I first encountered the work of Elizabeth Blackadder during a residency in Crinan, Argyll & Bute. This particular residency award was actually unrelated to Pomarius. It was instead connected to my general sculptures, which were focused on coastal geographies at the time.
I had been drawing and documenting the area with the intention of producing new works related to this region. Ross Ryan, the painter behind the residency programme, allowed me to stay with him for the duration. His own works are en plein air oil paintings, captured in the elements of the Outer Hebrides. Ryan transports himself to these island locations by means of his restored fishing boat, often heading out alone and painting for many months at a time. You can find his work through the Scottish Gallery, Edinburgh.
It was in fact a document relating to one of Ryan’s mother’s pervious exhibitions that introduced me to the work of Elizabeth Blackadder. I found the booklet in the Crinan Hotel, owned by the family. The painting shown presented a series of objects, notably a Japanese fan amongst other trinkets. The work was a delicate documentation of tiny but closely observed objects, the sum of which conjured the sense of an entire life or, at the very least, a much broader personal experience.
The assorted items were recorded with a naive style in a horizontal format and I remember the reproduction, though small, stood out to me immediately. I came to learn that the work was titled Still Life with Fan and Bird Ornaments and that these still life compositions were a common format within her work.
Blackadder was born in 1931, studied at Edinburgh College of Art, and would go on to teach at the college herself from the 1960s. She was the first woman to be elected to both the Royal Scottish Academy and the Royal Academy.
I find the attention to individual objects such as it is in her ‘table-top’ works captivating and a source for the imagination. That said, I thought I would mention Blackadder in this journal since she also focused on recording plants and flowers.
Blackadder’s watercolours and prints of flowers are arranged with the same flattened perspective as her still lives. There are hundreds of works on the subject of plants, some arranged as if collected and set up for observation and recording, others in glasses and vases as domestic trophies; other groupings appear as isolated specimens within wild garden borders. It is this isolating and attention to each plant, often set on flat white backdrops, which grabs my attention. That and the incredible colours of the flower works.
There are screenprints and etchings on the subject of flowers as well as watercolour pieces. Blackadder’s famous cats also make an appearance in a number of her flower works.