Sandy Laing, Perth-born artist and university professor, son of Alec Laing of Forteviot and Margaret Chalmers of Dundee, has died aged 73 at home in London.
Sandy’s education began at Craigie School, Perth, before he advanced to Perth High School.
Reflecting on his education, Sandy would often talk of the inspirational art tuition he received at the high school particularly from teachers, Alan Robson and Bert McLaggan.
One summer, Mr McLaggan had the art department corridor painted a fiery red and this explosion of colour had an instant effect on the students.
“Suddenly we felt special, our subject important and with a real sense of a future in the arts,” Sandy told his friends and family.
By 1966 Sandy had begun at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art, Dundee, initially choosing illustration in his third year but switching to painting after a persuasive conversation with Alberto Morrocco.
In 1971, Sandy’s post-diploma year, he was offered a place in the Painting School of the Royal College of Art in London.
His tutors at the RCA included Peter Blake, Briget Riley and Carel Weight, who repeatedly introduced Sandy as a “distinguished student” much to Sandy’s embarrassment.
Both Sandy and his wife, Maureen Dunbar, whom he married in 1971, were born and raised in Perth.
Although they grew up just one cricket and two football pitches apart on the South Inch, and lived fairly parallel lives, they didn’t meet until 1969 in Dundee.
That summer they hitched to London, flew to Athens and slowly hitchhiked homeward from the Greek islands across Greece, north through Italy, into Switzerland, Germany and Holland; a latter-day grand tour.
Maureen said: “We had wonderful experiences. Alec had persuaded us to include Eindhoven in our travels where he’d been stationed during the war.
“So, leaving Dusseldorf, we headed north west and were picked up by a lovely man who said he could take us to the Dutch border.
“Twenty miles later he dropped us off and waved goodbye. Within 10 minutes he was back. Our driver had been a prisoner-of-war at Cultybraggan, Comrie, in the final stages of the war and had spoken often to his wife about the generosity and kindness of the Scots during his imprisonment.
“Incredulous at her husband’s inability to not recognise a debt was due, she’d grabbed their passports, shooed him back to the car and off we all drove to Eindhoven. Debt paid.”
That summer trip was a life-changing experience and resulted in Sandy producing five large paintings in his post-diploma year, being awarded a pass with distinction and achieving the place at the RCA.
Some of these paintings now hang in Ninewells Hospital and are held in the Dundee’s art collection.
After the RCA years, a short spell teaching in Edinburgh in 1975 led to a post teaching foundation and graphics students at Preston Polytechnic in Lancashire.
During this time he also worked at the University of Creative Arts in Salford and Birmingham University’s Faculty of Arts. It was while in Preston the couple’s children Patrick Laing and Brooke Dunbar were born.
In 1980, Sandy was appointed senior lecturer in visual studies at the University of the Arts London and the family settled in leafy Highgate, attracted by its space and sense of village community.
Sandy remained at UAL until 2005 when he was offered the opportunity of a one-year exchange contract at the prestigious Shih Chien University in Taipei.
The one-year contract in Taiwan became an 11-year contract and a professorship and, with the two-term academic year, Sandy would fly home for long summer breaks while Maureen continued with her business in the UK.
Maureen and Sandy retired together in 2016 the year Brooke gave birth to her son, Hunter.
Brooke works across the UK as a children’s storyteller, theatre creative and producer. Patrick works in materially-focused product design and 3-D design and both Patrick and Brooke are visiting tutors in their respective subjects at universities in the south of England.
Every day throughout Sandy’s life he drew or painted or created in some form of mixed media.
Maureen said: “Hunter would burst into the studio and the pair of them would work back to back on their canvases into the early evening, listening to Django Reinhart and Caesaria Navarro or to bird song in the early mornings, happy and contented.
“Hunter’s work was colourful and with much freedom of expression; Sandy’s work equally colourful but political, satirical, intriguing, deeply subjective and nearly always 5′ x 4′.”
From November 4, 2022 an exhibition of Sandy Laing’s work will be held at Highgate Literary and Scientific Institution, Pond Square, London N6.