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Alison Dunlop

Alison Dunlop
  • Work
  • Biography
The presence of islands not far off-shore seems to encourage a dynamic interplay of light and water and, most days, sunshine melts into cloudbursts and rain over the Inner Sound and The Minch. Some days, the forms of the Isles are barely visible through thin veils of mist which part from time to time, allowing only glimpses of bleak, grey silhouettes.

I’ve been exploring this elemental interplay in my work since moving to Wester Ross some years ago. From my home on the coast, they are, despite their diminished scale, a compelling sight.
My eyes have always been drawn to the Shiants in particular - in their rugged, fierce isolation, they seem like defiant, rocky fists, thrusting their way up through the waves, interrupting the visual plane. The idea of their inaccessibility, their detachment from the world, appealed to me and was something I was keen to explore.

Since 2019, when I finally set foot on the Shiants, they have been the focus of my work. Up close, the organic spirit of the volcanic rock reveals itself and tells you about creation, destruction and the fragility of life in the face of indifferent natural forces.
These forms were brought about by great upheaval - once fluid, their organic spirit is still evident as their layers have been peeled back by decay and erosion, wind and sea. The rocks may not be moving, but they are still breathing; both terrifying to behold and unnerving, in their sheer scale and drama.
Born in Canada, Alison began her studies there before continuing in France and Britain. In 1982, she came to Scotland to undertake postgraduate studies at Edinburgh College of Art, and has made Scotland her home.

In 1989 Alison was elected a member of the Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolour and is a past Vice-President of the Society. She also served as President of Visual Arts Scotland between 1997-99 and was made an Honorary Life Member.

She was a founding Director of The Exhibiting Societies of Scottish Artists (ESSA) and a founding member of the Edinburgh College of Art Alumni Association. She was Honorary Arts Convenor of the Scottish Arts Club, Edinburgh from 2001-2004.

Twice the recipient of the Elizabeth T Greenshields Foundation Scholarship, she was short listed several times for the Noble Grossart Painting Prize and received the Alexander Graham Munro Award from the RSW in 1997, the John Gray Prize in 2007 and the Walter Scott Award in 2018.

Her oils and watercolours are widely held in both public and private collections throughout the UK and Canada.

Most recently she had a solo exhibition at the Scottish Gallery, Edinburgh in January 2023, “Between Heaven and Earth”. Her book, “Spirit of Beyond: The Shiant Isles”, was published in 2021, coinciding with a major exhibition in Gairloch Museum.