Five Paintings in Edinburgh That Might Make Ian Rankin Pull Off a Heist

R.  B. Kitaj’s If Not, Not at the National Scottish Gallery of Modern Art

The first time I ever visited this gallery, back in teenage years, I was struck by this painting above all the others.  Kitaj, a twentieth-century British painter, presents us with something that resembles a busy frame from a comic book, combined with the surrealism of a Dalí.  The apocalyptic landscape owes something to the horrors of World War II, though Kitaj has said that he was also influenced by T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land.  The colors are vivid, and each small section seems to be telling its own story.  (I especially like the character with the hearing aid, who is being comforted by a young woman).  There’s so much happening here that I can construct any number of stories in my head to accompany each section.  I do like paintings with narratives . . . —Ian Rankin

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