Willie Rodger RSA RGI: Selected Paintings and Prints
‘Willie would be called a “National Treasure” in Japan, but here in Scotland I would call him a “Wee Treasure”.’ Iain McIntosh RSA
Willie Rodger is one of Scotland’s best loved artists. Having held his first solo exhibition over 50 years ago, for the last half century he has been regarded as a preeminent printmaker and painter. Whilst best known as the maker of lino- and woodcuts, Rodger has painted throughout his career and the inclusion of paintings in this exhibition shows them to be a central element of his practice. Simplicity is at the heart of Rodger’s work but his wry observations about the state of the world are layered with wit and comedy.
Working in his studio in the roof space of his house in Kirkintilloch, Rodger produces prints and paintings that intermix the harshness of life with joy and humour. Critic, Cordelia Oliver, has noted the distinguishing features of Rodger’s prints as their ‘sharp edged, clean cut blend of boldness and delicacy, austerity and wit, and the notably economic use of a medium which he clearly came to understand in all its limitations as well as in its richly evocative possibilities’. Whilst Rodger’s paintings share the acerbic edge of his printmaking, they offer larger scale scenes showing the people of Scotland in their leisure time, with scenes of football matches, gallery viewings, dancing, kite flying and even a game of strip poker. With work dating from as early as 1970, the exhibition offers a slice of Scottish social history. An astute observer of the pleasures and perils of life in modern Scotland, Rodger offers a social commentary comparable to the great masters of satire: Hogarth, Goya and Daumier.
Rodger was born in Kirkintilloch in 1930 and studied at Glasgow School of Art from 1948 to 1953. By the time he graduated, he had already sold two prints to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. After a brief spell working in advertising, he took up a teaching position. He was Principal Teacher of Art at Clydebank High School from 1968 to 1987 but kept up his own practice, exhibiting widely in Scotland from 1954. In association with John K. Clark, Rodger began designing stained glass windows in 1985 for the Parish Churches of Kippen, St Mary’s Kirkintilloch, and Milton of Campsie. He also designed the award-winning Scottish Historical Playing Cards (1975). In 1989 Rodger became the first printmaker to be awarded Associate of the Royal Scottish Academy. His commissions include illustrating The Colour of Black & White; Poems 1984-2003 by Liz Lochhead (2003) and The Field of Thistles by Monica Clough (1983); designing a 100 foot long mural for the Exhibition Centre Station in Glasgow (1988); and 40 banners for Union Street Bi-Centenary in Aberdeen (1994). Rodger’s work is held in public and private collections worldwide.