It’s a matter of terrible irony that landscape artist Pam Carter’s first in-person Scottish exhibition since restrictions were lifted comes amid a spell of forced inactivity.
Born and raised in Tanzania before her Scottish father and Austrian mother moved their family to Glasgow when she was 13, the Glasgow School of Art graduate combined exhibiting with a Falkirk College lecturing post until eventually making painting her full-time occupation in 2003.
Colourful and dramatic
Colourful and expressive depictions of the Western Isles and dramatic east coast vistas have been Pam’s staple for most of her career, and following a hugely successful second online edition of the annual exhibition she normally stages on Skye, she’s unveiling her latest show at Crieff’s Strathearn Gallery.
Sadly, her West High Street return – she last exhibited there in June 2019 – coincides with cancer treatment that’s curtailed Pam’s work schedule.
“I’ve not actually been able to paint for the last four months,” she tells me.
“Usually I’m fairly dedicated and productive, but I’m just a wee bit fatigued right now. I’m hoping I’ll get back into it, but at the moment I’m having a little bit of a retirement.”
Known for her prolific output, the East Dunbartonshire resident matter-of-factly describes her fragile health as “a wee constant battle” – but makes it clear she has plenty more to give in an artistic sense.
“I’m feeling quite good but it’s a bit frustrating just now,” Pam, 69, adds.
“I’ve got a better balance and a better focus, so I’m hoping it’ll continue that way and I’ll get back into the studio.
“It certainly gives me a bit of a low mood that I can’t do everything that I want to do or that I’m used to doing, or what had brought me pleasure.
‘A bit of a struggle’
“It’s a bit of a struggle, and everything’s on ice. I’ve got some work on the go and I’m hoping to ease back in, and to get up to Skye for a couple of weeks’ holiday.
“I’ve got a place up there where I’ll just be able to be re-inspired and see the landscape again.
“By rights I should be retired. I’m still working away and it’s quite nice to have a rest, I have to say,” she chuckles.
The Visual Arts Scotland award-winner admits she’s missed travelling to the likes of Skye, Harris and Lewis as first lockdown and then recuperation have dominated the past 18 months.
“I like to go and do reccies of different places and spend a week of searching out views and the scenes that I want to paint,” Pam says.
“I’d come back to the studio armed with loads of photos and sketches to work off, recalling my time at beaches and other locations.
“I have favourite cottages and beach scenes that I go back to that I’ve seen in different lighting and seasons.
“Those and the tide are always different. I’m simply evoking what pleases me and a lot of people who love the islands and that kind of scenery. We definitely share something.”
East African inspiration
It’s easy to imagine East Africa has helped inspire the blazing sunsets and golden sands found in so much of Pam’s Scottish seascapes, and she agrees that her exotic childhood awakened her artistic sensibilities.
“I remember being about nine and watching an artist with an easel actually painting from life everything that was before him, the mountains, fields and trees,” she says.
“It made me observe, because I watched what he was observing. So from a very young age I’ve observed divisions, textures and colour, and its changes.”
It’s certainly an awareness that she’s honed and that’s served her well. Pam ordinarily produces around 200 oil paintings a year and Crieff visitors can view 40 previously unseen offerings – the vast majority completed since 2019.
Alongside will be 60 works by other artists which Pam’s selling off.
“It’s the kind of thing you do when you’re downsizing or decluttering,” she explains.
“It might challenge my own work, but hey-ho. I think I’ve managed to get a nice balance for my show, so it should be a good one.
“I love exhibiting at Strathearn Gallery. It’s so beautiful and Scott and Susan Bennett are just so good to work with.”
- * Pam Carter On Reflection is at Strathearn Gallery, Crieff, until October 24.