John Slavin Art


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John SlavinJohn Slavin



Excerpts from letters 19 August 2019 and 15 Sept 2019:

'There is not only the surface reality, the finished image.  Deep within my heart and soul the roots and the treasure troves are buried with the dead whose views on the world and work are still very active and come to life when the mind is open and at prayer.  I am seeking to bring together my ten years of drawing in this concerted effort.  Nothing has been wasted, the value judging applies only when something really good appears.  I am constrained by material concerns, brushes, cloths, turps, medium, and these materials are the key to the sublime image.  I laid down rules, monochrome sketches, the best of which have worked, but a new painted series of them was too drawn and detailed; when I proceeded to the colour stage I lost the preparation and began wading in paint, one expressionist dawn took three days before it turned to black.  Yet pristine simplicity is not out of my grasp and I am purging my practice of many unwanted habits.

The template for this suite is the iron grey snow-storm distant upon the mountains in March, when it was completed.  A simple live drawing transferred in oil monochrome then varnished in colour.  A million meditations upon it have been made, it’s the stuff that songs are made of, an age of wonder, a season to itself.  Perhaps I will thrive like this, nourished, guided, enlightening myself with the simplest of practices.  But I can only paint from what I am, if the idiot of existence takes over it’s worth nothing, I make demands only of my sage, my pilgrim, my poet.  Happily, I have the Greek gods completed, these current landscapes I am treating as codas but they may be overtures.'

'On the 10th of September I found myself once again at the roadside hitch-hiking.  I got up the high valley of the Aude in sunshine and arriving at Rennes les Bains walked the ancient Roman way up to the foot of Cardou.  I came round on a hooked path in the forest, my pack not too heavy, but it was already about half four by the sun and a veil of cloud was coming from the west to meet it as I climbed and climbed on the old familiar pathways which leave Cardou peak and go along the deeply forested crest above, on one side the Gorge of Bezis and on the other the forests of Sougraine.

Time of a past nature was at my feet and the restrained light and the dense woods kept me very much within my own world, as if walking here was a permanent state, like being in painting.  The nature of being spoke to me quietly, knowing that despite the intense work completed (40 paintings since March) the only way to exist is to walk into the work.  Atmosphere, gloom, coming Autumn, conspired to weight my contemplation with the eternal and the familiar I paused, swung off the pack and , sweating, took out my notebook to make a drawing where the high pine cleared and I could see across the hills and valleys to the chain of saw-toothed peaks, sinking into evening.  The rain, forecast for 9pm that evening did not come until I was safely at Irving’s and was heralded by silent lightning at 4am.  Clouds formed and dissolved above the mountains as I swiftly drew and the drawing, the first of three, went to make the painting: ‘September Rain’, an olive brown, dull study, quietly graceful.  But I must stop laying on the oil if I am to pack them now. To continue I swept up into highest beechwoods, all either side was forest dark with the earth’s receptivity to the low heavens,  responsive, silent and vast.  What is one more evening to the world?  To me it’s a chance to see and feel and note.  Time is not numbered, the coming rain was the re-appearance of an archetype, stooping in like an angel of memory itself, potent and present.  And at the end of the road, if I made it, there would be firelight.  I hungered for the glint of wood flame as if it was gold; precious undulations of life’s value, tongues of personal communication.  So, nightfall and the present all around me, the hearth interior to my walk, I left the wood and came out where two high farms perch on rolling hills and saw all the mountains, violet beneath grey and in the west – unfurled gashes of orange pink where summer itself was ending that evening.  I had climbed very quickly, now my legs were giving out.  It was miles down to the road to Fourtou and from there miles further and now it was almost dark.

In these spaces and times between paintings I seem to be voyaging from star to star.  I look at the mountains and think of tomorrow and yesterday and my heart breaks to see the night veil away the rising moon as if the decision has been made – strand him, cut off the senses, block the inspiration.  But I am awake when I should sleep, in company when I am alone and my dreams are of painting.  The mountains saddened me, I saw their temporary side, or was it that summer is temporary?  A kind man took me right to Irving’s roadway, I went up and round and found the firelight of the dream and we talked until morning in easy chairs with tea.'



Born 3/2/1956 in Falkirk.  John Slavin attended Edinburgh College of Art 1975-1980 and studied in the School of Drawing and Painting under Denis Peploe and the celebrated painters Sir Robin Philipson and Dame Elizabeth Blackadder.

From 1995 John was exhibiting as a landscape artist painter on the Isle of Skye.  In 2010 he started making annual pilgrimages to the Pyrenees Orientales, Occitania, where he has been creating landscape paintings.  In 2018 John began new work in figurative drawing and painting derived from his poetic translations of traditional Traveller stories, the wonder tales of Duncan Williamson.  Most recently Classical myth and Greek epic have been his main subjects.


Exhibition History

7 July-30 July 2017Resipole Fine Art Studios, The Skye Suites, shared exhibition of original oil paintings
27 July-8 Aug 2020The Resilient Self, Espacio Gallery
1 Feb-16 Feb 2019'Painting the Wonder Tales' in The Scottish Storytelling Centre; legacy of Traveller Storyteller Duncan Williamson (1928-2007)
3 Dec-28 Jan 2017'Winterescence' at Doubtfire Gallery exhibition of 14 artists to celebrate Scottish winter
23 July-25 Sept 2016'Par Nature', French exhibition of 7 artists at Galerie, Grand Rue, 11190 Bugarach, France
May 2016 on-goingAndorra online exhibition at
Jan-Feb 2015Visual Arts Scotland:Transforming
Jan-Feb 2014End of Winter at Doubtfire Art Gallery, Stockbridge
Nov 2014-Jan 2015RSA Exhibition of Fine Art
Feb-Mar 2014'John Slavin: New Works' at The Sutton Gallery, Edinburgh EH3 6HZ
Nov-Dec 2013The Sutton Gallery: Winter Exhibition, Edinburgh EH3 6HZ
Nov 2013-Jan 2014Royal Scottish Academy: Open Exhibition at The Mound, Edinburgh
15-29 June 2013'Pyrenean Landscapes' at the Sutton Gallery, Leicester
2-17 Mar 2013'The Art of John Slavin' at Collingwood College, Durham University presented by The Sutton Gallery
Dec 2012-Jan 2013'A Doubtfire Winter', Doubtfire Gallery, Edinburgh
Nov 2012-Jan 2013Royal Scottish Academy of Fine Art, RSA, Edinburgh
Nov-Dec 2012'Salt River Sacred Mountain' at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh; A Pilgrimage to the Pyrenees
July-Aug 2012'Imaginary Summers' at Doubtfire Gallery, Edinburgh
Sept-Oct 2011'Cascades of the Upside Down Mountain' at the Scottish Storytelling Centre. Narrative Landscape Painting
Mar 2010Glasgow Art Fair
Feb 2010Eastwood Park Theatre, Giffnock, East Renfrew Council
Aug 2009Plockton Hall, Lochalsh; Isle of Skye original paintings exhibited with fellow Skye artist Jane Mackenna