A VIVID retelling of Tam o’Shanter over 50 paintings is to go on public display for only the second time.
Alexander Goudie completed the collection in 1995 to mark 200 years since the birth of Robert Burns, with the famous words transformed into pictures, stanza by stanza.
It was kept together in 1999 thanks to a clutch of charitable foundations and all 53 will go on show tomorrow at Rozelle House in Alloway, South Ayrshire.
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Goudie’s son Lachlan, who is also an artist, travelled from London for a preview yesterday. He told The National: “I haven’t seen the complete collection in 16 or 17 years. It’s wonderful to encounter them again.”
Originally from Paisley, Glasgow School of Art graduate Goudie died in 2004 at the age of 70, having become one of the country’s most celebrated figurative artists.
During his career he captured images of subjects as diverse as the Queen, Billy Connolly and mountaineer Chris Bonnington. His interest in Tam o’Shanter began as a child, when his plumber father would attend annual Burns Nights and return to recite excerpts of the piece.
Lachlan says his father grew to be “possessed” by the figure of “Cutty-sark” wearing witch Nannie and the mammoth artistic challenge occupied him to the point of nightmares.
He said: “Dad was never someone who would do things by halves. He was a larger-than-life character and the poem had been in his imagination since his childhood. He used to summer in Girvan, so he got to know South Ayrshire quite well.
“He was doing doodles and sketches and drawings of the subject throughout his career but it possessed his imagination in the last 20 years of his life. He would have nightmares where he’d conceived another painting and wake in the morning to create it.”
Lachlan, who fronted the BBC’s four-part Story of Scottish Art series in 2015, says the resulting collection is a “challenge” for galleries due to its volume and the size of the individual works, but says viewing the full cycle is an “immersive” experience for visitors.
He said: “It’s a visual translation of the poem. The paintings are a treasure trove of opportunities to get young people in particular in Scottish literature and art.
“Children love Roald Dahl, they love horrible tales and ghoulish images, and because dad was an eternal child this exhibition has that sort of enthusiasm for the ghoulish and the hysterical.
“But he was also very much concerned with producing high-quality paintings, so there is also something for the mature viewer.”
Lachlan, who is artist in residence at shipyards in Glasgow and Rosyth, says naval engineering is his “obsession”, and is preparing a large-scale show of his own.
Expected to run at the Scottish Maritime Museum in Irvine this autumn, the event, which will focus on the creation of aircraft carriers, will include large-scale images of the “sculptural chaos” of the yards.
He said: “It’s about engineering, about people, about the workers who I have met and whose portraits I have painted. The time I have spent and continue to spend in the yards has been very important in my life.
“This is the first time that I have worked on the scale that my dad worked on. It’s a theatrical size.”
Speaking about the securing of the Tam o’Shanter collection by The Fraser Foundation, TB Hunter Charitable Trust and The Soutar Foundation – all set up by leading business people – Lachlan said: “It’s important that people who are privileged enough to be successful can be as enlightened as that to create a legacy that will nourish young imaginations. That is how you grow people’s sense of cultural heritage and understanding of art.”
The exhibition will run until March 18.