Edinburgh based artist Joyce Gunn Cairns MBE trained in Drawing and Painting at Edinburgh College of Art, having previously completed a degree in German and Comparative Religion at Aberdeen University.
Gunn Cairns’ figurative work includes wildlife studies and portraits. She has painted some of Scotland’s most eminent cultural figures but often her subjects are imaginary, and are more about self-searching than life-like depiction. Whatever the focus of her works, her main values are authenticity and honesty.
Using sharp, hard pencils and oil paint on board, her process is one of application and scraping back. She says “I work on several pieces at once … my eye is darting from one piece to another, recognising when something isn’t ‘speaking’ to me. Sometimes … I go from one painting to another, scraping back and retouching, searching for meaning.’
Gunn Cairns' paintings speak to the human condition. With a subtle, muted palette and a sensitive, searching aesthetic, these apparently gentle works are at the same time direct and probing, revealing very much more than their surface appearance. Similarly, with her paintings and drawings of animals, Joyce Gunn-Cairns gets beneath the surface to reveal something of the innate character of her subjects.
In terms of influences, Gunn-Cairns cites Käthe Kolwitz, Rembrandt, Dürer, Joan Eardley, and Gwen John. All artists in whose work, she says, she detects “no trace of affectation or insincerity”. A rightful and fitting context for her!