An intimate portrait of Angus landscape artist James Morrison has received its world premiere in this year’s online Glasgow Film Festival.
In a debut screening of Eye of the Storm on Sunday night, a global audience shared the revealing insight into the life of a figure regarded as one of the nation’s greatest contemporary watercolourists.
In the film, Glasgow-born Morrison reveals inspirations behind a career which took him from the coasts of his adopted home county of Angus to the open and dangerous expanses of the Arctic in his quest to document the impact of climate change through his striking works.
The 88-year-old also speaks with heart-breaking candour of the “terrible loss” of his sight and the deteriorating health which led to his death in August 2020 at the age of 88.
Award-winning local film-maker Anthony Baxter described the two-year project in the latter stages of Mr Morrison’s life as a “privilege” to be able to tell story of the important figure and take his “breathtakingly beautiful” work to, hopefully, a new audience.
Eye of the Storm was commissioned by BBC Scotland, which will screen the film later this spring.
Mr Baxter, the figure behind the highly-acclaimed You’ve Been Trumped documentary and its You’ve Been Trumped Too sequel said he was delighted Eye of the Storm has already been selected for prestigious festivals in Paris, Montreal and Washington DC.
Morrison studied at Glasgow School of Art in the early 1950s, before founding the Glasgow Group of artists with fellow painters Anda Paterson and James Spence towards the end of the decade.
Royal Scottish Academy
He was an Academician of the Royal Scottish Academy and a member of the Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolour.
In 1965, Morrison joined the staff of Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art in Dundee, remaining there for more than two decades before turning full-time.
In the film, which features songs by leading Scottish folk singer Karine Polwart, Morrison reveals a drawing of Mickey Mouse was his first inspiration.
“My whole life I was mixed up with painting,” he tells documentary-maker Baxter.
Mr Morrison describes his life in art as “my argument with myself.”
Of his adventures to the Arctic, which added stunning polar pieces to his remarkable portfolio but also brought with it great danger for the painter, he says: “I went knowing nothing at all about what I was in for.”
Devastating sight loss
The greatest poignancy, however, is around the octogenarian’s health battle and the “terrible loss” of his sight.
“The very thought of coming in here (the studio) and not being able to pick up a brush really terrifies me,” he tells Baxter.
The film follows the artist’s preparations for what turned out to be his last-ever public exhibition at the Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh in January last year.
From Angus to the Arctic was his 25th solo show at the venue where he had exhibited for almost 70 years.
A special audio descriptive version of Eye of the Storm has also been produced with the help of the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).