‘Dreamers’ is an exhibition of new paintings by the Scottish artist Andrew McIntosh, presenting a series of surreal inhospitable landscapes where independent retailers fight to survive.
Andrew McIntosh is a painter originally from the Highlands of Scotland, and the works in this show all return to his native landscapes. They are a collection of large paintings in the Romantic tradition, depicting grand, wild, indomitable places. The Romantics of the 19th century looked to such raw natural environments as an antidote to encroaching technology and the Industrial Revolution. They represented a dream of uncomplicated existence, a place for individual idiosyncrasy as well as a figurative representation of the tormented spirit of the Romantic, railing against the relentless advance of mass-standardisation.
With typical humour, into these wild settings Andrew places dilapidated buildings with unexpected inhabitants. In ‘Dreamers’ these are all independent retailers whose heyday has long passed but who persist nonetheless, resilient. The ‘Sunset Beach’ tanning salon sits in the middle of a field surrounded by pine trees and beneath heavily clouded hills. ‘Neptunes’ arcade and amusement centre glows in tacky neon as it sits atop a crannog on a loch. Zodiac Records, a true survivor vinyl shop on the South Circular road in London, is transported to the base of a towering mountain at the edge of a glacial stream. And a second hand lawnmower repair shop sits in the middle of a foggy field whose grass has lain untamed for many a season.
In an accompanying group of smaller paintings Andrew transplants old pubs into Romantic landscapes, this time brighter and more reminiscent of Italianate pastoral ideals. The Falcon, the legendary Camden music venue, closed down in 2002 and turned into flats. Old College Bar, one of the oldest pubs in Glasgow, demolished in 2021. The Newman Arms, a Fitzrovia pub dating back to 1730. And The Clock Inn, reputedly Edinburgh’s hardest pub often compared to a nuclear bunker, sits in an idyllic golden-lit landscape. With pubs under threat of extinction, increasingly run by landlords at the edge of viability, they represent a part of Britain’s social fabric kept alive by individual determination.
On the one hand these Dreamers represent a continuation of the Romantics, for they speak of how private passions can be expressed through independent enterprise. But their existence as enterprises also speaks of another kind of ideal: the American Dream that permeates them all. The lawnmower as the staple piece of kit for the homeowner whose garden is their private domain; vinyl records and rock and roll; tanning salons; the glitz of neon signs. They are all suffused with the postwar ideal of individual independent enterprise, and their dilapidated state only underlines how far we have travelled from that era. In his paintings Andrew articulates this with both warmth and humour, and not a little admiration for these redoubtable stalwarts, whilst also suggesting how that postwar idealism is becoming a relic of the past much like the Romantic movement.