Obituaries: Marj Bond, ​artist whose work is found in collections across world

Marj Bond, pictured in her studio, amassed a slew of awards, prizes and commissionsMarj Bond, pictured in her studio, amassed a slew of awards, prizes and commissions
Marj Bond, pictured in her studio, amassed a slew of awards, prizes and commissions
Marj Bond RSW RGI, artist. Born: 23 May, 1936 in Paisley Died: 15 March, 2023, in Fife, aged 86

A trip to India proved pivotal for Marj Bond: surrounded by the vibrancy of the country she experienced the revelation that she could use a kaleidoscope of bright colour.

Having been trained at art school to work tonally, her work was very dark.

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But immersed in the unique light, exotic palette and richness of Indian culture, she reached a turning point in her career, discovering not only the joy of colour but a passion for texture through her love of handmade paper.

Travels to Mexico, Morocco and Cuba similarly influenced her style and helped to define the distinctive glyphs and symbols which feature in her striking landscapes, abstracts and depictions of icons.

Bond, whose work is found in private and public collections across the world, was born Marjorie May McKechnie in Paisley, the youngest of three daughters to a nursery school teacher and ship draughtsman.

Although she grew up in a musical household – her father was a choirmaster and organist – all she ever wanted to do was draw.

She excelled in art at school and won the art prize at Paisley Grammar every year.

As a child she suffered bouts of pneumonia which kept her away from classes but she used to amuse herself by drawing wedding scenes.

Before embarking on her studies, in 1955 at Glasgow School of Art, she assured her mother, who was by then widowed, that she would complete her teacher training to give her something to fall back on.

She took drawing and painting with sculpture, when her tutors included the celebrated artists Alix Dick, Mary Armour, David Donaldson and Benno Schotz. But, true to her word, she did train as a teacher and moved to Uist in the Outer Hebrides.

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This was at a time before all the causeways had been opened and her commute between schools involved travelling on the back of a tractor at low tide.

She also learned to speak Gaelic, defying the residents who broke into their mother tongue as soon as she walked into the local shop.

She married her first husband, Chris Bond in 1963 and retained his surname in a professional capacity despite divorce in the 1980s.

Much of her work was inspired by travel and Celtic influences and she exhibited every year from 1983 at the Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts and the Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolour.

In 1988 she went to India on a three-month sabbatical which was nothing short of transformative and noted in her diary: “I have never felt so much myself as I do now…I have a new self-reliance and wisdom and maturity.”

By this time she had met her second husband, James Gray, with whom she moved to Fife, where she had a studio at Gateside near Cupar. They married in 1990.

The following years saw her take a summer sculpture workshop in Tuscany, travel to Yucatan in Mexico and undertake a painting residency at Annaghmakerrig, the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in County Monaghan, Ireland, where she worked with members of a worldwide community from all disciplines of art and literature.

She also travelled to Cuba, Morocco and Spain, exhibited in Sweden, France, America, London and Dublin and but said her favourite place in the world was her home in Gateside, looking out of the Lomond Hills.

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She had a strong affinity with Mary Queen of Scots and would imagine her crossing the field by her house on her way to nearby Loch Leven.

Marj, as she signed her paintings latterly, an accomplished figurative painter and portraitist, said she was inspired by “looking at faces then making them a bit primeval”.

When commissioned to paint Mary Queen of Scots she depicted the monarch with her husbands, the Earl of Bothwell and Lord Darnley, hung from each ear.

Over the years she amassed a slew of awards, prizes and commissions including: the Anne Redpath Awards SSWA; the May Marshall Award RSW; Thyne Scholarship (English Speaking Union); Dunfermline Building Society Award; the Mondiale Estampes etching award France for printmaking and the Dundee Printmakers Award.

In 2017 Edinburgh’s Open Eye Gallery ran a 50-year retrospective exhibition to coincide with the publication of Martine Foltier Pugh’s monograph, Marj Bond, written over two years of unrestricted access to the artist’s archives and studio.

Discussing her work for an Art in Healthcare film, Marj gave a fascinating glimpse into her world, revealing: “People say it must be fun to be an artist.

“It’s not fun. It’s very frustrating sometimes when you are not getting it right. And it’s quite hard work as well. It’s always an effort to make it work and then, when it does work, it just starts to flow…

“Then you build up a group of work and you just keep going and the last painting is always… it’s the one that works best because it seems to flow. But you don’t know why, you just know where to put the mark.”

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Her last painting, which she completed less than two years ago, sold as soon as it was exhibited.

Predeceased by her husband James, she is survived by her children Emma, Jim and Vicky.

Obituaries

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