Exhibition opening on Tuesday 15 August 6-8pm

From the studio of JOHN MACFARLANE –‘All of my working life I have divided my output between theatre production and costume design, drawing, printmaking and painting. I have never seen this as being particularly unusual as all these disciplines have been essential to me and have always felt compatible. The two worlds feed and inspire each other and when I tire of the isolation of the painting studio, I then enter the production world of model building, costume and scene painting.

Often, drawings and paintings will lead to the initial theatre design. For instance, in this collection there are some preparatory drawings made in Rome before building the production model of Tosca at the Metropolitan Opera NY. Having inspired Act 1 of Tosca, these initial sketches then went on to be a very detailed set of Italian church interior drawings.

Even as a child I always loved front show cloths in theatre… they are the first contact that an audience have with the production. As they sit waiting for the lights to go down, they have the chance to really look at them and anticipate what is ahead through the evening. This of course makes them a huge challenge to solve. They do have to be memorable and successful ones certainly go on to have a life long beyond the production. In this show there are two preparatory sketches from Wagner’s Ring Cycle, the forge from Siegfried and the front cloth from Siegfried depicting the head of Fafner the dragon.

Apart from costume designs carried out during the preparation period, the finished production almost always provides a rich source for painting subject matter, either viewed from the darkness of the wings or looking out into the gold leaf world of the auditorium. Verdi’s Macbeth has provided the most glorious inspiration in the form of the witches Sabbath but often it is just simply making detailed oil paintings of finished characters in costume and theatrical light.

The other paintings and drawings in this collection are of course the ones that have little or no connection to theatre and simply show my preoccupation with plant life, still life and above all the dark and magical world of trees and landscape.

These 27 paintings and drawings span a period of about the last 5 years and it has been a great pleasure to gather them together’.


John was born in Glasgow in 1948 and studied at the Glasgow School of Art. On graduation he received The Leverhulme Prize and used the bursary to study textile design in Italy. When he returned to the UK he started his theatrical career designing sets and costumes for the Young Vic in London. John has continued to work with the world’s major opera and ballet houses for over 50 years. Whether it is Swan Lake at The Royal Ballet, Tosca at The Metropolitan Opera New York or The Nutcracker in Birmingham, if you are a follower of opera or ballet, you are likely to have seen John’s work.

During his entire stage life, John has pursued an equally successful parallel career as a painter.  He regularly exhibits in the UK and abroad. His work can be found in collections across Europe and USA, including the V&A Museum, The Albertina Vienna, the archives of The Metropolitan Opera House and l’Opera de Paris.

John has received several Olivier Production Awards and individual nominations.


The Art Shop, Abergavenny is curating regular exhibitions at the Michelin starred restaurant, the Walnut Tree Inn, showing works by some of our most dynamic and creative artists. Enjoy innovative and delicious dishes by one of Britain’s finest chefs, Shaun Hill, and sit amongst art by young, emerging artists and more established stars. An atmosphere brimming over with creative energy.

For all enquiries contact The Art Shop.

01873 852690

Arts Council of Wales Collectorplan scheme available. More information via the link below.