Eye of the Storm film by Anthony Baxter
AVAILABLE ONLINE AND ON DVD FROM 23 AUGUST 2021
EYE OF THE STORM is a fascinating portrait of James Morrison, one of Britain’s finest landscape artists, as he grapples with sight loss and has one more major painting to complete. A compelling exploration of what it means to be a landscape painter, this visually stunning documentary directed by Anthony Baxter (Flint, You’ve Been Trumped, A Dangerous Game) also depicts the poignant and universal story of a creative mind dealing with his own mortality, and the physical frailties that catch up with all of us. EYE OF THE STORM will be available through Verve Pictures on DVD and on Itunes, Amazon and Google from 23 August 2021.
EYE OF THE STORM movingly intertwines Morrison’s struggle with old age, with his lively views as a much younger painter, captured in remarkable archive filmed more than 50 years ago. Pivotal moments in Morrison’s career are also brought vividly to life by Scottish animator Catriona Black. As he begins painting again, Morrison is particularly troubled by the fact that, on doctor’s orders, he can’t paint outside. His lifelong compulsion to paint what he sees, en plein air, has taken him around the world from Africa to Paris to Greenland.
It All Started in Glasgow
Morrison explains that it all started in Glasgow. Son of a shipyard pipefitter, Morrison entered the famous Glasgow School of Art in 1950, under the tutelage of David Donaldson. Morrison’s first major subjects were the crumbling Glasgow tenements. His work then underwent a dramatic shift when he moved to the tiny fishing village of Catterline in Northeast Scotland. Here, Morrison effectively established what would become a famed artists’ colony – along with another painter, the great Joan Eardley. While Eardley became beloved for her portraits of children, Morrison never painted the human figure. Instead he focused on the skies and landscape of Angus and the Mearns that would become a distinctive feature of his work.
Director Anthony Baxter was aware of the beautiful paintings of James Morrison when he came to live in Montrose, Angus two decades ago and later he learned of his wider reputation as one of the greatest landscape artists of his generation, holding major exhibitions at the Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh where his dramatic paintings of stormy skies and the rolling hills of Angus and the Mearns were snapped up by eager buyers. But for a star artist James was very seldom ‘centre stage’, despite the fact his work hung in the homes of celebrities such as JK Rowling and the Royal Family. So Anthony was delighted when James wrote to him after seeing his film You’ve Been Trumped, and they met in his Montrose studio, to talk about the fight of the local residents standing up for their landscape against billionaire Donald Trump.
Anthony Baxter recalls “At that time, he was struggling with painting, due to his fast-deteriorating eyesight and had taken a break from his brushes. He felt bereft without it. I asked whether I could follow him on camera should he consider painting again and he agreed. So, in the spring of 2018 I began to document James as he returned to work. On discovering more about his fascinating life, from his early tenement paintings in The Rottenrow in the Townhead area of Glasgow to his dramatic trips to paint in the High Arctic to capture the melting ice cap, I felt cinematically, there was potential to add another dimension to the film and we commissioned some animation to bring these episodes to life. These scenes were hand drawn and meticulously crafted by the award-winning Scottish animator Catriona Black. Having completed the majority of filming at what turned out to be James’ last exhibition in January 2020, I had an editor’s dream palette to work with. I hope Eye of the Storm will help his stunning works find new admirers around the world.”
About Anthony Baxter
Anthony Baxter is a former BBC journalist and award-winning director that Stephen Holden of the New York Times describes as “a filmmaker who refused to be brushed off”. His documentary FLINT (2020), described by The Guardian as “monumental” is an unsparing examination of one of the worst man-made disasters in American history. Other films include You’ve Been Trumped Too (2016) and A Dangerous Game (2014), a searing indictment of the profound ecological and social impact of luxury golf resorts around the world. Baxter’s iconic You’ve Been Trumped (2011), in which a small Scottish community battles against the brash New York developer and American President to be Donald Trump, has received a dozen international awards.
EYE OF THE STORM released by Verve Pictures on 23 August
78 minutes / Cert: 12
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