Silvana McLean 1953 – 2018
Silvana was born in Motherwell, Lanarkshire and studied at Glasgow School of Art specialising in Drawing and Painting. A move to Edinburgh and evening classes in Etching brought an important strand to the work which continued through her career. Early in 2017, Silvana was elected as an RSW (The Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolour), a prestigious honour for an artist. Sadly, Silvana passed away in 2018.
Silvana was a painter and printmaker, finding that the techniques of these two distinct creative fields direct and influence each other. Initially this begins by gathering impressions, how cold it is, light/dark, wind and weather etc and then distilling the results. This first contact provides an enduring memory specific to that place. Drawing and wide experimentation with materials then create textural surfaces, working in layers to echo the geological creation of land and of history. Sketchbooks are important records of these explorations.
Iceland’s unique structure encourages an engagement with environmental issues. The land itself, continually scoured by melting water from the ice caps, embodies the etching process. Seeing elements of how land is created gave Silvana a deeper understanding of the formation of the landscape of Scotland and this re-connection with her homeland points to the direction of future work.
‘This landscape is masterless and intractable in any terms that are human’.
Norman McCaig in ‘A man in Assynt’.
In March 2016, a month long Artist’s Residency in Siglufjordur, North Iceland, offered the opportunity of total immersion in this very different environment.
Although referring to Assynt, Scotland in the quote from the poem above, the truth of what Norman McCaig states also applies widely to Iceland.Although referring to Assynt, Scotland in the quote from the poem above, the truth of what Norman McCaig states also applies widely to Iceland.Although referring to Assynt, Scotland in the quote from the poem above, the truth of what Norman McCaig states also applies widely to Iceland.
The core of Silvana’s particular practice was to incorporate emotion, response, and feeling into the work, so that although the physical reality was in some way portrayed, the painting or print or book would also convey something intangible, in the way poetry expresses those things that cannot be exactly described by words, Silvana aspired to paint the way a poet writes. This results in her work occasionally being viewed as semi-abstract, but that abstraction is always in context with the source material. The viewing individual does not usually have access to source/background information, so this semi-abstract method invites the viewer to either make up their own story, or to intuit Silvana’s intentions, either of which is also a creative process. So work can in that way have a creative life of its own, as well as having a personal reality for the artist. This lack of absolute fixation is the stuff of her art – fluidity of expression and intention, providing stimulation to the audience, asking them to react in unpredictable ways.
Silvana showed love in her work, for the media used, and for the subjects. For her, life was all about love. Anything else was an unwelcome distraction.
2017 Elected to SSA Council
2004-10 Lecturer in Printmaking and Mixed Media at Dumfries and Galloway College
2003 Elected a Professional Member of The Society of Scottish Artists
2000 and 2002 Innovative Intaglio Summer Schools with Professor Keith Howard and Friedhard Keikeben at Gracefield Arts Centre.
1970-74 Specialised in Drawing and Painting, Glasgow School of Art
Aug-Sept 2017. north. The Ceilidh Place, Ullapool.
Oct/Nov 2016 Diary of a Cold Spell. Designs Gallery, Castle Douglas
September 2016 Diary of a Cold Spell. Highland Printmakers Studio, Inverness
June 2014 Northlandings – Bonhoga Gallery, Shetland. Solo exhibition of Etchings, Sea boxes and Artist’s Books
Sept. 2013 Migrations- In the Track of the North Wind. Solo Exhibition at Wigtown Book Festival and launch event with speakers Sally Magnusson, Margaret Elphinstone, Jean Atkin and the artist discussing the North and its Influences.
Aug. 2012 ‘Northlandings’ Catstrand, New Galloway
Aug 2010 ‘ Northlandings’ Meffan Gallery, Forfar
Aug. 2001 ‘Watermarks’ Solo exhibition, Bonhoga Gallery, Shetland
Sept 2000 ‘The Turning of the Year’ Peter Potter Gallery, Haddington
Selected Group Exhibitions
July-Sept 17 Land and Sea, Craigard Gallery, Wigtown
September 17 Surge at Patriothall, Edinburgh with Upland
Nov-Dec 17 Winter Show, Whitehouse Gallery, Kirkcudbright
Feb. 2016 Whitehouse Gallery Kirkcudbright. Three person Printmaking exhibition with Kate Downie, myself and Cat Outram.
Nov/Dec 15 RSW and RSA
July 2015 Actinic, Alternative Photography Festival at Edinburgh Printmakers Studio and invited speaker.
April 2015 Kulturschopfer, Green Hill Gallery, Berlin with Spring Fling
April 2014 James Harvey Gallery London with Spring Fling.
Dec. 2012 Timelines- TEN group exhibition Gracefield Dumfries
Jun. 2012 Timelines- TEN group exhibition at Kelly Gallery, Glasgow
Jun. 2012 Spring Fling Open Studios. I have exhibited annually since the beginning.
Nov 2011 Two etchings selected for exhibition in Poland at Wroclaw Academy of Fine Art. Part of an exchange programme organised by SSA and Duncan of Jordanstone Art College in Dundee.
Sept. 2011 SSA Professional Members Exhibition at Glasgow Arts Club
July 2011 Selected for Magic, Power Presence, Artist Book collection (IRIS)
Feb 2011 Ripple Effect – group exhibition of Monoprints. Scottish Arts Club, Edinburgh and April onwards at Mussel Inn Gallery Glasgow
Aug 2010 Northlandings – solo exhibition at The Meffan Gallery
Aug 2010 Sea Spirit. Group exhibition Gracefield Dumfries
May 2009 Place, Identity and Memory Artist Book Exhibition (IRIS)
Nov 2007 Tidelines. Two person exhibition. Gracefield Arts Centre.
Nov 2003 International Mini print Exhibition selected artist to submit larger print
Prizes and Awards
2016 Finalist in DGLife Magazine Visual Artist and Craftmaker Awards
2012 Visual Artists Award to study handmade book Master Classes.
2008 Visual Artists Award for research trip to Iceland to create new body of work for solo exhibition at The Meffan Gallery in 2010
2006 British Mini-print Exhibition ( Scottish Prize-winner)
2004 SAC professional Development Award enabling research trip to North Uist to create work for two-person exhibition ‘Tidelines’ at Gracefield Arts Centre in Nov 2006 October
2003 Elected Professional Member of Society of Scottish Artists
2001 Shetland Arts Trust Grant for solo exhibition ‘Watermarks’
1998 and1994 JFM Purchase Prize Society of Scottish Artists
Commissions and Residencies (see also Collections)
Mar 2015 Selected for Artists residency in Siglufjordur, Iceland in Mar 2016
2014 20-20. Bonhoga Gallery birthday exhibition. One of 20 artists commissioned to make an artwork related to its former use as a mill.
2007 Glentrool and Merrick Public art commission commissioned by Scottish Natural Heritage and project managed by DGAA.
This project was commissioned with the aim of reconnecting people and the landscape and took the final form of a portfolio of etchings and poems based on the memories from people who lived in the Glentrool and Merrick area. This was in collaboration with writer and poet, Mary Smith. Project launched in Summer 2008
2002 and 2004 Scottish Arts Council Professional Development Funding, the latter being to attend an Environmental Arts course in North Uist
2002 Painting commissioned for Shetland Museum.
2001 Three month Residency in Shetland Oct-Dec
.2001 Residency in Donegal to create page for Great Book of Gaelic My interest in printmaking lead to involvement with The Great Book of Gaelic Project, a collaboration of 50 Irish and 50 Scottish artists, poets and calligraphers creating a large contemporary book. At the moment it is touring internationally.
1999 Monumental Miniatures for The Millenium. Commissioned by Scottish Touring Exhibitions Consortium
2013 Sea Book and North Book purchased for Scottish Contemporary Collection at National Library of Scotland.
2008 National Library of Scotland purchases portfolio ‘Voices from Glentrool and Merrick’
2008 Scottish Poetry Library is gifted ‘Voices’ Portfolio
2006 Scottish Purchase prize at Mini print exhibition.
2002 Shetland Museum commissions painting of ‘Shetland Knives’
2000 Dumfriesshire Educational Trust Millenium painting commission
Work is held in many private collections.