Lachlan Goudie on escaping with art, his love of Scotland, and staying creative during a pandemic

Lachlan Goudie, courtesy of Paul Stewart

Bringing fairy tales to life, Scottish artist and broadcaster, Lachlan Goudie, will unveil a new series of paintings at Edinburgh's The Scottish Gallery, inspired by places that may have recently felt far far away.

As we "tumble through the looking glass" into a surreal world of lockdown and anxiety, Lachlan has escaped into the art of his imagination, inspired by the nightly ritual of reading stories to his young daughter and her determination to inhabit the idyllic land of make-believe.

His paintings explore landscapes across Dorset, rural Berwickshire, and the Lofoten Islands in Arctic Norway, alongside still lifes which offer a counterpoint to the energy of the living landscape. The collection provides a glimpse into Lachlan's own experience and inadvertently commemorate this strange moment in time. We chatted to Lachlan about this and more.

Your father was also an artist. Did his work influence your own in any way?

Growing up in a house where art was being created every day, it's perhaps inevitable that I was deeply influenced by the style of work that my father made. Like him, my approach is figurative and painterly, with lots of movement and colour. However, the animated and intricate drawings that I now make of engineering projects, shipyards and steel mills is perhaps a departure from the approach to the canvas that my dad espoused.

You have a passion for Scottish art – what makes it so unique?

I think that Scottish art, like any art that originates in a particular region or country, is particularly sensitive to the landscape, character and climate of Scotland. But the thing that makes Scottish art relevant and exciting has always been its curiosity and openness to influences from across Europe and around the world. This has been the case since the very earliest merchants sailed from Orkney across the Hebridean isles, to Ireland, Wales, France and Spain, trading goods in the distinctive Orcadian pottery that can now be traced to all those diverse and distant countries.

The Frozen North, 2020 © Lachlan Goudie

The Frozen North, 2020 © Lachlan Goudie

Clemmie's World, 2020 © Lachlan Goudie

Clemmie's World, 2020 © Lachlan Goudie

You recently published a book, The Story of Scottish Art. Tell us more!

The Story of Scottish Art tells the story of 5,000 years of Scottish art. Since the Neolithic era, creativity has played a vital role in shaping the course of Scotland's history. The first tribal leaders, chieftains and Kings of this emerging nation used art to cement their authority. Over the turbulent centuries that followed, artists were always at the heart of the action; holding a mirror to the faces, places and events that defined Scotland's story. The Story of Scottish Art is not an academic textbook; it's a creative pilgrimage, a personal account told from the perspective of a contemporary, artist. It's a tale of radicals and visionaries, artists with an international mindset and a bold sense of their heritage, who resolved to create work on the frontline and at the forefront of Western Art and culture.

Any highlights that you can share?

The small sculpted form of the Westray Wife was talismanic for me throughout writing the book. It was carved 5,000 years ago on the Isle of Westray in the Orkney Islands, and it's the oldest carving of a human figure ever found in Scotland, and possibly the earliest to be discovered in the UK.

How have you been finding inspiration during these turbulent times?

In the early stages of the lockdown, I found it very hard to concentrate on painting. I was in the beautiful Dorset countryside with my family, but the constant anxiety and stream of bad news interfered with my ability to settle. The Covid crisis prevented me from travelling to Mauritius, where I had planned to spend two months painting. I intended to produce one part of an exhibition inspired by two very different climates; the Arctic and the Tropics.

Instead, I found myself locked down in Dorset. During this period, however, as the year turned from late winter to spring and early summer, I began to chart the changes in the landscape, the flowers and the foliage in my paintings.

Fairy Tale, 2020 © Lachlan Goudie

Fairy Tale, 2020 © Lachlan Goudie

New Pastures, 2020 © Lachlan Goudie

New Pastures, 2020 © Lachlan Goudie

The Huntsman's Cottage, 2020 © Lachlan Goudie

The Huntsman's Cottage, 2020 © Lachlan Goudie

You have a new exhibition. What can we expect?

Once Upon A Time is a collection of paintings inspired by places that are, or at least may recently have felt, far far away. The exhibition is comprised of works inspired by fairy tales; still lifes of flowers and arrangements of objects designed to make you daydream; seascapes and landscapes depicting places you might wish to escape to.

Why focus on fairy tales?

As an artist in 2020, I have been able to run away into my paintings and my imagination. The experience which most influenced my paintings, however, was the nightly ritual of reading fairy tales to my three-year-old daughter to send her to sleep.

Although oblivious to the scale of the events transforming our world, Clementine was still aware that life was no longer 'normal'. So, we escaped together into an altered reality, stories of Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, Snow White and of course, the snow-covered landscape of the Disney's Frozen; the lodestar of three-year-olds obsessed with princesses. Gradually, all of these ideas and images began to filter their way into the paintings I was creating each day in the landscape.

Once Upon a Time, 2020 © Lachlan Goudie

Once Upon a Time, 2020 © Lachlan Goudie

Refuge in the Woods © Lachlan Goudie

Refuge in the Woods © Lachlan Goudie

The Snow Queen, 2020 © Lachlan Goudie

The Snow Queen, 2020 © Lachlan Goudie

I think we're all after escapism right now. Do you find you can do so through your art practice?

Once Upon A Time reflects my own experience of how images and imagination can transport us from our daily concerns. Clementine's single-minded enthusiasm, her determination to inhabit a fantastical inner world, was hugely powerful and uplifting at a difficult time. The impact this had in helping me generate a whole new body of work, reinforced my sense that art can enrich our minds and enhance our lives even during the darkest of days.


Once Upon a Time by Lachlan Goudie opens at The Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh on 28 October and runs until 25 November 2020. Find out more: lachlangoudie.com.