John Slavin


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John SlavinJohn Slavin




Painting conveys an understanding of Nature, her energies, rhythms and moods more than any other artwork; it seems to spring from a profound link between the Earth and the artist.  I feel I am open enough to channel the harmonious universality of nature through brush work.  My surname 'Slavin' is probably of Old Irish origin denoting sliabh, a mountain.  Without a doubt, the splendid stature and magnificent bearing of the Scottish Highlands, home of my ancestors, finds heartfelt expression in the core of my early, expressionist work.

Now in my art, paintings of the Pyrenees Orientales, I have tried to capture the soul of the mountain.  On one particular mountain which was victim to the most unpaintable sunsets and undrawably detailed cloud moonrises, I met a mole.  So great was the feeling of envy which I as a painter bathing in the most vivid of colours felt for this blackest subterranean creature that I felt I had met the seed of my opposite.  And that the mole without eyes in his chamber of soil was the one who could see forever the sun and the moon and all the exploding nebulae.  Whereas I with my blankest paper to confront was an artificial construct of my own brain.  On another mountain I saw the eagle wheel and his presence raised up the rocks but did not form them into a defense for the refugees of crusade.  One gesture of an eagle’s wing has the power to lift the greatest of boulders from a lower level to a higher, just as a conductor’s wand may induce from an orchestra the most beautiful of notions. 

On yet another mountain I heard in the autumn the baying of the hounds and the sounding of the hunter’s horn.  The crash of the wild boar climbing at a run away from his pursuit was power enough to suggest that I who would climb snows to blind cloud would be lucky enough to escape with a few tattered drawings.  And so the years turned to their wheel and gradually I revisited places separated from themselves by the seasons.  Nature spoke truth in contradictions.  I saw red beech leaves in the spring because storm and snow had turned the newborn instantly to the ancient with one withering breath.  Where there had been snow and mist now shone rock and mirage.  Rivers dried as they do in the old ballads when love is forsaken.  I bathed in hot springs that flowed from the earth’s side.  I discovered a river whose water was four times saltier than the sea. 

Shunning always the constructs of man I was showered by the mystery of nature.  From the sand of the seashore across the baking expanse of Mediterranean coastline, it was difficult to distinguish radiant thundercloud from highest mountain top.  Drawing continuously the very rocks became transparent and the solid nature which the boot sole expects under the pen became fluidly insubstantial.  Now the dragon of vision had caught up with me and I was in its claws.  Yet there is little profit in being destroyed no matter how beautiful one’s destroyer.  Using the humble donkey as an example I managed to stop dead and let the whole circus proceed as it would without my humble artistry.

The response of a castle builder to a mountain is legitimate.  The response of a painter to a mountain no less so.  Had it not been for the transmutation of energy, the Cathars would not have walked into the pyre, the troubadour would not have been inspired to wander.   The song, the mountain, the painting fall into death if regarded as inert matter.  They cannot stay.  Even we whose souls inhabit them cannot stay.  Like the river, like the cloud, like the mountain, our nature will change given astronomical measures in which to play.

Join with me on this pilgrimage, through mountain, gorge, across fierce rock, deep forest and eternal snow to arrive at the place above precipices.  The way is familiar -- through enchanted story, through song, through the sonority of truth.  The dangers are immense and the rewards only as we ourselves evaluate them, but there are exceptional human beings and there is love which has no capacity.  From the wilderness then, fuelled by song and spirit, the pilgrim arrives never at anything other than the vision of his own heart.





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 the celebrated painters Sir Robin Philipson and Dame Elizabeth Blackadder.  Landscape painter on the Isle of Skye now working in the Pyrenees.

Exhibition History

3 Dec - 28 Jan 2017Winterescence, a warm and bright counterpoise to the chill and shade of winter, exhibition of 14 artists to celebrate Scottish winter
23 July - 25 Sept 2016Par Nature, exhibition of 7 artists at Galerie, Grand Rue, 11190 Bugarach, France
May 2016Andorra 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: Paintings by John Slavin' at the Sutton Gallery, Leicester
2 - 17 March 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: Pilgrimage to the Pyrenees', Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh
July - Aug 2012'Imaginary Summers' at Doubtfire Gallery, Edinburgh
Sept - Oct 2011'Cascades of the Upside Down Mountain. Narrative Landscape Painting' at Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh
March 2010Glasgow Art Fair
Feb 2010Eastwood Park Theatre, Giffnock, East Renfrew Council
Aug 2009Plockton Hall, Lochalsh