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By Mark Davey
A painter inspired by the sea and her father’s fishing life has shown works at London’s Saatchi gallery.
Dawnne McGeachy, 48, who describes herself as ‘high functioning autistic’ was one of seven finalists in the Spectrum Art Prize exhibited in the Saatchi gallery at the start of the month.
As a runner-up in the competition, which celebrates the exciting work produced by artists on the autistic spectrum, Ms McGeachy received £1,000 as well as curatorial and ongoing support.
Ms McGeachy lives in Helensburgh with her partner, Twisted Melons frontman, Stephen Johnson and cites her father Jackie, 82, who fished from the age of 14 and former Campbeltown Grammar art teacher, Ronald Togneri, as major influencers on her artwork.
‘I did not have a particularly easy time in mainstream education and Ronald Togneri really got the best from pupils,’ said Ms McGeachy, ‘He put a strong emphasis on draughtmanship and as a teacher had the most impact on me.
‘My brother Jimmy, who is two years older, was also very supportive at school and there is no one prouder of me than him.’
A graduate of Glasgow School of Art (GSA) and the University of Ohio, Ms McGeachy’s dramatic paintings of the sea are inspired by her father’s career as a fisherman in Campbeltown and its affect on her while growing up.
Ms McGeachy said: ‘When you are brought up among fisher people you are very aware of the sea, because it brings in the money, you are acutely aware of how unpredictable it is and it forms a narrative to your environment.’
After achieving a special admission to GSA, Ms McGeachy graduated with a first and distinction before being highly commended in her post graduate diploma.
Ms McGeachy said: ‘I loved Campbeltown and when I was at GSA I came home every weekend. I was there five years and only spent four weekends in Glasgow.’
Ms McGeachy won a scholarship to America, to take a master of fine art at the University of Ohio in Columbus, where she graduated Phi Kappa Phi, in the top seven per cent of all masters students in the US.
Ms McGeachy added: ‘When I came back from America in 1995 I was exhausted.’
After graduation, Dawnne tutored at GSA before embarking on a career in online education, community development and service design at The Lighthouse, Centre for Architecture, Design and The City in Glasgow before moving on to Skills Development Scotland.
Dawnne McGFollowing a break of 15 years, Dawnne began painting again in 2011, quickly gaining recognition by winning Scotland’s biggest art prize in 2013, the Jolomo Bank of Scotland award for landscape painting.
Ms McGeachy said: ‘My director at the Lighthouse, Stuart MacDonald OBE, who passed away in 2016, was instrumental in my return to painting.
‘Art is a tough world to navigate your way through and to get traction you have to be really motivated.
‘I always want to be working in the studio and would close the door rather than exhibit.’
She has exhibited at galleries throughout Scotland including Richard Colquhoun Modern Masters Gallery in Aberdeen, Annan Art Gallery in Glasgow, Doubtfire Gallery in Edinburgh, Tatha Gallery in Dundee and the Gigha Gallery on God’s Isle off the coast of Kintyre.
Ms McGeachy said: ‘When I won the Jolomo award I was really happy to show with Henri Macaulay at Gigha Gallery, I love the space and it has beautiful light.’
Dawnne McGeachy’s paintings in the Saatchi gallery. NO_c19saatchi01_dawnne_mcgeachy
Dawnne McGeachy during a recent visit to Campbeltown. 25_c16dawnnemcgeachy01