The Open Eye Gallery presents a retrospective exhibition of paintings and prints by Andrew Restall. With the earliest work in the exhibition dating from the 1950s, and the most recent from 2017, the exhibition shows the breadth of Restall’s practice to reposition him as one of the most incisive Scottish artists of his generation.
Restall’s work straddles painting, printmaking and collage. Known for his abstract imagery that looks to the landscape of Lowland Scotland and the footprint of humankind upon it, Restall employs a vibrant palette and textural contrasts to convey the collisions between the natural and human worlds in modern life. Whilst some earlier works in the exhibition create knowable landscapes with blockish rectangles delineating fields of crops and curved shapes acting as the gentle hills of the Lowlands, more recent pieces rely on linear gestures and textural moments to hint at recognisable locations.
The exhibition shows this preoccupation with the dialogue between humans and the landscape to have exerted creative impetus throughout Restall’s career. De/Reafforestation and Hill with Plantations look to the marking of the landscape by cultivation whilst Quarry and Revealed Catacombs hint at secrets unearthed in the mining of the land. Restall repeatedly looks not just to the shape of the visible environment but also to the spaces carved out within it by human hand or machine. Despite his focus on imagery gleaned from the land, Restall refuses to be categorised as a ‘landscape artist’, with an instinct for abstraction continuously informing his work.
The collagraph provides the perfect vehicle for Restall’s excavations of the landscape as it incorporates segments gleaned from the modern environment in its very definition. In making his collagraphs, Restall fixes cuttings from magazines and other ephemera both onto his printing plates and onto the finished prints. This creates a spectrum of textural nuance unachievable in other print-making practices. Whilst Restall says that there is ‘an underlying path’ within his work, his intuitive approach and the degree of chance in his print-making practice means that there is ‘no final destination’.
Restall was born in Oxfordshire in 1931, the son of a professional typographer. He graduated from Edinburgh College of Art in 1954, where he later established the new School of Visual Communication. In 1965 he was seconded to the Royal College of Art as Research Fellow in Stamp Design. Alongside teaching, from 1964 Restall designed stamps and related philatelic material for the Post Office. This occupation built on his existing interest in typography and printing processes. In 1975 he became Head of Illustration at University of Brighton. Since retiring as Head of the School of Visual Communication at Edinburgh College of Art, he has concentrated on his practice as a painter and printmaker.