Murray Grigor: SCOTia dePICTa, Watermill Gallery, Aberfeldy 01887 822896 www.aberfeldywatermill.com Until January 13
If anyone knows that the eye can play tricks on the viewing public, it is Murray Grigor, the man behind a clutch of award-winning films. The Inverness-born filmmaker, who can also add author and exhibition curator to a packed CV, has of late been busy working with his old friend Sir Sean Connery to create a documentary, Ever To Excel, which celebrates the 600th anniversary of the founding of the University of St Andrews.
Scotland and its curious national psyche has long fascinated Grigor, the first filmmaker to be awarded a Citation of Excellence by the American Institute of Architects. He was recognised for The Architecture Of Frank Lloyd Wright, which boasted David Peat as cinematographer. In 1982, with his late wife Barbara, he made the critically acclaimed Scotch Myths, based on their provocative touring exhibition on Scottish kitsch.
Grigor originally designed this series of prints, SCOTia dePICTa, as Christmas cards for his friends and contacts. It was his daughter Sarah, who runs a greeting card company, who had the bright idea of releasing them as postcards.
The series, which has since been updated, reflects its maker's own wry and mischievous sense of humour. With his keen eye for composition, Grigor marries up mischief with a serious dose of myth-shattering.
To wit, we have Rev Robert Walker, Raeburn's famous Skating Minister, transported to Venice Beach in California, where he's enjoying some "winter sin". We also get a chance to relish Food For Thought in which the Campbells, represented by a giant soup can lorry driving through Glencoe, are coming for the MacDonalds.
Grigor's abiding interest in the mac-wearing architect of Glasgow School of Art, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, is depicted by the great man being drenched in a shower of Scots dialect words. And this wouldn't be Grigor's work if national institutions such as the Royal Bank of Scotland were not getting a visual "doing" in a card that mimics a Victorian postcard of Fingal's Cave with the familiar blue RBS logo drifting upwards from the water above a caption that reads "Bye Bye Yon Bonnie Bonnie Banks".
My personal favourite is the Forth Bridge, beautified with a smattering of William Morris loveliness – a sideswipe at conceptual art and misplaced funding awards...
Grigor first met Kevin and Jayne Ramage from the Watermill at the launch of an exhibition in Aberfeldy of work by David Peat, who died earlier this year. Grigor and Peat went back a long way, having worked together on films such as Big Banana Feet, a cinema verité documentary depicting Billy Connolly's 1975 tour of Ireland from the opening concert in Dublin to the final night in Belfast.
"It was really the David Peat connection which led me to the Watermill," explains Grigor. "At the launch of his exhibition last year, David and I hatched a plan to find the only surviving print of Big Banana Feet in the world, which took a bit of doing, but we managed it. There was a wonderful screening of it at the Glasgow Film Theatre in February, but sadly David died just two months later. The film the BBC was making about him, which included a reunion with Billy in Blackpool, was screened after he died. It was terrible sad."
According to Kevin Ramage, it came as no surprise when he discovered that the two men worked so closely in Scottish film and television as they shared an irreverent humour, "with no subject too high and mighty not to be pulled down a peg or three".
"Throughout the images of SCOTia dePICTa," Ramage says, "Grigor's eye takes a wry look at 'things we know' and gives them an unexpected twist. Who else could think of re-working the historic 'visit' by the Campbell's to the MacDonalds in Glencoe into a Campbell's soup lorry, a la Warhol, passing the mountains of Glencoe en route to a Golden Arches symbol? With his links to the film industry, he sees the ideal setting for the letters HOLYROOD, overlooking the Scottish Parliament in the manner of the iconic HOLLYWOOD sign looming over Los Angeles."
The prints in the exhibition range from £60 to £160, so if you're looking for a humorous take on modern Scotland for the Victor Meldrew in your life, I can see these making it into many a Christmas stocking.