Landscape artist Anna King has always been drawn to the margins. Her distinctive paintings depict neglected rural spaces which bear light traces of a human hand and by default, a human heart.

There is no mistaking an Anna King painting in which signature sparseness translates into bleak beauty. She never knowingly places a mark where there shouldn’t be one, working in oil paints on paper pasted onto board, drawing into the wet paint with a pencil. There is a light, sketch-like touch to all her paintings; which conjures up the ephemeral nature of human interaction with nature.

As King says, she loves the freedom this surface gives to combine washes and slicks of oil with fluid pencil marks. Having taken a year off when her daughter was born 18 months ago, the Borders-based painter returned to the easel at the end of last year to transfer a mass of images from her head onto board.

It looks effortless, but I am sure it is not. As the painter Francis Bacon once said: “real painting is a mysterious and continuous struggle with chance.”

The result is a new body of work which has just gone on show at the at Resipole Studios on the shores of Loch Sunart. I stumbled upon the exhibition, featuring 18 new paintings (including two diptychs), at the end of a lockdown-easing few days on Ardnamurchan. With the gallery having tentatively re-opened two weeks earlier, the exhibition launched without a fanfare, which is in keeping with the unshowy nature of King’s oeuvre.

I first came across the work of King in 2007 at the old Glasgow Art Fair on George Square. I wasn’t exactly flush, or in a position to buy a painting, but when I spotted a wee painting by King of a hedgerow in Catterline on Aberdeen’s Gallery Heinzel stand, I couldn’t resist. I found myself paying up the £350 price tag on ten interest-free instalments through the brilliant Own Art scheme. It gives me great joy on a daily basis.

King had spent two residencies over subsequent winters at Joan Eardley’s clifftop studio, the Watchie in Catterline, and the spirit of the place, which had so inspired Eardley, seeped into her bones. Today, prices for an Anna King painting are considerably more than £350 but I’d say they are worth every penny. There has been a subtle gear-shift in her approach to subject matter. Where once she looked to wastelands, abandoned buildings and barren pieces of scrub-land, now she is drawn to forestry clear-fell sites near where she lives in a small village on the edge of a community woodland.

But nature is not always natural. It can be as industrialised as we humans make it. Many of us have been looking more closely at the world around us in lockdown and, in this body of work, King is ahead of the curve.

When I talk to her a few days after seeing her paintings, she tells me about going into her studio as lockdown began. “In the first few weeks, as spring was about to begin, I wanted to pin down the images of winter trees. I can keep images in my head for a while and I became quite focused on nature taking over after trees had been felled. There are normally big areas in the Borders as there are in other parts of Scotland, but I got interested in ‘shelter belts’ – strips of trees – which are there to provide shelter for stock.”

Although she probably wasn’t thinking of Ardnamurchan or the Road to the Isles when she painted this new work, the parallels of the scenery encountered along the way to Loch Sunart are obvious and part of a wider phenomenon in Scotland of nature as industry. As we drove around last week, forests of non-native spruce – some felled, some not – would regularly hove into view.

As King says: “Although we often think of any trees as being ‘natural’, when it comes to non-native forestry plantations, there is no doubt that this land has been as industrialised as any quarry or built environment.”

There is an almost post-apocalyptic feel to devastated tracts of nature on our hillsides and King’s paintings of trees reminded me of the way in which you see a ghostly imprint in your mind’s eye when you get an eye-test. “That’s exactly how I see things I want to paint!’ she laughs. “When I close my eyes, I can see the shape.”

King, who graduated from Duncan of Jordantsone College of Art in Dundee in 2005, is now in her mid-thirties and having taken a year off from painting seems to have returned with more vigour and focus.

“Taking the time out when my daughter was born has been useful,” she says. “I’ve come back more focused with the knowledge that time is precious. I’ve become more focused on the area local to us here in the Borders. We live on the edge of a community woodland and I find myself constantly looking at shapes, which I can see when my eyes close.

“I’ve never been one for a big splash. I just chip away at the next painting and things change gradually. We have big skies here and lots of light. There’s so much to see.”

There is so much to enjoy and admire in Anna King’s work. It’s mature and assured without being shouty or trying too hard to own its place in the world. She looks beyond the obvious to make subtle marks which speak about our place in the world – and in nature.

Anna King Solo, Resipole Studios, Loch Sunart, Acharachle, Argyll, PH36 4HX, 01967 431506, Tue-Sun, 11am to 6pm. Until August 31


With just a few months to put its whole annual exhibition online, Paisley Art Institute (PAI) has gone all Star Trek, and launched its annual open exhibition in a virtual gallery, complete with nine separate themed viewing rooms.

PAI has been a champion of art and artists in the former mill town of Paisley since 1876. Being ahead of the curve in terms of art and design mattered as much to its original members as it does today and PAI's management committee, led by its President Jean Cameron, has made the best of a difficult situation by "porting" the 132nd "Annual" in jig time.

The virtual viewing rooms have been created by Berlin-based web designer, Andrew Hopkins, originally from Paisley. A selection committee, overseen by PAI's Hanging Convenor, Eòghann MacColl, whittled down 628 entries from artists down to around 400 and "hung" the works in virtual rooms. Reflecting the times in which we live, the rooms are; Lockdown, Dealbhan beaga - Wee Paintings, The Digital Moving Image, Outdoors, Headspace, Face to Face, The Sculpture Salon, Paisley Connections and Flowers - Still Life.

Viewing art online is an altogether different experience from seeing it in an actual room, but needs must and PAI has done well to make the experience as clear and user-friendly as it can be.

It's easy to click on to art works and once you are in the room with its serviceable white panels set against a concrete backdrop. There's even spot lights to guide you. Clickable information on the artist is also available, as is an option to buy the artwork and even a wee heart shape to add the work to your "favourites". I discovered by chance that if you hop over to PAI's online shop, all the work which is for sale is posted in tiles and provides another less jazzy but more functional viewing platform.

Many artists have responded to the current situation with works which reflect lockdown lives and a love of nature. Boo Paterson's graphic mixed media take on the Stars 'n' Stripes, Covid Old Glory, is the poster image for the exhibition and rightly so because it's . a show stopper. I related to Alexander Ramsay's Lockdown Fever sculpture, featuring a glassy-eyed figure swaddled in old fashioned diving kit, complete with a wee bird on his head. Dive in and enjoy…

132nd Paisley Art Institute Annual Exhibition, Until September 6


Painter, Robert Kelsey, is a past president of Paisley Art Institute and a real champion of fellow artists and their work. Since graduating from the Glasgow School of Art in 1970, his painting style has ebbed and flowed but the one constant is his constant pursuit of light. For this new exhibition for Thompson's Aldeburgh in Suffolk, Kelsey has returned to a theme of exploring the graphic elements of driftwood on the shore from his early days as an artist. Featuring landscape paintings of Scotland, London and Suffolk, the red dots were ramping up pre-opening, so be quick if you're keen to buy work!

Robert Kelsey, Thompson's Aldeburgh, 175 High Street, Aldeburgh, Suffolk, IP15 5AN,, 01728 453 743, Mon-Fri, 10am-5pm, Sat, 10am-5pm, Sun, 11am-5pm.Opens today. Opens today. Runs until Aug 31.