Modern One | Which artwork have you missed most?

Modern One at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art has reopened and we are so excited to be able to welcome you back to explore the much-loved artworks of the nation’s exceptional art collection. To celebrate the reopening, we asked a range of contributors - writers, artists, members of the public and Galleries colleagues - for the artwork they are most looking forward to seeing again.

André Breton Poème Objet [Poem-Object] 1935 © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2022

Poème Objet [Poem-Object] 1935 by Andre Breton (1896-1966)

I look forward to seeing Andre Breton’s ‘Poème Objet’ when the Galleries reopen. It is a collage which fuses poetry and found objects, with the words “I see/I imagine” drawn onto a white egg beneath wings. Surrealism believed in the omnipotence of dreams, and Breton said, “The truth can only be seen when you close your eyes to reason and surrender yourself to dreams.” I find this little object expansive, and a great reminder of the importance of seeing, imagining and dreaming.

Katie Paterson, Artist

Patrick Caulfield Parish Church 1967 © Estate of Patrick Caulfield. All rights reserved. DACS, London 2022.

Parish Church (1967) by Patrick Caulfield (1936-2005)

The artwork I’m most looking forward to seeing again is ‘Parish Church ’by Patrick Caulfield. It takes me right there, to some empty corner of England, midday shadows at their sharpest, wondering what’s hidden behind the stained glass. I went to see Caulfield’s self-designed gravestone in Highgate Cemetery last summer, a very different summer. It just says DEAD, which made me smile.

Cai Conduct, Senior Art Handling Technician – Exhibitions & Displays, National Galleries of Scotland

This artwork is not currently on display

Georg Baselitz Kopfkissen [Pillow] 1987 © Georg Baselitz.

Kopfkissen [Pillow] 1987 by Georg Baselitz (b. 1938)

Every time I see this painting it feels like a hard slap to the face. In a good way. It’s what we all need sometimes. The sheer size of the canvas leaves the viewer feeling both emboldened and deeply impotent. This image relays a paradox: it feels both joyous and sinister. Comprised of a raw subject matter and intensely assertive brush marks, it speaks of an innate, yet unknowable darkness; and contains an almost apocalyptic urgency. In viewing this work, I’m reminded that contradictions make up who and what we are as humans. It's brutal. It’s compelling. Looking at it once will never be enough.

Felix Carr, Artist, London

This artwork is not currently on display

Barbara Hepworth Wave 1943 - 1944 © Bowness for works by Barbara Hepworth

Wave (1943-44) by Dame Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975)

I have two reasons for choosing Wave by Barbara Hepworth. First, it reminds me of the “string art” we did as kids in the 1970s, hammering nails into a board and connecting them with gold string to make geometric patterns. At one point we had three of these masterpieces hanging in our living room. But the main reason is my abiding love of the St Ives school from years of taking my kids to Cornwall for bucket and spade holidays. Hepworth’s studio was an annual pilgrimage. Wave is timeless and endless. It speaks of land, wind, sea and shore. A different kind of masterpiece.

Kenny Farquharson, columnist, The Times

Francis Bacon Figure Study I 1946 © Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved. DACS, London 2022.

Figure Study  I (1946) by Francis Bacon (1909-1992)

This was one of the first works I colour checked after starting in Image licensing  – I’ve looked and stared at it a lot, first for the colour but then keep going back to it and see more in the detail each time, the coat and hat suggests someone is close by, just off the painting. I’m looking forward to seeing it in real life again at the Gallery. I’ve seen someone in the Gallery space breath in to this work as though to smell the flowers.

Shona Corner, Photography & Licensing Manager, National Galleries of Scotland

Sir William Nicholson The Lustre Bowl with Green Peas 1911

The Lustre Bowl with Green Peas (1911) by Sir William Nicholson (1872-1949)

As a writer, I find galleries to be hugely inspirational spaces. I am a particular fan of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. Its collection is fascinatingly subversive, confrontational, and emotive – highlighting both well-known and lesser known artists. One artwork that I am excited to see again is Sir William Nicholson’s The Lustre Bowl with Green Peas. It is a very simple painting but like any good story there is so much hidden within its details. I love observing the mirrored reflection of the bowl and the chaotic pile of peas. I always want to know who the peas are for.

Andrés N Ordorica, Edinburgh-based writer

Michael Armitage Nasema Nawe 2016 © The Artist and White Cube

Nasema Nawe (2016) by Michael Armitage

It’s not just the sumptuous palette of this painting that I’ve missed. It’s a work of scale, full of detail and physicality, which needs to be seen up close. Sensuous curving forms echo the sways of the women’s bodies. I’m drawn to the figure at the bottom right: her raised arms and undulating back muscles suggest the spontaneous, uninhibited ways a rhythm can make us move. I’m surprised by the clear, bright green of her skirt – which seems like no other green found in the painting – and this makes me look to other corners and edges. At the very top, tiny scarlet marks show flowers or fruit falling from the trees. At the left, I’m prompted to ask who the mysterious, shadowy figure is, portrayed almost without colour. Armitage makes his paintings on a bark cloth from Uganda, beaten and stretched to make a canvas. The deep burgundy of the bark is exposed at the sides. He works with its coarseness, its wrinkles, fissures, tears and mends – they add texture to his painterly gestures, and point, symbolically, to the darker sides of the stories he tells. 

Lucy Askew, Chief Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, National Galleries of Scotland

Mabel Pryde The Grange, Rottingdean 1911 Reproduced courtesy of a private collection on long term loan to the National Galleries of Scotland

The Grange, Rottingdean (1911) by Mabel Pryde (Nicholson)

This painting by Mabel Pryde depicts two of her children, Nancy and Christopher or ‘Kit’ Nicholson. In as far as it shows a sibling relationship between and older sister and younger brother, it reminds me of myself and my older sister at a similar age. Kit, taking centre ground and painted in a few bold brush marks looks cocky, boisterous and frankly like trouble compared to the demure, mature and placid Nancy. Only the slight pout of Nancy’s mouth gives away her opinion of her wee brother.

Allan Lennie, Duty Supervisor, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

Douglas Gordon List of Names (Random) After 1990 © Studio lost but found / Douglas Gordon. VG-Bildkunst, Bonn and DACS, London 2022.

List of Names (Random, 1990 - ongoing) by Douglas Gordon & Richard Wright’s Stairwell

I like it when an artwork becomes part of the fabric of a building. There are great examples of this across the Galleries buildings; like the William Hole murals in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Richard Wright's stairwell in Modern Two or Douglas Gordon's List of Names in Modern One. I've been making my own mental list of names since lockdown, wondering how all the young folk, youth and social workers we've worked with over the years through our various outreach projects are getting on. OK I hope. With any luck some of them will let us know.

Richie Cumming, Outreach Officer at the National Galleries of Scotland

27 August 2020