Alison strikes a pose
It’s five years since a 31-year old artist took a leap of faith and decided to open a gallery on Edinburgh’s Broughton Street, just when the country was in the grip of a recession.
To mark the Union Gallery’s fifth birthday, owner and director Alison Auldjo is welcoming back many of the outstanding artists who have exhibited with her for ‘Now We Are Five’, a spectacular mixed exhibition which runs from 4 until 29 July.
The exhibition features artists such as Philip Braham, Annette Edgar, Patsy McArthur, Dylan Lisle, Graham Flack, Norrie Harman, Joyce Gun Cairns MBE, and Audrey Grant to name a few.
The gallery has forged a formidable reputation for showing the work of contemporary artists that other galleries might consider non-commercial in terms of too challenging or too provocative.
It has also given many of the exhibiting artists their first solo show, again something many galleries tend to shy away from, but Alison’s instinct has served both gallery and artists well as these shows have proved major successes.
A gallerista at work
Alison is particularly proud of the fact the gallery has launched the careers of some of Scotland’s most sought after artists including Audrey Grant and the ‘notorious’ taxidermy artist, Samantha Boyes.
Alison with the work of Samantha Boyes
It takes a special brand of courage to open an art gallery during a recession and the success of the gallery speaks volumes about Alison’s tenacity, creativity and work ethic.
“Bringing the best of the contemporary art scene to public view is my career and vocation and I genuinely believe it to be very important to both artist and audience,” explains Alison.
“I’m not sure how you can do this ‘job’ without soul. A bit of grit and tunnel vision in something you believe in wholeheartedly helps too. You need to have energy, much like the artists’ studios where the work is made.
“It must be something to do with the artist in me as I don’t look at the art with pound signs in my eyes and prefer to think of the bigger picture. I have a great deal of empathy for those who show here.
“I know what genuine/earnest work takes out of an artist. It’s like putting your heart and soul on the walls for public scrutiny. It’s excruciating and so I try to be beside them at every step of the way.”
Artist Audrey Grant says that Alison has been instrumental in helping her to build her career, with the gallery providing significant exhibiting opportunities. “As a result I now have a London gallery, and a second solo show with the Union Gallery during the Edinburgh Festival in 2015,” says Audrey.
Artist Annette Edgar with Runner
For this new exhibition, Alison is especially delighted to have artists such as Kevin Low showing work, as the gallery helped to launch his career. And with the Commonwealth Games on the horizon, Annette Edgar’s enormous ‘Runner’ painting is a particular highlight.
“I think great art should be a bit like a great movie,” says Alison. “There can be many genres: romantic, thriller, action, horror, love story. If it’s done well it will impact on those who see it, play on their mind, make them think…remember.
“I have people who come here who I’m sure will never buy anything, but they choose to come here because they know they will see something that will let them escape from everyday life. It’s lovely to know them by name and vice versa.
“I also have plenty clients who are ‘serious buyers’ who come here because they know they are going to see something a bit special, the real deal and that’s rewarding too.
“Opening during a recession was obviously a bit of a risk but I’m still here five years later and I actually have plans to expand and next year’s exhibition programme is already booked.”
NOW WE ARE FIVE – 4 to 29 July
UNION GALLERY 45 Broughton Street EH1 3JU
Monday – Saturday 10.30 to 18.00
Sunday 12.00 to 18.00
The inspirational Union Gallery loo