John Kinross Scholar in 1992
At the time of the Scholarship:
How did the experience affect you as an individual?
As a pupil of a comprehensive school, in an economically-depressed, post-industrial town, having learned no languages, or flown in an aeroplane, the award of the John Kinross Scholarship by the Royal Scottish Academy was daunting! Cabin pressure ensured that arriving deaf in the middle of a frenetic Florence was incredibly intimidating.
The experience opened up a fascinating new world of languages, of noise, vibrancy and colour, public performance and gesticulation; heat – and what seemed to me – constant sunshine! Immersed in a new culture, and out of necessity and desperation, I immediately learned Italian – with a Florentine accent. The John Kinross Scholarship gave an insight into a world of migration and diversity with more personal connectedness than I could have imagined, resulting in lasting friendships.
Florence is city of cultural wealth and continuity, where the dynamic practice of its artists, going back 1000 years occupies so much of the present. What I also found attractive was a world at its ease with its own cultural identity, possessing a quiet confidence, where the richness of the past is tangible and alive.
I wanted to attain that same confidence in viewing my own culture and personal outlook for my own practice.
To find that John Kinross himself was a product a dynamic and supportive cultural community – underrepresented in the history books – demonstrated to me that even the smallest gestures of encouragement have benefits for later generations.
What was the impact on your practice?
The immediate impact that the John Kinross Scholarship afforded me was the wealth of visual material Italy presented. The amount of architectural stimulus from which to paint and draw was majestic! Italy’s landscape – just as monumental and evocative as it is historical, is for me still a valuable visual resource for my painting. The Scholarship led to further study tours of Tuscany, Umbria, the Veneto; Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna and the Dolomites.
Studying in Italy made me aware of the context in which I specialised and that my practise had parallels in other cultures.
What I took from the experience was the quiet confidence exuded by Italian culture, of being at ease with the continuity of our own cultural legacy. The John Kinross Scholarship gave me the confidence in the cultural value of my practice, the space one occupies as an artist and connectedness within the wider European context.
In the 25 years following the Scholarship I have received a number of requests by galleries for work produced from my Italian studies. I participated in the Scottish Festival of Barga, and the painting festivals of Fabriano; and received commissions from the ex-patriate communities of Italy and Scotland.
What would you say the long term impact has been on yourself and your work?
The John Kinross Scholarship gave a sense of place and longevity, continuity and legacy; it made me aware of the connectedness of artists and the threads spun from previous generations. I gained a confidence in the distinctiveness of art from the north Atlantic corner of Europe, as well as the excitement from what is to be learned from opportunities of working and exhibiting abroad.
Over 25 years I have exercised the commitment to support and encourage Scottish art and artists through the Scottish exhibiting societies: curating exhibitions, raising of awards and sponsorship, writing about our lesser known artistic assets from which John Kinross himself emerged where a rich cultural legacy has been set in his name.
I want to express my huge personal gratitude to the Royal Scottish Academy and the son of John Kinross for the opportunities awarded to me through the John Kinross Scholarship, for the successes and exchanges it afforded me since undertaking the study!
Greek Thomson Gorbals, oil on Board