Painting of the MonthCulter Burn by Duncan Shanks
Acrylic on paper 48x60inches (120 x 150cms)
I’ve sort of known this picture since before it was ever made, so to speak, when I first saw, in the late 1980s, Duncan’s series of sketches made on Culter Fell in south Lanarkshire. Culter Burn came out of these, worked up from innumerable drawings of turbulent water and rocky river beds that made up the narrow burn as it tumbled down from its source. We showed it first in 1992, shortly after the Gallery opened, where I remember it as one of the star pieces in a mixed exhibition we arranged that summer.
What I admire most about it is Shanks’s sense of design, making order out of all the disparate elements of nature in the raw – a cliché, maybe, but he has captured the violent energy of the water rushing down the hill, twisting and turning between huge boulders which are slowly transformed by its power. It’s a big painting but Shanks has maintained the immediacy of the scene, the swift movement of the burn and the glitter of sunlight on the water’s surface and splashes thrown up as it forces its way down the gully. I think it is a masterpiece – I wish it was mine.
Is contemporary painting a good investment, I am often asked. Well, in 1992 this picture was priced at £4500. We’re selling it now for £18,000…