Newbattle Abbey College, Scotland’s internationally renowned ‘life-changing’ adult education establishment, has broken with tradition and, in January, commissioned a modern artistic take on its historic 16th century building by Midlothian artist Colm O’Brien. Today [Wednesday 1 June], Principal Ann Southwood and the College Board of Directors were presented with the new painting during a ceremony in which O’Brien confirmed that he had gifted Newbattle Abbey College the rights to the new artwork to help it raise funds.
Colm O’Brien is an established artist with strong links to Newbattle Abbey College through his support for its Christmas Fairs. Working in acrylics, he is best known for his vibrant portrayal of places, particularly cities and towns, full of atmosphere and rendered in a rich palate. Formerly a professional musician and singer, Colm switched his guitar for a paintbrush and his work is now sought after.
College Principal Ann Southwood said,
‘I am delighted to have made this commission and it is appropriate that we have given the task to a local artist. We had admired Colm’s work at our Christmas Fairs and felt that he represented the modern college that we have become. We are very grateful that he is supporting our educational work by gifting the image rights to boost/help our fundraising efforts.
‘Colm in many ways embodies the spirit of the College. He returned to art later in life after his successful business and musical careers, developing his talent to a very high level, just as many of our adult learners do when they return to studies.’
Colm O’Brien added,
‘It’s fantastic to be working with the College. My studio is in Dalkeith so, as a near neighbour, I am very aware of the important educational work it does. It was an honour to be commissioned, but also daunting to be producing the first new painting of the college for decades. There are few buildings in Scotland with as much presence as Newbattle, or locations where the past and the present come together so dynamically. I’m really pleased to have captured the essence of the place.’
Colm’s work is held in private collections around the world, including North America, the Middle East, Australia, South Africa, Korea and Japan. Closer to home, his work will be exhibited at the Royal Highland Show in Edinburgh in late June, in Perthshire’s well-established Dunkeld Summer Exhibition and at both Pitlochry Festival Theatre and a solo exhibition at Whitespace 25 Gallery, Edinburgh, in the autumn.