Stirling Castle inspires new exhibition

Exterior view of Stirling Castle © Crown Copyright reproduced courtesy of Historic Scotland

Scottish artist, Iona Leishman, is preparing to launch an exhibition
based around Stirling Castle’s turbulent history.

The exhibition, entitled Sense of Place, will open on December 2 and celebrates works inspired by the site’s tempestuous history and outstanding built heritage. The colourful mix of real and imagined subject material stretches to around 80 canvases, many created with light to the dramatic physical outlines and sheer power of the castle’s crag-top location.

Many Scottish kings and queens have been crowned at Stirling, including Mary Queen of Scots in 1543. There have been at least eight sieges of the castle including several during the Scottish Wars of Independence.

Leishman, originally from Perth, has used her broad spectrum of styles to appeal to a wide range of tastes and ages. Her portfolio conjures historical moments inspired by the Royal Court at Stirling, where the intrigues of kings and queens ultimately forged the political legacy of modern Scotland.

“As well as the celebration of the built heritage and history,” she explained, “I’ve created a third category, crossing point, which forms a bridge between the castle and imagination. I’ve painted at different times of the day to capture the contrasts as the light moves around the castle. But when I’m painting figures, I’m trying to bring something out from inside, using impressions I’ve gained of the castle and what I know of its history”.

The potential of this rich source material has allowed Leishman to develop a huge body of work that has attracted interest from thousands of castle visitors. The residency has proved so successful that Historic Scotland, the organisation supporting the exhibition, is now preparing to expand the programme to include other sites.

“This has been an exceptionally productive project, well received not only by visitors and education groups but also by our staff,” said Historic Scotland’s Head of Learning Services, Sue Mitchell.

“Interest, both internally and externally, in what Iona has achieved, has stimulated an expansion of the artist in residence scheme, and work is now underway to create new programmes at Huntingtower Castle near Perth and Jedburgh Abbey in the Scottish Borders.”

The show is free to all visitors at Stirling Castle, and can be found in the Exhibition Room within the Nether Bailey complex. All paintings are for sale and an exhibition catalogue is also available.