Alastair Strachan is a painter in the true sense of the word. For the past 30 years he has maintained his dedication to the subject of painting. He is not interested in fashion or artistic trends but in a much more significant engagement and survey of painting.
He is interested in location and will identify and at times return to particular locations that are significant to him. He has a restless, investigative creativity, always questioning, never looking for the obvious or seeking easy answers. The dialogue between abstraction and representation has always been a fascination. He firmly believes that the fusion of context and process is vital but even more importantly that the meaning in the work emerges out of, and is transmitted through the painting process in visual terms.
His knowledge of historical and contemporary art practice is extensive as his twenty five year teaching career will testify but his approach is mathematical, working in a highly intuitive way imbued with very personal reactions to subject. He poses new problems and is always prepared to start over again, rejecting style. He is a huge respecter of skill so the interface and synthesis of the intuitive, and how to harness context through process, are where his work resides.
Over the past three decades he has observed and considered the changes in art around him but fashion has never dictated his fundamental interests. He is very aware that art’s foremost enemy is pretension. He firmly believes and demonstrates that limited means can send complex and multifaceted signals.
In keeping with early modernist ideology, he believes in the past and how it supports and informs the future. The influence of the great masters Velasquez, Goya, Rembrandt, Degas, Manet, Braque, Picasso, Matisse, Bonnard and Vuillard are artists that remain constant to him and like Rauschenberg, Motherwell, de Kooning and more recently Scully and John Walker, he has registered the risk of the conceptual ambiguities of pure abstraction.
He is firmly attached to the world of appearances, believing that abstraction and representation can co-exist. He strongly and steadfastly believes that if painting is to live as a powerful force it is on this thin area of perception that it must exist if it is to transcend mere rendering and illustration.
Process is crucial in all of this. In his career he has experimented and researched broadly. His supports have been as varied as his ways of applying materials to them. Canvas, board, wood, doors, objects, paper have all been involved and synthesised together to get closer to the truth.
Drawing in a creative context is considered to mean marks on paper or other surfaces with pens, charcoal, pencils etc. These marks can be made to represent an idea, a memory or something observed. Drawing contextually can also mean to take out or extract. This is what he does consummately. He extracts information. His subjects are taken through the most appropriate processes; drawing, making, painting are synthesised, bringing him closer to the truth. His variety, inventiveness and the quality of his work demands our fullest attention.
Artist and Senior Lecturer, GlasgowSchool of Art