Both studied at Glasgow School of art in the late 1940s and early 50s, a time when students were taught to draw and paint. Among their instructors were the incorrigible David Donaldson, who encouraged Ann Meade's freedom of approach, and Lennox Paterson, who noted Rodger's talent and dexterity and boosted this quiet, retiring young man's confidence. Teachers play an important role in any artist's development, and in this case also the building in which they were trained. Meade has now returned, and for the first time the two are exhibiting together, an ideal opportunity to assess whether an art which was forged in the same crucible has been affected by differing circumstances and influences.
The first difference that hits you on entering the gallery is that Meade's work is suffused by wonderful colour, whereas Rodger's is mainly black and white (as pictured below). Nevertheless, his rich vein of humour adds colour of another dimension to all our lives. How good for the soul is it to encourage a bit of laughter-inspired reverie?
Meade's itinerary is an exotic one. Born in India, raised in England, Scotland and France, she moved to Spain, and then to America. No Scottish summer, no matter how beautifully reproduced, could bring these sounds, smells, and even heat of the Mediterranean directly into our lives. Rodger's Downpour on the opposite wall makes a typically pithy Scottish counterpoint. And there is something so quintessentially Scottish about Rodger's work. It reminds us what it is to be Scottish, and certainly could not have been done elsewhere, but here in his native land.
Nothing melts our cold northern hearts like the Mediterranean sun. An aerial view of the Sanctuari Mon Calvari in Spain glows and sparkles with bouncing light, reflecting not only Meade's love of Matisse but her knowledge of his compatriot Marquet. You might say Meade's canvases have been coloured by experience, or as she : "I often have to bend the reality of form and colour, manipulating what I observe, in order to produce the illusion of that which I glimpse from within."
The canvases on show here demonstrate the range of her genre: large landscapes like In the Garden He Opened My Eyes (lent by Struthers Memorial Church in Westbourne Gardens, Hyndland), the odd portrait, Big Hat, and some exquisite little still lifes. Nor do her paintings lack fun. Those Flying Blue Boots, just missing a little fiddler in the corner, could be mistaken for a Chagallian humouresque.
Rodger, too, offers a wide range of subject matter. Home and Away could serve as title for his football series. Bodies are thrown this way and that, sometimes out for the count in Off, sometimes quivering behind the scant protection of their hands in Penalty, but all revealing an intriguing element of this artist's unique style. Rodger sees and reveals modern life as if seen through mediaeval eyes. His is a true art of the people: life in all its imperfections, depicted with a truth that comes from understanding. His Dejeuner sur l'Herbe, on the other hand, offers a very Scottish take on Manet's masterpiece: an evil cat, reminiscent of the feline in Olympia, traps a bird or two for its own repas.
Both these artists still paint or draw every day. It's a compulsion. Rodger thinks of it as increasing his visual vocabulary. And despite their maturity, both bring something new to the show. Rodger, whose normal practice is to reduce his line and form to considerable simplification, has gone a step further to create some very abstract arrangement of forms. Indecision is a gem of brevity. Meade has introduced a new narrative strand by adding bands of text into her compositions in a partnership that has created a refreshingly up-beat exhibition.
Home and Away is at the RGI Kelly Gallery, Glasgow, until September 15