David Grossart’s exhibition of paintings and sculptures at the Dundas Street Gallery encapsulates the artist’s diverse style, influences and thematic subjects. Whilst his paintings pulse with colour and fractious abstraction, his found-object sculptures evoke power and at times a playfulness which make them unique and rewarding.
Grossart originally studied and embarked upon a legal career before quickly succumbing to the need to express himself more creatively. In 1996, he embarked upon a career change that saw him study at the Leith School of Art and the ECA before leaving the latter after seven weeks to persue his own path. To date, his work has featured in several exhibition all over Scotland and his patrons include private collectors in Europe and America and the corporate collection of the Royal Bank of Scotland.
At first glance, Grossart’s paintings seem unconnected in style, either echoing the works of the post-Impressionists or early abstract artists such as Kandinsky and Klee. On closer examination, they reveal deeper layers of connection, whether in repeated thematic motifs such as musical instruments or figures holding fans; or in colour combinations and compositions which shine from their canvases like stained glass windows backlit by bright sunlight.
Grossart’s painted works on display fit broadly into three categories. His realist and self-admittedly more personal works are largely made up of portraiture, either of himself or of family and friends. These have a style in common with the post-Impressionists, and incorporate large blocks of colour and bold lines to depict the sitters in natural, informal poses. A smaller selection of works fit into a second category, one inspired by religious icons and symbolism. Here, his expressionistic oil works are accentuated by gold-leaf halos which give them a spiritual significance, although – as he explained to me whilst discussing his inspiration – also a very personal one.
Lastly, and most represented at this, his second Dundas Street solo exhibition, are his intense and kaleidoscopic abstract works. Although Grossart has an apprectiation for all styles of art and does not follow or emulate any one particular movement, he admits a Kandinsky influence in these pieces, yet – particularly when viewed as a group – they exhibit a unique and individual style of Grossart’s own. These works are also mostly portraits, but here realism is made to make way for suggestion, with colour and geometric form outlining featureless, impersonal figures.
In addition to his painted works, the exhibition also features a collection of his sculptural pieces. Once again, at first glance these appear stylistically and thematically opposed to his paintings, yet Grossart’s hand can be discerned in them all on closer study. Most of the pieces are composed from found objects, mainly things washed up on Scottish beaches or discovered in his parents’ house. Some, like the striking Christ Figure assembled from rope, wood and a cricket bat, resemble African totem objects and are as such cousins to his iconographic painted work. One piece, a wooden assemblage of angular lines and points, echoes shapes and form of the Bauhaus and is a comfortable companion to his painted work inspired by similar sources.
Most striking of all his sculptures however are his bird pieces. Whilst still being made from found objects, these are more realistic in style and elegantly evoke their subject matter’s grace, power and poise in dramatic pieces which dominate the space in which they are exhibited. Most compelling of all is his owl piece – assembled from rope, wood and a distressed margarine tub lid – which swoops down from a corner of the gallery, talons outstretched in an evocative, predatory and immediately compelling pose. Although not exhibited, he showed me photographs of some of his other avian sculptures, each of which displayed the same understanding of form and subject matter and – as he agreed – which would make for an excellent themed exhibition in the future.
Grossart’s exhibition allowed him to display a wide and diverse range, yet one which is most definitely the work of one artist. His work is immediately appealing, yet also rewards deeper reflection and appreciation. I look forward to seeing what comes out of his Edinburgh-based studio in the future.