If you're lucky, the friends you make at 18 remain friends for a lifetime. This has certainly been the case for two gauche young art students who met on their first day at the Glasgow School of Art (GSA) in 1976. From the moment Lex McFadyen, who grew up in the Ayrshire village of Symington, and Madeleine Hand, a townie from Motherwell, introduced themselves, their friendship grew.

The pair went on to share a studio, live in the same Glasgow flat, get to know each other's family and partners and to support, critique and encourage each other throughout their respective careers.

Now, as the artists prepare to exhibit together for the first time at the Glasgow Gallery in Glasgow's city centre, McFadyen recalls how he and Hand were placed by their tutor, painter Barry Atherton, in the same studio corner of premises that GSA then owned on Blythswood Square.

The two artists followed different paths as they went through art school. McFadyen graduated in sculpture, before pursuing a career as a fashion designer, while Hand specialised in illustration and successfully built a career in that field.

Since giving up his fashion business in 1998, McFadyen has carved out a niche for himself as a painter, dividing his time between a home by the side of the Crinan Canal in Argyll and the medieval village of Noyers sur Serein in Burgundy, France.

Every summer (this year being an exception), McFadyen and his husband, Brendan Docherty, run a gallery called La Galerie Ecossaise in Noyers, where they exhibit work by Scottish artists.

In June 2018, days before a planned exhibition in the village to celebrate his 60th birthday, McFadyen was painting in his attic studio in the village when Docherty heard a loud hammering sound. He rushed upstairs to find his partner using a hand to bang the studio floor. Help was quickly summoned and soon McFadyen was being airlifted to a specialist neurosurgical unit in Dijon, where he was diagnosed as having suffered a near-fatal subarachnoid haemorrhage. He was quickly operated on and spent three and a half weeks in intensive care.

Some two years on, McFadyen knows that he is lucky to have made a full recovery. "My memory is a bit furry around the edges," he laughs, "But bear with me!" Some strange things happened along the way, like losing his sense of taste and forgetting how to mix oil paints to create his vivid still lifes, landscapes and figurative paintings.

Never one to be defeated, he started all over again with a totally new colour palette – and one which sings with the joy of being alive. He and Docherty have also been hatching plans – despite Brexit – to move their gallery in France to larger premises in Noyers, allowing more work from Scottish artists to be exhibited. It will also allow McFadyen to experiment with creating ceramic work on a new kiln he has bought.

McFadyen’s oil paintings and small charcoal drawings in this latest exhibition reflect the influence of his two studios. His training as a sculptor is writ large in contrast to the more delicate forms and muted tones of Hand's watercolours. There's a powerful zing in all McFadyen's oil paintings, be that in juicy still lifes or landscapes dappled with the high summer light of Argyll and Burgundy.

In contrast, Hand’s paintings, are inspired by her house, garden ad the rolling Perthshire countryside surrounding her home in Dunkeld. The two artists couldn't have more contrasting styles yet the work nestles alongside each other perfectly.

Hand's paintings are rooted in narrative scenes; be that on a domestic scale or out and about. There's a poetic tenderness to her scenes. A lot of these watercolours, with titles such as Walk Back and Through the Fields, were created earlier this year and quietly exude a confident and knowing hand at work.

Her love of paintings created against the febrile backdrop of the Second World War is clear. Strongly influenced by mid-twentieth century painters and illustrators with a love of the land, she admits owing a debt to the likes of Eric Ravilious and Evelyn Dunbar, who worked as a war artist during the Second World War, focusing on the work of the Women's Land Army.

Tender, delicate, intimate and beautiful, all Hand's paintings in this body of work contain figures, apart from one called Kettle's On. There's a patchwork quality to some paintings, particularly the likes of Life Stories, which hark back to simpler times and to homespun activities of yore; creating samplers or scrap books.

According to McFadyen, this show at the Glasgow Gallery featuring work by these two old friends was "always going to happen." Both worked solidly during lockdown and beyond, working towards a planned opening earlier this month. The proposed date was pushed back because of Level Four restrictions in Glasgow, and now officially opens on January 5. Before that, visitors will be able to have a look before this formal opening today, Tuesday and Wednesday.

It's rare to find artists whose work sits so companionably. McFadyen and Hand buck this trend while cementing a friendship 40 years in the making. And counting.

Lex McFadyen & Madeleine Hand: 40 Years in the Making, Glasgow Gallery, 182 Bath Street, Glasgow, G2 4HG, 0141 333 1991, www.glasgowgallery.co.uk. Special Preview Days: today (Dec 19), Tuesday December 22 & Wednesday December 23. Runs from January 5 to February 27, 2021, 11 am – 5pm


I might be wrong here (and please feel free to correct me), but Katherine Taylor and Hector Start might be the only two graduating art students in Scotland to have held a physical degree show in 2020. Earlier this year, students across the land held online iterations of their degree shows following lockdown in March.

Taylor and Start, who are a couple, have been students of Lews Castle College UHI studying for a BA (Hons) in Fine Art based while based at Taigh Chearsabhagh in North Uist.

The pair, originally from Moray, were due to hold their respective degree shows in May at the Lochmaddy-based arts centre, but both were postponed in the hope they could exhibit at some point.

Now, not only is their degree show now available to view digitally alongside other graduating fine art students from the University of the Highlands and Islands UHI), but the physical version of their degree shows opened two weeks ago at Taigh Chearsabhagh.

The two artists have taken diverse paths in terms of their studio practice and theoretical concerns in the last five years but they have both been hugely influenced by their experience of living in Uist and making connections with the environment around them.

Start has created series of five oil paintings which respond directly to the sublime landscape of North Uist. Although not the be-all and end all of a degree show, it’s a bonus that all his paintings have sold since the exhibition opened on December 5.

In her multi-media work, Taylor explores imagination and oceanic space through a multidisciplinary approach, including drawing and sculpture.

As part of our Lews Castle UHI's ongoing Taigh Chearsabhagh take-over, another gallery in the arts centre features Work in Progress, a student exhibition featuring artworks from the college's BA (Hons) Fine Art and NC Art and Design Students

To check out the work of graduating art students from UHI's campuses, from North Uist, Orkney, Shetland and Moray, see https://artnorth-magazine.com.

Lews Castle College Degree Show, Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum and Arts Centre, Lochmaddy Isle of North Uist, HS6 5AA, 01870 603970, https://www.taigh-chearsabhagh.org/ and https://artnorth-magazine.com/uhi-degree-show. Until January 5 2021


For anyone missing the tactile sensory experience of being in the same room as paintings by some of the giants of 20th century Scottish art, Cyril Gerber Fine Art is THE place to go. For its annual Winter Show, there is a selection of works on show, including; Joan Eardley, Will Maclean, William McCance, William Littlejohn, GL Hunter, Margot Sandeman, Pat Douthwaite, Philip Reeves, Margaret Morris, Tom MacDonald, Bet Low, Jack Knox, Elizabeth Cope, Gregor Smith, Albert Andre, John Houston, Iona Roberts and many others. Take me there now…

The Winter Show 2020, Cyril Gerber Fine Art, 178 West Regent Street, Glasgow G2 4RL, 0141 221 3095, http://gerberfineart.co.uk/, continues throughout December & January, Tuesday to Saturday, 11am – 4pm