After four long months of guiding customers around virtual spaces and virtual artworks, Scotland’s private galleries are finally throwing open their doors for business.

Since the lockdown period began on March 23, I have been cheered and occasionally thrilled by the activity hosted by some of these small galleries as they came up with various ingenious online ways to keep potential buyers’ interest piqued.

There is, of course, no substitute for being “in the room” with art, but these digital interventions were beacons of light for many. And importantly, they kept sales of art simmering away.

Becky Walker, owner of The Green Gallery, conveniently next door to her home in Buchlyvie, conducted Live at Five Facebook gallery tours on a Saturday night over lockdown. Aided and abetted by husband, Ads, behind the smartphone, this lo-fi approach to guiding viewers around work in the gallery gave fascinating insight into the practice of individual artists. Occasionally the Walkers’ teenagers were berated for hoovering up broadband while they attempted to broadcast live.

According to Walker, she has sold “masses” of work, and in doing so, has managed to help support her artists. “I have built up really close working relationships with artists over the years,” says Walker. “You feel a real responsibility to them. Most are, of course self-employed so I felt I had to use every means within my power to highlight their work.”

One night, about a month ago, I joined a ten-minute long private view via Zoom, hosted by The Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh. Among the artists being “launched” was Davy Brown, who was my art teacher at Kilmarnock Academy in the 1980s. What a thrill to wave at him across a Zoom room.

There was also the additional buzz of eariwigging around some intriguing living room walls; including that of Scottish Gallery managing director, Christina Jansen and her husband, Guy Peploe.

These small private galleries are an integral part of the “art economy” in Scotland, supporting artists by highlighting and marketing their work; which for many artists is a real stumbling block.

Ken and Susan Lemond have been running their home gallery in Bearsden for the last 20 years, opening for 19 weeks of every year with a big summer exhibition and a big Christmas show, interspersed by solo and joint shows every other month.

Over the years they have built up strong relationships with a host of established and emerging artists and created a strong customer base, which extends way beyond Hadrian’s Wall. Today they regularly show the work of around 140 Scottish contemporary artists in their elegantly extended home.

With a down-to-earth, yet knowledgeable approach to art, their customers have grown used to Ken’s enthusiastic introduction to different styles and approaches to mark-making.

As lockdown fell, a joint exhibition of work by Ryan Mutter and Rosanne Barr had been hung and was due to open on March 28. Both artists are gallery favourites. Mutter’s distinctive monochrome oil paintings are inspired by Glasgow’s industrial and maritime past, while Barr’s loose and expressive landscapes of Scotland have an international fan-base.

As well as the Mutter and Barr two-person show, two additional exhibitions were scheduled to run during lockdown and Lemond continued to support the shows using Facebook and Instagram and traditional advertising in the likes of The Herald.

“You feel for the artists,” he says. “They have been painting for months, setting aside work which they would otherwise sell. What it did do was keep us working at promoting the shows.”

At the end of June, in line with government advice, they opened their doors to the public for the first time since March. At the door, you are welcomed with a smile and an invitation to use the hand-sanitiser provided on tap. There are also face-masks available should you require one.

For the new Summer Show, the Lemonds have clearly relished the opportunity to showcase their artists’ work and every available inch is filled by over 600 paintings and a handful of ceramic artworks.

I visited last Monday morning after a busy opening weekend. Sales were brusque even before the doors opened. At the end of June, a Facebook post intimated that 23 paintings had been sold before all the paintings were listed on its website.

Several artists are new to the gallery; Ian McWhinnie, Rowan Rosie, John Smyth, Michael Forbes, John-Martin Fulton, Pam Scott and Meg Miller. They are joined by established gallery favourites like Scott Naismith, whose vivid colour-soaked land and skyscapes are being snapped up by collectors, including Paisley-born actor Gerard Butler, who bought one of Naismith’s paintings from the Lemonds as a 50th birthday present to himself last November.

Prominent wall space is also given over to the likes of Simon Laurie, Stephanie Rew, Gerry Brander, Marion Drummond, Gordon Mitchell, Marie Louise Wrightson and Gordon Wilson, all of whom sell well with the Lemond Gallery.

The result is a joyous return to life for art, artists and the small private galleries which support this complex web. “Distance lends enchantment to the view,” said Mark Twain and this was definitely the case for my art-starved eyes. Somehow, looking around the walls, the colour seemed more vivid and the textures more stroke-able.

There really is something to suit all tastes in this Big Summer Show. From Alison McWhirter’s juicy sculptural still lifes to Polish-born Hanna Kaciniel’s giant Creme Egg in all its gaudy glory. I was also drawn to Pam Scott’s tender paintings in paper; especially And Curiouser, which depicts a sorry-looking Alice in Wonderland, adrift and homeless. Definitely one to watch.

The Lemond Gallery, 4 Thorn Road, Bearsden, Glasgow, G61 4PP, 0141 942 4683, Open today and tomorrow, 11am-5pm

Critic's Choice

Trumpet-blowing doesn't come naturally to artists but in my experience, Scottish artists have an inbuilt tendency to play down their work. Liz Knox's perfectly composed paintings; be they zingy still lifes or more muted landscapes, are a distillation of hours of looking and thinking before a paint brush is even lifted with intent.

Knox graduated from Edinburgh College of Art in 1971, having studied under the likes of Robin Philipson and David Michie. Since then, she has consistently painted, even as life got in the way.

Until just before the start of lockdown, following on from intensive and gruelling treatment for oesophageal cancer, , she was hard at work on a new, highly-personal, body of work for the Kilmorack Gallery near Beauly. There seems to be a deeper force at wok in her new paintings, especially in paintings such as the eponymous Mind's Eye and Monadh (Moor).

Gallery owner, Tony Davidson, explains: "This is Kilmorack Gallery’s first solo exhibition since lockdown ended and Liz Knox has produced an incredible body of work that has been waiting patiently here since March. I have been holding it back so it can be seen by as many as possible. They deserve it. I love the international flavour in all of the paintings and the mature artistic voice. Such things cannot be faked.

"Few paintings contain the power that is in Liz Knox's most recent works. Colour and composition take us to a new place: somewhere that exists just beyond the visible world. It is the Mind's Eye that sees this vibrating underworld, and Liz Knox that takes us there, opening doors with this remarkable body of work."

Liz Knox: Mind's Eye, Kilmorack Gallery, by Beauly, Inverness-shire, IV4 7AL, 01463 783 230, Opens today, July 18 – August 8

Don't Miss

With physical degree shows cancelled this year, a make-do-and-mend approach has been adopted by all our art schools. The Glasgow School of Art has said it will support physical shows when it is possible and safe to do so, but in the meantime, feast your eyes on its School of Fine Art Graduate Showcase, which is being added to by students as time goes on. The Showcase is in the ether until the end of 2021. Since I first reviewed it in May, I've spotted a few more "names to watch", whose work has been added into the showcase since it was first launched, including Louise Reynolds and Morven Douglas.

The Glasgow School of Art Graduate Showcase,, Online until 31 Dec 2021, Friday to Friday