June - 27 July 2021
The Royal Scottish Academy is pleased to present Hindsight, an exhibition of new paintings by Francis Convery RSA. Focusing on 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.
Whilst Convery trained as an observational painter, 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.
Although not immediately obvious, 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’.
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.
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 a use of pattern, decorative shape and collage that perhaps betrays the influence of the famous textile trade of his hometown of Paisley. In The Hammock Convery suggests the serenity of the waterside setting with a gentle rippling pattern that contrasts strikingly with the impasto painting of the tree trunks and the collaged fence below. Convery’s championing of these mixed media techniques in painting has had considerable influence on younger generations of artists emerging from Gray’s School of Art, Aberdeen, where he was Head of Painting for 14 years.
Speaking about this new body of work, Convery has said: ‘Though my paintings feature elements of realism: recognisable shapes, environments, colour, tone, form, compositional geometry and relative scale; they are clearly paintings which reference a nuanced and subjective reality, while exploring a painting process. They are arrived at after lengthy revision, where some form of “hindsight” begins to emerge for me and I recognise how it should be resolved.’