Silvana McLean RSW

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.


Curriculum Vitae


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

Solo Exhibitions   

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

  1. Image chosen for cover of Poet Jean Atkin’s collection of new work ’Not Lost Since The Last Time’.
  2. Shortlisted for Engramme Printmaking Exchange programme in Canada in conjunction with SSA.

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.


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