When a new virus emerged in China in late 2019, the world braced itself for a pandemic. It duly arrived, killing millions, curtailing the ability of tens of millions more to work, travel and socialise, and wrecking economies.

Next to all that, the travails of one Scottish artist are small beer and the man himself would be the first to admit it. But for painter and broadcaster Lachlan Goudie, the cancellation of the trip of the lifetime – eight weeks painting in the islands of the Indian Ocean – was a serious blow. It’s no surprise, then, that the prospect of one day resurrecting that plan became “a sort of talisman” for him throughout the dark days of lockdown and his own struggles with the effects of long Covid.

“A sense of hope and optimism was hard to sustain,” he tells me. “In particular when I got Covid myself, and I’ve had lingering long symptoms ever since, I really began to count on the fulfilment of this project as something to help move me on from a sense of being dispirited by everything we had been going through.”

The trip was to have centred on Mauritius. In the parallel universe in which there was no pandemic, Goudie would have exhibited the works he made there in a show to be held at the Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh in 2020. None of that happened, of course.

And now the good news. As life gradually returned to normal, Goudie was able to leave his London studio and venture further afield, paint box in hand. He went first to Edinburgh, where he undertook a 10 day residency in an apartment in Drummond Place in the New Town. There he worked on an easel which had once belonged to the Scottish Colourist SJ Peploe.

“I basically lined the flat with plastic so it looked like a murder scene,” he laughs. “I trundled the easel from window to window and painted the rooftops of the New Town.” It was February so Goudie made splendid use of the pinks and golds which come to those same rooftops at dusk on crisp, sunny, winter days.


After Edinburgh he travelled to Inverness-shire and the Western Isles. Then he went to the South of France. Finally, the dream of 2019 was realised: he set off for Mauritius.

And so, two years later than planned, Goudie’s paintings of the bright colours and lush landscapes of the tropics have been completed and are on display at the Scottish Gallery alongside the works he painted in Edinburgh, the Western Isles and France. The exhibition is called Painting Paradise and when I ask him what personal themes or ideas it coalesces around he says simply: “The show for me is about recovery.”

And how was Mauritius when he finally stepped off the plane, two years and one pandemic later?

“It was amazing,” he says. “There’s a reason people like Robert Louis Stevenson and Paul Gauguin formed these ambitions to go on expeditions to the Pacific or Tahiti because for folk from the north of Europe, where the light can be slaty and the narratives and mythology of our culture are often based on wintry folklore, the promise of something a whole world away is really intoxicating, When I got there it really fulfilled on a visual level.”

Featured in the show are paintings with titles such as Midday Mauritius, Lunch In The Shade, Bel Air (a palm-fringed study of a village on the island’s east coast) and Rush Hour, which shows a dusty street empty save for a man sheltering under a red umbrella. In all of these works the sky is azure, the land- and seascapes are flecked with pinks, greens, reds and purples, the light is rich and the people, where visible, are languid.

“When I’m travelling the curiosity for me is entirely led by colour and how blocks of colour, how light, interact and create the very things we’re seeing,” he says of the works. “The paintings I create when I’m in the south of France or Mauritius are often not about people, they’re about how you can almost break down your subject into abstraction … If you half close your eyes, a lot of my paintings disintegrate into composite areas of colour and tone. They’re almost abstract experiments for me.”



Born in Glasgow in 1976 and now based in London, Goudie studied English at Cambridge University but was winning prizes for his art even before he graduated. He left Cambridge and travelled immediately to India on a painting scholarship and later studied at Camberwell School of Art. He has been mounting solo exhibitions of his work since 2001 and in 2015 fronted The Story Of Scottish Art, a major, four-part series for BBC Two. Since then has become a regular presenter on BBC Four art programmes, as well as co-hosting more populist shows such as The Big Painting Challenge and Live Drawing Live!


But as well as having a scholar’s knowledge of Scottish art and the ability to talk in accessible terms about it, he has an inside take on the art world too. Painting is in his blood, quite literally. His father was Paisley-born, Glasgow School of Art-trained painter Alexander Goudie, a noted portraitist whose sitters included the late Queen and, closer to home, comedian Billy Connolly, and whose work was collected by the late Duke of Edinburgh among others.

“The biggest influence on what I do, inevitably, has been growing up in a house where my father was a painter,” Goudie tells me. “He was the prism through which I began to learn about how to paint. My dad was a very flamboyant, painterly artist. He used rich colour, he loved textures and a sense of the luxuriant in his painting.”

Goudie senior’s great heroes were artists such as Velazquez, Titian and Manet, and he would hand his son books on those artists and task him with drawing the images he found in them. He was six at the time.

“That was my entry point. My education from then onwards was about learning about how to paint from my dad and from the artists he really worshipped, but also digging into my own legacy that I have inherited from other artists.”

The royal connection has continued as well. In September, following the death of Queen Elizabeth, Goudie was one of six artists asked to document the lying-in-state held in Westminster Hall. Suited and armed with a drawing board, he sketched the crowds as they filed past the catafalque and was present when the king and his siblings stood vigil by their mother’s coffin.

“I was put in the corner so I wouldn’t be in the way and was an eye witness. It was extraordinarily insightful of them to understand that these moments of national significance require more than a photographer. Artists and painters can view these events with a different eye.”

He also drew in the House of Lords at the ceremony at which peers swore allegiance to the king. Goudie’s sketches of both events will be “reviewed”, as he puts it, and either works commissioned or the drawings placed in the royal archives.

“The royal family don’t own any of my work but it was a completing of a circle in some ways,” he says. “My father painted the queen and I was there to witness and document this very important and poignant stage in her life and reign.”

Life, death, colour, light, stillness, movement and ceremony – all fitting subjects for an artist for whom painting is paradise.

Painting Paradise is at the Scottish Gallery, Edinburgh, until November 26