Leading artist says iPad generation missing out on seeing prize works

Artist Rosemary Beaton at her studio in Bishopton, Scotland, with her portrait of Scottish tennis player, Andy Murray, which she hopes will net her a place in this year's Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition
Artist Rosemary Beaton at her studio in Bishopton, Scotland, with her portrait of Scottish tennis player, Andy Murray, which she hopes will net her a place in this year's Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition
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The iPad generation is missing out on seeing major works of art up close and personal, according to one of Scotland’s leading artists.

Rosemary Beaton said young students are more likely to research important works on their devices than travel to galleries to see the real thing.

In an interview, she raised fears that today’s students are starting to lack an appreciation of the full scale and presence of important artworks.

Beaton, 54, who still teaches at the Glasgow School of Art where she trained, is celebrating more than 30 years of work with a new book and a retrospective exhibition in February.

She was one of a group of artists from the Glasgow School of Art dubbed the “new Glasgow Girls” who made their name in the 1980s, playing a role in establishing its visual arts fame. At the age of 20, she became the youngest ever winner of the National Portrait Gallery’s annual portrait award for her painting of Sir Robin Day, also becoming the first Scot to win the award.

Beaton said she was heartened by the emergence of a new generation of Scottish artists.

But she said that times had changed from her days touring, often abroad, to see exhibitions of famous painters and artists.

“When I was young and still at school, I had to travel to see artworks,” she said. “I remember going to the Royal Academy in London and seeing Lucien Freud’s work. Nowadays young people have got the internet at hand – they can search and look out for things. They know what’s happening.

“So the knowledge is almost at their fingertips if they want it. I don’t know if the art shows are [also] now at their fingertips if they want it – which I think is a bit of a shame.”

She added: “There’s nothing like seeing work in the flesh because you don’t know what scale it is.

“There is a Glasgow artist, Victoria Morton – her work is beautiful, the colours are fantastic. But what really gets you when you see her work is the scale – they are huge.

“You don’t get the same thing on a screen as you do when you are looking at the real McCoy.”

However, Beaton said new technology was overall a force for good, and should be embraced by students and arts institutions.

“If it is there, and you can’t get to see things, yes of course it’s a great second choice for you. But if you can get out and go and see exhibitions…[that’s even better].”

Beaton’s new book, published by Sansom & Co, will be launched at a large retrospective exhibition, Alternative Realities, due to be held at 9 George Square, Glasgow from 28 February.