Exhibition to showcase Andrew Marr’s Brexit-inspired paintings

When Andrew Marr took a step back from the canvases in his studio and realised his latest oil paintings had assumed a darker, almost menacing tone, he recognised a little of his day job had crept into his beloved pastime.

As the BBC’s interrogator-in-chief, he is careful not to draw direct parallels between the contorted circus acts in his newest works and leading figures in British politics. But even he cannot ignore the influence of the B-word when his subjects are striving to “hold their ground in a swirling world”.

Speaking to The Scotsman, he explained: “The recent paintings are focusing on acrobats and clowns, which is of course a very traditional subject in European painting, from Seurat and Matisse to Degas and Picasso.

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“But I noticed my clowns were starting to get more and more blundering and threatening. They were trying to maintain their poise and balance. I asked myself, ‘Hold on, has this got something to do with Brexit?’”

Andrew Marr, Journalist and Political Commentator in Edinburgh. Pic Neil Hanna

The veteran journalist is content to let others form a conclusion, but impishly recognises there is something familiar about the theme of “great big exhibitionist men charging around and breaking things”.

Today, Marr will present a seminar of what could be described as his first exhibition of covertly political works in the Scuola Grande di San Marco in Venice.

Nine of the 59-year-old’s paintings are on show as part of Art and Healing, a symposium curated by the Scots arts impresario Richard Demarco.

For Marr, who has long admired Mr Demarco’s tireless work to promote and present art from around the world, the recognition is a “great honour”.

“When I was growing up in Edinburgh in the 1970s, Ricky was an important figure and I was aware of what he was doing,” he said. “I’ve known of him for a long time, but it was only a year and a half or so ago that we met.

“He got in touch and came down to London two or three times to look at my work in my studio in London. It’s an honour to be involved with someone who’s such a well-recognised figure across the continent.”

Already, the fruitful relationship has seen Mr Demarco stage an exhibition of Marr’s paintings of the western Highlands in Edinburgh’s Summerhall.

The two now hope to bring the latest, circus-themed canvases to the city in time for this summer’s festival, a prospect Marr is “very much looking forward to.”

In the meantime, the B-word continues to loom large, as the writer, broadcaster, and historian prepares to return to his Sunday morning sofa.

But the former Scotsman journalist leaves no room for doubt that art - a form of therapy after his stroke in 2013 - is not only his favourite discipline, but the most important one in his life.

“My stroke was very nearly mortal, and part of coming back from that was thinking about what i wanted to do,” he says.

“I love my job in journalism and broadcasting, but painting and drawing is what matters most to me.

“I think my painting is getting better, and it is doing so quite fast. You have to work hard at it. I don’t let a day go by now without drawing. It’ a dispcipline, and I paint several times a week.”