Take six artists. Each with a common thread linking them and their work. The connection is Dundee. Or to be more specific, the city’s art school, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design (DJCAD).

Honest creativity, perseverance and resilience are close bedfellows in Dundee. It’s no accident that in 2014 it was named by the United Nations as a Unesco City of Design; the first in the UK to be awarded the honour. Or that the V&A picked it as the site of the first V&A outside London.

DJCAD is the alma mater that has swaddled a host of acclaimed artists and designers since it came into existence as Dundee Technical College and School of Art in 1911. In the second half of the 20th century, the six painters featured in a new exhibition at Fidra Fine Art in Gullane, East Lothian, all honed their craft in Dundee.

William Cadenhead (1934-2005), Neil Dallas Brown (1938-2003), John Johnstone, Joe McIntyre, Joseph Urie and Michael McVeigh all attended the city’s art school between 1952 and 1982, each forging a style rooted in

the school’s rigorous approach to learning the discipline of drawing and painting.

Gullane may not be that far south of Dundee as the seagull flies but it’s a good two hours by road, so the most obvious question is: why has the work of six Dundee artists migrated to East Lothian?

According to Fidra Fine Art’s Alan Rae, the idea evolved from conversations he had with Urie and Johnstone. “What I picked up on from them was a sense of friendship and mutual respect between students and tutors,” Rae explains. “It was born out of the rigorous approach to the fundamental skills of drawing and painting at DJCAD at that time. The work of each artist is so accomplished and unique.”

Cadenhead and Dallas Brown were the artist-mentors who led the charge for the younger artists in the group. As Forfar-born Johnstone, who attended DJCAD from 1959 to 1964, puts it: “We all vaguely knew each other. I knew Neil, Bill and I know Michael and Joe McIntyre. Joe and I have been good friends for more than 40 years after meeting when I was a part-time lecturer at the college.”

Born in Aberdeen in 1934, Cadenhead was one of the most gifted students of his year. After he left DJCAD, he was awarded a postgraduate scholarship which took him to Europe, Hospitalfield in Arbroath and the Royal Academy Schools in London.

Urie, who attended DJCAD as a mature student from 1977 to 1981, recalls Cadenhead telling him: “Drawing comes naturally – after a lot of practice!” His former tutor’s primer A Philosophy of Drawing: Based on the Human Figure, published after his death in 2005, is viewed by many as the definitive textbook on the subject.

Elgin-born Dallas Brown studied in Dundee in the mid-1950s before going on to study at the Royal Academy Schools in London in 1960-61. He later taught at DJCAD before becoming a painting lecturer at the Glasgow School of Art (GSA) in 1979. He was a major influence on the group of painters that came to be known as The New Glasgow Boys – and Girls.

Johnstone, who studied at DJCAD from 1959 to 1964, describes Dallas Brown as “the most famous” among this group of Six Dundee Artists. “He really was something else,” Johnstone says. “The first time I saw his work – a painting of cliff faces – was in 1960 after he had been on a travelling scholarship. It was like a Caravaggio. I remember thinking, ‘My God, what a skilful painter!’ ”

What marks out all the artists in this group is focus and an obsessive need to create. As Johnstone puts it with a wry smile: “You have to be insane to be a painter. It’s an obsession; something inside you.”

Johnstone has always placed figures at the heart of his paintings. His early work – on show in this survey – shows an affinity with one of his painting heroes, the Austrian artist Oskar Kokoschka. Expressionist and often with a religious theme, today his paintings cast a wry eye over scenes observed from everyday life.

Dundee-born and bred McIntyre graduated in 1965 and returned to teach in the college in 1972, remaining there until his retirement. Like the Old Masters, McIntyre paints small studies in oils. Also, like one of his heroes, American Realist painter Edward Hopper, the shadows of darkness constantly reappear in his observational paintings.

Urie was born in Kinning Park, Glasgow, in 1947. His earliest memories of making art was using broken chalk to draw dinosaurs and spacemen on the pavements outside the family’s home. He spent three years at the Royal Academy in London after studying in Dundee. His large, symbolic figurative work brought him attention from influential curators, including former Herald art critic Clare Henry, who invited him to take part in the groundbreaking Vigorous Imagination exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in 1987.

McVeigh was born in the post-war council estate of Lochee in Dundee. He left school with no formal qualifications, but such was his desire to be an artist he simply turned up at DJCAD drawing and painting classes. Eventually he was challenged by artist James Morrison, then one of the lecturers. Morrison lobbied to have him accepted as a

full-time student based on his paintings. He studied there from 1977 to 1982.

Like the work of his tutor John Johnstone, McVeigh’s work is observational, in that it deals with everyday life. Over time, he evolved his own naïve, folk-art style – at once both humorous and mysterious. His paintings and prints depict everyday life in Scotland but, when infused with his own personal perceptions, take on a dreamlike quality and are abundant with poetic imagery.

If there is a thread that runs through the work of all six Dundee artists, it’s a strong sense of place and self. There’s a real integrity achieved by hard graft and dedication to constant drawing and painting.

Six Dundee Artists, Fidra Fine Art, 7 Stanley Road, Gullane, EH31 2AD, 01620 249389, www.fidrafineart.co.uk, opens today and runs until February 23, Tuesday-Saturday

11am-5pm, Sunday 12pm-4pm, closed Monday

Critic's Choice

Working predominantly with paint, Glasgow-based artist, France-Lise McGurn, is noted for creating layered installations which incorporate gallery walls, floors and ceilings. Working intuitively rather than through direct appropriation, McGurn uses swift brushstrokes and repeated marks to create loose associations about place and relationships, inviting viewers to conjure their own narratives.

For her new show in Glasgow's Tramway, which opened last weekend, In Emotia, she takes this process one step further, translating the fluid lines of her paintings into sculptural forms fabricated from neon. A series of new mobile sculptures shimmer and turn in the space, constantly rearranging themselves to create new narratives and configurations. The title, In Emotia, refers to a state of being, simultaneously emotional and in motion.

McGurn’s figurative painting and wall drawings evoke bodies and limbs overlapping and interacting in ambivalent spaces, at parties, in night clubs, on streets or lying in bed either side of paper-thin walls. Cities and bodies are constantly moving and shaping each other, a sentiment which she evokes through the shifting forms and gestures of her metropolitan figures. Often the works themselves overlap from canvas to wall to floor, creating energetic compositions which suggest intimacy, ecstasy, sexuality, violence and loss.

In Emotia, France-Lise McGurn,Tramway, 25 Albert Drive, Glasgow G41 2PE, Until March 29, 2020. Open Tuesday-Saturday, 9.30am-8pm & Sunday, 12pm – 6pm. Closed Monday.

Don't Miss

The Royal Scottish Academy building in Edinburgh is humming with activity at the moment. You could easily wile away a few hours here immersing yourself in art, which ranges from the Society of Scottish Artists and Visual Arts Scotland's Open exhibition (entry £3) on the upper floors to a host of free shows downstairs, including Calum Colvin's synapse-sizzling Constructed Worlds exhibition and the vibrant talent show that is the139th Open Annual Exhibition of the Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolour (RSW). This bold and diverse selling exhibition features 234 paintings by over 100 leading artists working in water-based materials.

RSW 139th Annual Open Exhibition, Royal Scottish Academy, The Mound, Edinburgh, EH2 2EL https://www.rsw.org.uk/ Until January 30