Coastal scenes at heart of new Bute art exhibition

Jim Wylie's new exhibition, Circling Bute, opens this weekend at the Castle Gallery in Rothesay
Jim Wylie's new exhibition, Circling Bute, opens this weekend at the Castle Gallery in Rothesay

BUTE’S beautiful coastal scenery takes centre stage this weekend when the curtain goes up on the first art exhibition of 2012 at the Castle Gallery in Rothesay.

The 30 paintings comprising Circling Bute, which go on display from Saturday, April 7, are the work of Glasgow School of Art graduate Jim Wylie, who lives in Ayrshire but has family links with Bute going back several generations, and who now owns a holiday flat on the island.

Circling Bute is not his first Castle Gallery exhibition either - a previous show in 2005 drew on those family ancestry links. But while his new collection of work may have been inspired by a part of the world with which Jim is familiar, it was still something of a voyage of discovery.

“I do a lot of painting on Bute,” Jim told us, “and a lot of it features the sea and the coastline - but in working on this latest collection, I realised I’d never actually been right round the island’s coast.

“So this time I set out to plot 15 to 20 points all the way round the coastline, every two or three kilometres - some of them quite inaccessible, especially at the tip of the south end, and I discovered several places I hadn’t been to.

“All the paintings are coastal scenes - a few don’t feature the sea, but they’re all close to the edge of the water. 

“I’ve been working on this exhibition for almost a year, although two thirds of it was completed in the last three months, and I actually collected the source material quite early on in the process.

“The biggest problem is getting a decent patch of weather - that can be a big problem when I’ve got a deadline to work to, particularly with a subject such as Bute.”

A native of Glasgow, Jim studied drawing and painting at the GSA under such prominent figures as Willie Armour, Geoff Squires, Sinclair Thomson and Duncan Shanks, receiving a grounding in composition and colour in the true Glasgow tradition which has remained a mainstay of his work ever since.

Early developments in his work led away from a concentration on form and structure to a greater awareness of surface and a tendency towards stronger and purer use of colour, and today his landscape work is characterised by its use of strong, clean local colour and often by unusual colour combinations.

Those Wylie family links with Bute, meanwhile, stretch back several generations - Jim’s grandfather was born in Rothesay’s High Street, in a house situated almost exactly where the town’s police station stands today, while his great-grandmother’s family were Orrs and farmed on the island, although Jim is unsure exactly where.

And while Jim no longer has any direct descendants living on Bute, the fact that he draws so much inspiration from the island, and that he now has a holiday home here, suggests that he still has plenty of affection for the place.

“Coming to Bute is about going to a place where we don’t have other things we need to do,” he added. “When you’re on Bute you settle down to a particular, and very different, pace of life to the one you might normally be used to.”

Circling Bute opens at The Castle Gallery in High Street this Saturday, April 7, and runs until April 28.