Bute-born artist’s paintings head for Abu Dhabi

Thirty paintings by former Bute resident Sandra Ratcliffe are heading to the UAE for Sandra's first solo exhibition in the country in aid of a charity set up to help Syrian refugees.
Thirty paintings by former Bute resident Sandra Ratcliffe are heading to the UAE for Sandra's first solo exhibition in the country in aid of a charity set up to help Syrian refugees.

Thirty paintings by Bute-born artist Sandra Ratcliffe set off this week on their first leg of the 5,000 mile journey to the United Arab Emirates for her solo exhibition in April.

And Sandra believes the show will help her finally gain closure over the death of her brother James 24 years ago.

James Ratcliffe was held hostage by the Iraqis after their invasion of Kuwait. He was trapped in the tiny Gulf State along with hundreds of other Westerners, from Scotland, England as well as Europeans and Americans, when dictator Saddam Hussein used them as human shields.

And although eventually released, James – a former Rothesay Academy pupil - died following his ordeal, aged just 43.

Former Buteman reporter Sandra said: “It just seems like fate that this is happening.

“Our family was shown great kindness from people living in or connected to the Gulf during that time. James’s death was a huge tragedy in our lives.”

Sandra, who went on from The Buteman to become a top features writer with the Daily Record, plans to donate proceeds from painting sales to United Arab Emirates charity Breathing Numbers. The charity sends aid to Syrian refugees in a Jordanian camp.

Her paintings feature some of the west of Scotland’s most magnificent coastline and islands - including some inspired by visits back to her native Bute.

“I don’t know what they’ll make of them over there,” she said.

“Perhaps they will bring more Gulf tourists to Scotland to see the beauty of our west coast scenery.”

Sandra’s exhibition, titled Inspired By The Light, opens on April 28 at the award-winning Café Arabia, an arts boutique eatery with gallery.

Mike Logg, former roadie for Scottish rock bank Biffy Cliro, drove the colourful cargo to the shipping agents in the south of England, ready for the five week journey by sea to Abu Dhabi.

Sandra said: “I know my brother would be proud that I am doing this to help victims who have lost their families and homes in this latest Middle East crisis.”

Sandra – who took up painting after leaving the Record 15 years ago - had run Scotland’s Gulf Support group at the time of the Gulf crisis, for families of those trapped in the tiny Gulf State. And although James was eventually released by Saddam Hussein, he died suddenly a few months after returning home.

Sandra’s work is in collections at home and internationally. Her last solo exhibition last April on Gigha – her second on the island - was a great success, nd she has also had a solo exhibition in Spain in 2009.

Sandra now lives in Ayrshire, where she has a studio.

Jan Patience, arts correspondent of The Herald newspaper in Scotland, wrote recently that “Ratcliffe paints a West Coast storm in all its multi-layered, multi-hued glory”.

Among commissioned works, she has recently painted a landscape for former UK Chancellor of the Exchequer and now leader of the ‘No’ vote Better Together campaign, Alistair Darling.

Aida Mansour, of Café Arabia, which was highly commended in the 2013 Abu Dhabi Time Out awards, and described by The New York Times as “a high end blend of east and west” said: “We are looking forward very much to welcoming Sandra Ratcliffe with her lovely paintings of the West of Scotland to Café Arabia. We are sure this will be a superb exhibition for us and are very excited about it.”

“I am just hoping that the ship carrying the paintings to Abu Dhabi evades capture by the pirates in the Gulf of Aden,” Sandra added. “Otherwise it will bring a whole new meaning to the artist’s favourite phrase, ‘my work is in international collections’!.”

Sandra’s younger brother Roger Ratcliffe, also well known on the island, is now a successful writer living in Yorkshire.