Dennis Buchan RSA ‘Coastal Connections’

01-10-2022 - 21-10-2022

Compass Gallery is celebrating the life and work of the Scottish artist Dennis Buchan RSA with a new solo exhibition.

Born in Arbroath on the east coast of Scotland, Buchan studied at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art, Dundee, under Alberto Morrocco. He continued his studies, completing his postgraduate degree at Hospitalfield, Arbroath. Thereafter he taught before undertaking National Service, returning to Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art as a full time lecturer. In 1991 he was granted study leave where he travelled to New York, Holland, Belgium and Barcelona. Winner of several major awards including the Keith Prize (RSA, 1962), Latimer Award (RSA, 1963), Scottish Arts Council Major Award (1973), William Gillies Bequest Fund Award (RSA, 1991). He has served on the Scottish Arts Council Awards Panel; he was elected to the Royal Scottish Academy in 1991.

Since 1968, we have had a long and lasting relationship with Dennis showcasing his work at the New Charing Cross Gallery and Compass Gallery Glasgow. This will be his 4th solo exhibition with us. His work is held in both national and international private and public collections including the Scottish Arts Council; Dundee Museum & Art Galleries; Vincent Price Collection, USA; Edinburgh Hospital Group and Leicester University.

His vibrant, expressive canvasses continue to excite using the sea and landscapes around him as a base for his inspiration - they are full of emotions and soulfulness recording and expressing his reactions to the world he lives in, viewed from the window of his studio. This connects him to the outside world, reacting to the variations of the sky, space, clouds and the changing weather of the seasons. Whilst listening to the music which resonates with his emotions, his paintings reflect the shifting water, the busy harbour with its comings and goings, the fleeting sight of an aeroplane, interspersed with the events of his life. His energetic brushstrokes express his feelings and thoughts, connecting us to the lifetime of a painter who truly enjoys what he is doing and is willing to share with us, the onlookers.

Cordelia Oliver wrote succinctly about Dennis Buchan’s work:

“Abstract Expressionism, when the painterly freedom and colouristic excitements it offered began to be experienced by young Scottish artists in the early 1960’s, seemed to open new doors of opportunity for experiment, even for kicking over the traces of an outworn academic past. Not just visual stimuli alone, but a multitude of other sensory experiences could, it seemed, be expressed in these new ways. Like his contemporaries, Jack Knox and Ian McKenzie Smith (and indeed like the somewhat older Joan Eardley) Dennis Buchan, always a natural painter, found himself thus liberated.

Nor was it just the all-pervasive transatlantic influence, but the work of European painters too, whose blend of energy and control became an irresistible stimulus. Karl Appel and the COBRA group (its members came from Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam, hence the name) and from nearer home, Alan Davie, were among the influential innovators who triggered off new excitement in the paintings of these young Scots.

Energy, indeed, it seems to me, is the essence of Dennis Buchan’s painting: energy that he sees, feels and hears all around him as he remains at the still centre of it all, sensing, perceiving, enjoying, appreciating and, in the end, recording his experience in remarkably apt visual terms. So that view from his high window (while the rhythms of recorded music doubtless contribute their own stimulus) might encompass not only the activity in and around the harbour, the bright colours of marine paintwork and the more garish plastics that nowadays do duty for the weathered wooden crates and blown glass floats of old, but also the harsh cawing of the gulls and their swift passage across the sky, and not least the ceaseless motion of the water under the ever changing North Sea light. Here, then, on his doorstep, is a rich cacophony of sights and sounds to be digested and transformed into a wealth of coloured marks on canvas.

But in the end, of course, it is the quality of those coloured marks that matters; the painter’s craft as well as his sensory perceptions, the skill and invention with which the artist brings together form and content. It is in these areas that Dennis Buchan has never ceased to work at perfecting his mastery of means. These are paintings to be looked at closely as well as enjoyed from a distance.

But look longer and more closely and you will discover intimations and messages, visual hints and clues. The mistake, however, would be to search for literal evidence, for immediately recognisable shape and form. To do that is to be disappointed.

Once the total effect has been sensed and appreciated, look closer. Only then can the quality of the actual painting be properly appreciated; the way in which acrylic pigments (for Dennis Buchan has remained faithful to that quick-drying medium which bears much over-painting without becoming ‘tired’) are manipulated, overlaid, conjoined and brought together in a host of different relationships. Metallic pigments are also put to use, not to add cheap glitter but to soften, enrich and deepen the chromatic texture.

Look for colours that stand for themselves and colours that suggest air and space and movement; dappled patterns that might intimate a lively curtain or a passage of syncopated music.”


1937 Born Arbroath
1954-59 Studied Dundee College of Art & Hospitalfield
1960-62 National Service with Royal Army Education Corps
1961-74 Professional Member of Society of Scottish Artists
1965 Full time Lecturer Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art
1975-81 Member of Dundee Group Artists Ltd
1975 Elected Associate of the Royal Scottish Academy
1977-79 Served on Scottish Arts Council Awards Panel
1991 Granted period of study leave – travelled to New York, Holland, Belgium & Barcelona
1991 Elected a full member of the RSA


162 Keith Prize RSA
1963 Latimer Award RSA
1969 Major Prize Winner Arbroath Open Art Competition
1973 Major Art Council Award
1988 William McCaully Award for most distinguished work in RSA Exhibition
1991 William Gillies Bequest Fund Award RSA

Solo Shows:

1965 Douglas & Foulis Gallery, Edinburgh
1974 Saltire Society, Edinburgh Festival
1975/94/06/22 Compass Gallery, Glasgow
1999 Pentagon Centre, Glasgow
2005 Meffan Centre, Forfar

Group Shows:

1961 Five Dundee Painters
1964 =-30 Hunterian Museum, Glasgow & Tour
1970 Scottish Contemporary Painting, Aberdeen Art Gallery
1972 Seven Painters in Dundee, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art,
Edinburgh & McManus Gallery, Dundee
1975 Six Coastal Artists, Demarco Gallery, Edinburgh
1978 Painters in Parallel, Scottish Arts Council Festival Exhibition
1981 British Council – Scottish Painters Vlisigen & Amsterdam
1990 The Jordanstone Folio of Prints – Kindred Spirits Exhibition,
Ancrumm Gallery
1990 Compass Contribution – Tramway, Glasgow
1993 Scottish Contemporary Painting, Flowers East Gallery, London
1993 Paperworks, Seagate Gallery, Dundee
1994 Scottish Painters, Geneva
1999 The RSA in London, Albemarle Gallery
2006 The Sea, RSA, Edinburgh


Edinburgh Hospital Group; Dundee College of Education; Kingsway Technical College;
Leicester University; Scottish Arts Council; Dundee Museums and Art Galleries;
Vincent Price Collection, USA

Work in Private Collections throughout the UK and USA.


1962 Scottish Painting The Studio
1977 Edward Gage, The Eye in the Wind, Contemporary Scottish Painting since
1945, Collin, London 1977
1978 Painters in Parallel, Scottish Arts Council Exhibition, selected by Cordelia
1990 Compass Contribution Catalogue at Tramway (Cyril Gerber)
1993 Scottish Contemporary Painting, Bill Hare, Craftsman House