An Eaglais agus A’Chleit, meaning The Church at The Reef in Gaelic, was a much admired painting in The Oystercatcher Gallery when first displayed. A’Chleit, on the west coast of Kintyre, looking over to the Isle of Gigha, is a popular beach and picnic spot. I used to stop here for our Jack Russell terrier ‘Paddy‘ on trips from Kilmartin to Campbeltown. He loved to dance about among the rocks and skip in and out of the surf. I liked it too, (A’Chleit that is; not the dancing and skipping bit. I don’t do that.)
For Dad, it was his most regular painting destination. He rarely worked en plein air, but preferred the studio with all his tools to hand, but the reef was a constant inspiration to him. This painting is more subdued in tone to most paintings Dad produced of this subject, but the silvery tones were much more common than blue skies and bright sunlight.
The temptation for the artist is to brighten the scene as on a Summer’s day to increase the likelihood of a sale, and while that is justifiable (there are undoubtedly many warm and pleasant days in the year), there is the desire to capture the more subtle, even dull day and make a painting with more veracity. If one is not an illustrative artist, the situation may be different, but I would argue that whatever the field of artistic endeavour, there is always the tug o’ war between earning a living and ‘following your star’. Unless you are David Hockney, or Damien Hirst, or any other artist with the initials D.H. Like Lawrence, maybe.
I cannot say if Dad had any thoughts like this, but I know he liked to push himself on to a new challenge. Sometimes, he failed, but these were rare. More often than not he succeeded, and for me, this painting is indeed a resounding success.