• Tony Davidson

Question and Answer for Artyfacts Magazine

Updated: Aug 14

This is a question and answer piece for 'Artyfacts,' the magazine for a local art's organisation. It's always nice to be asked questions.

How did you come to open an art gallery here at Kilmorack?

It’s all to do with love: love of Kilmorack, love of this beautiful old building and love of what art can do. Love and art are both life forces. Being young and a little crazy must have helped too, and back in the 1990s I was looking for a focus. Opening the gallery was like finding a pair of trousers that fitted perfectly. I’ve never taken them off. It’s has become a life mission since then.

The building is beautiful and provides such a sympathetic space in which to exhibit both paintings and sculpture. Did you recognise its potential straight away?

Like I said, it was love at first sight, but with deep pink walls and windows on all four sides, it isn’t an easy place to hang paintings. Work needs to be strong to look good in this powerful space. Over the last twenty-five years I have become increasingly aware of a geometry at the heart of the building’s architecture, and this creates a structure that also exists in all the best painting and sculpture. We, and all of nature, are influence by the harmony of mathematical beauty.

How has the gallery evolved over its 25 years?

So much has changed in twenty-five years. There are far fewer embossed letters from Viscounts, the things of an analogue world, and far more technological pings. Art is about remembering this analogue world and what is important, and so in many ways the reason for Kilmorack has become more urgent over time. The gallery has matured, and my boyish charm replaced with a more rugged look. I’m happy with these changes as long as we aim to leave the world a more beautiful place. The gallery feels very globally connected nowadays, but it never felt isolated.

During most of Lockdown, galleries had to remain closed. How did you manage to keep Kilmorack Gallery going during this difficult time?

My first camera was my mother’s wartime box brownie and it hung down below my knees, so I have always been a good photographer. Kilmorack Gallery is a surprisingly high-tech place and I have invested heavily in this over the years, especially in learning to understand what technology can offer, and his has been crucial. Over lockdown I just worked hard to find new ways of doing things. It seemed to me that Covid was just one thread in a shifting world.

Who are your buyers and where do they come from?

Everywhere and nowhere. You never know who will walk through the door, but it’s always good to see a long-term local friend of Kilmorack. It is also good to see a short-term far-flung friend too. I have learned to expect the unexpected.

Is the gallery only for those who want to spend money or do you welcome visitors who just want to enjoy the exhibitions?

Yes, people interested in seeing work and not buying are always welcome. It would be very wrong if access to what is under Kilmorack roof – brilliant paintings and sculpture - is only for the well-healed. But I do get a little bad-tempered if I am asked ‘how much is the bubble wrap.’ The thrill of running the gallery doesn’t come from money but from understanding and sharing.

Are there any artists or specific pieces of work that stand out for you over the years?

Gerald Laing is very much missed. Everyone else is still evolving. It is the little moments that stand out: a shaft of light in a show of Lotte Glob’s books and Peter White’s heads, the tick from the float inside Helen Denerley’s sacred cow, the thrill in turning the gallery over to one artist. There are so many of these moments.

It is noticeable that artists return to exhibit with you year after year. How does this change the relationship you have with them and their work?

Hopefully all the gallery’s relationships with artists are long-term. I constantly think of the next step, so every exhibition embraces the past, looks to the future and lives in the present. Today I’m planning next year’s exhibitions, and this is an ever-present thought.

What can we see in the gallery at the moment?

It’s best to look at the website. It changes daily and you can sign up for updates.

And what do you have planned for this autumn?

A show of Allan MacDonald’s Tom Thomson inspired Canadian paintings is the big show. This opens in early September, but there’s much more happening all the time. Again, it is best to go to the gallery’s website and sign up if you like it.

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