Those familiar with Primrose’s work will know what to expect and will not be disappointed by the range and quality of works on display. Although best known for his large and medium-format oils of Edinburgh cityscapes beneath skies aching with dramatic luminosity and beautifully rendered tones, Primrose has also added a larger number of his monochromatic ink-based works into the exhibition. Mostly featuring the streets of the northern New Town, where he was brought up and now works, these evocative studies capture the sweeping architecture and cobbled streets of the district, with washes of ink seeping together to create watery, shimmering skies.
Together, the two formats call and respond to each other from the gallery’s walls, the oils glowing with emotive colour as the more subdued inked pieces quietly reminisce on Edinburgh’s grandeur and austere beauty.
I was fortunate enough to be able to speak to Primrose at the exhibition, and asked him a little about his inspiration, techniques and success in the art world.
Although he has no favoured medium or subject matter, he did express a particular fondness for his india ink works. Each street depicted means something personally to him and – whilst they may present a romanticised view of their locales – they are intended to stand on their own merits and are not merely studies for his oil works. Indeed, he has found these pieces have sold well, both to locals who appreciate their provenance; and to collectors overseas.
Primrose has a butterfly collectorish approach to capturing the Edinburgh light, recognising that nuances of colour and form are fleeting things which may vanish in an instant. For that reason, he takes reference photographs, often concentrating his efforts during dawn and dusk of the winter months when the light is at its most enigmatic. From his collected shots, he then assembles compositions in his mind’s eye, using the photographs primarily for contextual architectural details or for a particular shape of cloud or ray of light.He’ll take time on his larger pieces to ensure that the details are correct and discernible, then take a step back to ensure that the context is not lost underneath his beautifully-painted skies. And when you, as a viewer, do the same, you appreciate all the elements that go together to make the whole – something accentuated even more by seeing his works together. Well curated by the artist himself, the pieces are grouped together into themes of colour or subject, and the effect is striking and appealing.
When I asked if he had any pangs of regret when he thought of such ensembles being split up when his works are sold, he revealed that some of his patrons buy several of his pieces together. And as he personally delivers many of his pieces to their buyers, he has the luxury of seeing them in situ, something which satisfies the bond he rightly feels with his art.
With an established and distinct style, I wondered how he felt when he heard one of works being referenced as “a Primrose”. Whilst he didn’t deny he enjoyed such recognition, he modestly went on to explain this was not as a result of any conscious effort on his part. Instead, he paints what he appreciates most – the ephemeral and uniquely beautiful Scottish light – and his work has developed naturally as a result.
With his unmistakable style and modest, affable manner, Primrose deserves his critical and commercial success and Twilight Hues is an exhibition definitely worth catching before it departs the Dundas Street Gallery on Saturday 14th November.