I was fortunate to have a studio at the 369 Gallery for four years (1988-92). My first solo show was in the main gallery in 1989 – paintings and monoprints inspired by a year in Madrid on a Spanish Government Scholarship, fosussing on the rose garden in the Retiro Park. I also exhibited in the studio floor gallery, in both solo and group exhibitions, taught painting and drawing in the fabulous education room and was involved in selecting and curating shows for the studio floor gallery. All in all it was a wonderful time.
I was very pleased to receive a call from Andrew Brown, the 369 Gallery director, asking if I could take part in the 369 Gallery Remembered – the Women exhibition at Summerhall, running from November 2018 to 27th January 2019. I still had several of the paintings from the exhibition but, sadly, none of the actual rose ones. I dragged them out of my rack and wiped off the dust that had collected between the stretchers and the canvas. I had tried to save money in my early days as an artist by not putting in cross bars on the stretchers. It meant they were a little warped. It was strange looking at them again.
My memories of the 369 Gallery
Just after my post-graduate show in 1986, I heard that Andrew Brown was interested in my work. I was familiar with the 369 Gallery, both in its old site on the High Street and the new one in the Cowgate, so was pleased with this news. I was focussing on going to Madrid, so didn’t do much about it until my return. Everything happened quite quickly then; first the classes, then the studio, then the exhibition. I loved my studio there. It was just next to the little bridge (that bit still exists) and was spacious and quiet. There were other artists about, and sometimes we would meet for coffee, but everyone was hard working. I used to like coming in in the morning and being greeted by the gallery staff.
I remember there was still a rag and bone merchant in the Cowgate and we got our painting rags from there. Just up on Blair Street was an ironmonger where they would weigh out nails on brass scales for us. The City Café just up from there was also a favourite of those involved in the gallery. All these places have gone now.
I wasn’t there during the hey day of the 369 Gallery, so didn’t go of to America or Russia or get up to any of the high jinks some of the more established artists had. I did attend a few good parties, though, especially a Burns Supper, where Alasdair Gray delivered the Immortal Memory. I also remember a very lively group of German artists came over and we put out long tables in the main gallery and had a feast.
I left there in 1992 to go to Barcelona to study for an MA. The 369 gallery was winding down by then anyway. Looking back, I realise I was very fortunate to be involved with it; it sowed the seeds of my painting and teaching career. Although it seems like a long time ago, the memories are still fresh. In fact, my studio quite regularly appears in my dreams.