The writer and film maker James Burge wrote the piece which follows to accompany the exhibition at the Portal Gallery in 2005:
"Heather Nevay’s paintings shock at fist sight. She employs a repertoire of images that appear to have found their way to us from Hieronymus Bosch via
classic cinematic horror: dogs with human heads, sinister little girls playing with lifelike dolls, a dark woodland teeming with tiny animals in strange clothing.
They frequently depict children, surprised in the middle of some incomprehensible ritual, staring out at us with hostility and contempt.
But to see in these pictures a simple-minded desire to shock would be a great mistake. Heather Nevay’s work is distinguished not by sensation-seeking
antics but by the richness and universality of its insights. The artist herself belies any suggestion of dark horror: she is quick-witted and humorous (‘Oh
yes’, she says cheerily, ‘people who look at my paintings for the first time often think I need psychiatric help’) and displays an intense interest in the world
around her. She graduated from Glasgow School of Art in 1988 and has painstakingly built up her own style, winning a series of prestigious awards on the
way, until she has become one of Portal’s most sought-after artists. Those who collect her paintings find that it is the psychological sophistication of her
work that endows it with its lasting appeal.
Although her imagery comes from a complex personal mythology (she has become adept at giving good-naturedly enigmatic answers to questions like
‘What does the minuscule sheep with the clown’s hat actually mean?’) she uses it to examine aspects of experience which are common to all of us. The
children in her paintings have been surprised in play, at the very moment when they start to learn about the emotions which shape all our lives. As she
says, ‘I'm interested in the games in which children take part which fall into traditional roles and activities. I look at the duplicity of the play which is often
the cause of misinterpretation of adult onlookers. I am not storytelling but I want to offer a glimpse of a scene which will continue after our gaze has moved
on. I don't want to paint horrific scenes, but sometimes I have to create an atmosphere of uncomfortable feelings.’
The dolls the children play with become lovers, rivals, friends or children – whatever is required for the particular game. It is the emotional investment
which the child makes in the toy or doll which fascinates her. Sometimes, she explains, she shows girls practicing for the different roles of womanhood –
wife/lover, mother, sister – or experimenting with flirtation, exploring the sexual aspect of being female in the safe environment of a playroom. ‘I want to
look at the ritualistic aspects of play which still seem to reinforce gender stereotypes with no ground in modern life. The world of the fairytale is long past,
but it seems to be a place children still like to inhabit.’
The strange, unsentimental images of Heather Nevay remind us that childhood is not only a frightening experience but also that it is the foundation of
adulthood. The shock that her paintings produce is not the shock of the bizarre but the surprised recognition of something half-remembered within
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|The Library Hotel Collection
|"Alchemists in an Industrial Landscape"
Oil on Board, 33 x 23 cm, 2010
Oil on Board, 30 x 25 cm, 2010
|"Alchemist Series: The First Experiment"
Oil on Board, 46 x 33 cm, 2010
Oil on Board, 34.5 x 26.5 cm, 2010
|Alchemist Series: "The Wounded Boy"
Oil on Board, 51.5 x 39 cm, 2010
Oil on Board, 38.5 x 29 cm, 2009
|"Mother and Child"
Oil on Board, 60 x 35 cm, 2009
|"The Demise of Mistress Woolfe"
Oil on Board, 23 x 17 cm, 2009
Oil on Board, 23 x 19 cm, 2009
|"In Mourning for Mister Lambe"
Oil on Board, 122 x 84 cm approx, 2009
Oil on Board, 36.5 x 26 cm, 2009
|"Master Lambe and Mistress Woolfe"
Oil on Panel, 19 x 11 inches approx, 2008
|"The Mistress Woolfe II"
Oil on Board, 8 1/2 x 6 inches, 2008
|"The Forgotten Mistress Woolfe"
Oil on Board, 13 x 8 inches approx, 2008
Heather Nevay was born in Glasgow, Scotland on 13th January 1965. She studied at Glasgow School of Art and graduated with BA Hons.,
Art and Design (Printed Textiles) in 1988.
Heather exhibits regularly at the Compass Gallery and Cyril Gerber Fine Art, Glasgow, and the Portal Gallery, London. Heather has also
exhibited many times in important mixed shows at The Royal Scottish Academy, The Society of Scottish Artists, The Royal Glasgow Institute,
and at the London and Glasgow Art Fairs.
Heather uses symbolism to express ideas of heroism, weakness, fear and the shifting balance of human relationships. Her paintings are
mostly figurative with colour being an important element of her work.
2009 "The Savage Garden", The Portal Gallery, London
2007 "Showtime", The Open Eye Gallery, Edinburgh
2005 "The Playroom", The Portal Gallery, London
2003 The Portal Gallery, London
2001 The Portal Gallery, London
1999 The Glasgow Vennel Gallery, Irvine
1999 Cyril Gerber Fine Art, Glasgow
1995 Cyril Gerber Fine Art, Glasgow
1991 "Nice House", Princes Square, Glasgow
1990 "One", Princes Square, Glasgow
Selected Group Exhibitions
2010 "Four Scottish Artists":Whyn Lewis, James McNaught, Heather Nevay, Peter Thomson showing at Portal Painters, Connaught Street,
2010 "Spectators" - Group Exhibition with Helen Flockhart and Peter Thomson, Open Eye Gallery,Edinburgh
2010 Beinart Collective Group Exhibition, Copro Gallery, Santa Monica, California
2008 Flockhart, Nevay, Thomson: Group Exhibition, Mansfield Park Gallery, Glasgow
2004 Tanglewood Festival, Boston, USA (with The Portal Gallery)
2002 Competition Prize Winner, The Discerning Eye, Mall Galleries, London
2001 Cyril Gerber Award, Paisley Art Institute 113th Annual Exhibition, Paisley Museum
2000 Contemporary Fine Art Gallery Eton Award, Paisley Art Institute 112th Annual Exhibition, Paisley Museum
2000 Noble Grossart Painting Prize Finalist, RSA, Edinburgh & Glasgow School of Art
1999 Morrison Portrait Award Exhibtion, Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh
1993 Morrison Portrait Award Exhibtion, Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh
|"The Lost Girl"
Oil on Board, 16 x 11 inches approx, 2008