County Wee painter to unveil artwork in new gallery in Dunblane

Karen Strang, who previously appeared in the Advertiser when she embarked on a project to paint free portraits of the county’s frontline Covid-19 heroes, will open the exhibition of her works at the Weigh Ahead Gallery on Dunblane’s High Street.

Entitled Alchemy: a Visual Essay, the painter will unveil a series of stunning little paintings with the launch of the exhibition this Saturday, September 10.

Karen told the Advertiser how she was looking to embark on an uplifting project, after the dark days of the Covid lockdowns.

She said, “Alchemy is about transformation; it’s about turning things into gold.

“It’s a tough space [the gallery] – it was a jewelry store and I thought gold worked quite well in that environment, so I worked with gold leaf [on canvas].”

Karen, a painter of Scottish-Polish origin who studied at the Glasgow School of Art and the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, has always had an interest in magic and esotericism.

Indeed, she has already appeared in the Advertiser with his paintings depicting witchcraft trials in the region.

The Leighton Library, also in Dunblane, was a place Karen used extensively in her research into witchcraft and also found books referring to alchemy.

She said: ‘When I think of Dunblane I think of the library and I often think of the chemistry in the books, which sparked my imagination.

“I also thought of Andy Murray, because he won a gold medal and they painted the mailbox gold, they turned the mailbox into a gold mailbox.”

The exploration of the subject also leads the artist to revisit the paint she uses.

Karen explained: “The pigments I use in my painting haven’t changed since the Renaissance, these are also derived from alchemy.

“The colors that make green for example are copper and sulphate and vermilion is made with mercury and these are chemicals that also appear in ancient alchemical texts from the 16th century.

“Then I thought: painters are not so different from alchemists because they use chemicals to turn things into precious objects – a lot of it is about the chemistry of paint and how it is related to alchemy.

“Also there is a lot of storytelling in alchemy and of course painters use storytelling, I just thought there were so many interesting possibilities and connections; painting and drawing with gold is also a truly fascinating process.

The use of gold or other metals on the canvas can give stunning effects, two-dimensional, vividly reflecting light brings pieces to life.

Karen said: “It’s a really interesting effect, you have to see it in real life, it changes depending on the angle you look at it when you see the artwork.

“It’s almost like it really makes it come alive because it moves, it makes the lines look like they move depending on how the light catches it.”

The exhibit will remain on display until October 1, when Karen will give a talk.