Exhibition is tribute to a great

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A new exhibition of paintings by Alex Girdwood and Dennis McCallum is running in Castle Douglas Art Gallery (adjacent to the library) until August 18.

The exhibition has a particular link to one of Kirkcudbright’s most celebrated artists – Charles Oppenheimer. When he died in 1961, his easel and other materials were sold. However, his box of oil paints was passed down through a local inhabitant to Niall McGill Duncan, the art specialist, and he gifted them to local wildlife artist Dennis McCallum.

Like the previous guardians, he stored them unused. Last year Dennis looked enviously at these more than 60-year-old tubes, but the problem was that he does not paint in oils.

It was then that he had the idea of passing them on, yet again, to his artist friend Alex Girdwood with the proviso that he actually used them to paint fresh pictures.

In 2012 they agreed for them to be included in a joint exhibition featuring the work of the two artists.

Most of the paint was in excellent condition, despite the years, and they form the basis of Alex’s output for the exhibition depicting Galloway scenes in Alex’s abstract style. Not emulating the work of Oppenheimer but as a tribute to the many varied aspects and styles of art.

Oppenheimer would no doubt have approved as he was a very sociable artist, well liked by the people of Kirkcudbright where he also served the community as a special constable. It was in this role that he passed the chief constable in the street one day and noticing a frown on his face inquired what was the matter.

The chief constable remarked that he had almost mistaken a school janitor for one of his own constables as the uniform was almost indistinguishable. “Tell you what, Charles, you are an artist, come up with something to make my men stand out!”

Charles doodled away for a day or so and then presented the chief constable with his suggestion – a chequered band around the police hat. This simple “work of art” was immediately adopted by the Galloway force, then adjoining forces, then across the ocean to New York and the rest is history.

Every day Charles Oppenheimer’s work is viewed by many millions of people throughout the world, and four of his paintings are currently on show in the “Gifted” exhibition in Kirkcudbright Town Hall which runs until August 27.