Jolomo’s joy at return to ‘wonderful’ Bute

'The Magical Light of Bute' opened at the Castle Gallery in Rothesay on Saturday, February 12.
'The Magical Light of Bute' opened at the Castle Gallery in Rothesay on Saturday, February 12.

Renowned Scottish landscape artist John Lowrie Morrison says he’s delighted to have had the chance to exhibit a selection of new Bute paintings in Rothesay.

John - better known in the art world as ‘Jolomo’ - has attracted national and international acclaim over the last 15 years or so for the vivid colours in his paintings of Scottish landscapes, with the tranquil west coast a particular speciality.

Speaking to The Buteman prior to the opening of ‘The Magical Light of Bute’ at the Castle Gallery, John said: “I’ve been looking forward to coming back to Bute. My last show here was in 2010.

“It’s a wonderful place to paint. Every part of Scotland, and particularly every part of the west coast, is different, and Bute has such a contrast of landscapes - one moment you’ve got the rolling fields and suddenly you look to the west and there’s the ‘Arran Alps’.

“The work I did this time is actually from sketches and drawings I’ve made and photos I’ve taken over the years - I’d planned to come to Bute and get some fresh ideas, but the more I thought about it, the more I realised I would be going back to the same beautiful spots.”

As for what makes Bute an ideal location for John’s landscape paintings, well, the clue is in the title of his new show.

“A lot of it is to do with the reflections on the water - the sun bangs off it in a certain way, and gives a certain light to an area,” he said.

“Though Bute is right in the middle of the islands and the mainland, the Firth of Clyde is a big bit of water. Looking from Bute towards the Arran hills, you think ‘that should be Switzerland’. There’s something really quite magical about that.”

Locations depicted in John’s new Bute collection include Ettrick Bay, the Straad, St Colmac, Kilchattan Bay, Rhubodach and Kingarth - and there’s even a (sort-of) urban interlude in the form of one work showing the palm trees on the Esplanade.

“I’ve got lots of connections with, and memories of, Rothesay,” John continued, “and that particular painting harks back to my childhood in the fifties. I was a Castle Toward boy - I went there on residential trips when I was a pupil in Glasgow, and we’d take day trips over to Rothesay by hovercraft. ”

John’s work also has a special place in the story of the Castle Gallery: it was his paintings that formed the gallery’s very first solo exhibition around the turn of the millennium. And despite his global reputation, small galleries clearly have a place in John’s heart.

“I do deal with some fairly highfalutin galleries these days,” he continued. “I’ve got two shows in London this year, and they’re all very posh, with lots of wealthy buyers and investors, but it’s important for me to support wee Scottish galleries in places that are a little bit out of the way too.”

* ‘The Magical Light of Bute’ is at the Castle Gallery in Rothesay’s High Street until Saturday, March 5.