Scottish artist Andrew McIntosh experiments with the imagery of Romantic painters in his upcoming exhibition featuring run-down shops incongruously positioned in rolling landscapes.
Inspired by a drive through the Scottish Highlands, Andrew McIntosh's new paintings of lawn mower repair shops and vinyl record stores stranded in remote locations will appear as part of an exhibition titled Dreamers at Islington's James Freeman Gallery between the 18th of May and the 10th of June.
Taking its name from the struggles independent retailers face in the modern age, Dreamers riffs on the Romantic tradition of presenting the natural world as an antidote to the encroachment of technological innovations. These playful yet poignant paintings also highlight how indie shops are becoming a relic of the past, much like the Romantic movement.
Unusual buildings have long been a theme in Andrew's work, with the artist having collected images of structures that interest him for the best part of a decade. "Often in my paintings, I remove a wall to reveal something incongruous within, but none of these buildings had worked for this approach," he tells Creative Boom. "They felt like they deserved to stand alone – which is exactly what I have done with them here."
And just like the Romantic paintings that inspired them, these paintings operate on a large scale to get their point across. With their illuminated signs, stained brickwork and empty windows, these shops are at once majestic and haunting, like an endangered species skulking across the landscape. Quite the departure from the structures Andrew spotted while driving around Scotland.
"I kept seeing stately homes or quaint cottages in lovely settings, and I wanted to paint them but couldn't find a reason as to why," he reveals.
"I became frustrated with the quaintness of these structures, so I removed them – removing a main element of an idea has always been one of my principal approaches in developing new concepts – and replaced them with the buildings that interest me, which is when the idea came alive. These independent retailers act like bastions of private passion in wild, hostile landscapes."
But as well as representing passion, there's a strong undercurrent of melancholy running beneath the surface of these paintings. The choice of shops – which includes a chippy, tanning salon and corner shop – underlines how far society has come from the post-war ideal of individual private enterprise.
This is paired with a sense of admiration, not to mention a dash of warmth and humour. By relocating these buildings to the Highlands, Andrew appears to position these independent shops on par with towering mountains and majestic lochs. They're both timeless, beautiful and at odds with the digital demands of contemporary life.