Alexandra (Sandie) Gardner was born in 1945 and brought up in a traditional working class family in Cambuslang, Glasgow. Sandie has had a tough life including three marriages and a diagnosis, at the age of 37 of renal failure, a condition that had gone undetected from birth. She then had to go through a period of kidney dialysis and thereafter two kidney transplants. When you understand Sandie's background, you start to appreciate her individuality, strength of character, humour and painting style. Sandie is a brilliant Scottish artist, who paints with an honesty, directness and vibrancy; a style probably shaped by what she has had to endure in life, and reflecting her sense of cheeky confidence and no nonsense approach. Our very successful October 2010 Scottish Opera based La Traviata Series was an absolutely outstanding body of work that represented an enormous contribution to our society. You will rarely get an opportunity to study a group of paintings of this standard in one place, at one point in time. Also included in that show was a display of her remarkable female figurative studies. The subjects are not cheesy, airbrushed models, or celebrity-focused clichés; they are powerful, thoughtful, character studies, where the image is human, undoctored and memorable. She fills a canvas with power and personality rather than plastic - therein lies her skill.
From the age of 5, Sandie displayed an extraordinary aptitude for drawing and painting. She trained at the Glasgow School of Art under the tutelage of many of the Glasgow greats including David Donaldson, who gave her pearls of wisdom like 'Look Michelangelo is dead , it's your turn next !' On another occasion, when a distressed Sandie approached him saying 'I cannae do this', he would say 'Och they daft buggers downstairs don't have a clue what they're doing, but you're really intelligent, at least you know that you don't have a clue !' As with any great tutor, there was always an unsympathetic dryness from Donaldson, 'Listen Doll, the answer to dealing with strain, is to pile on more strain.'
On graduating at the age of 22, to Sandie's credit, she was approached by the Art School to join the staff to teach painting in the evening classes. She said it was very strange to leave as a student in the summer and return to the teaching staff a few months later. 'On my first day, I had to cross the canteen and sit with the establishment'. Sandie not only taught technique during this period but she also learned a great deal about technique - 'I was hungry for development and soaked up and absorbed everything from the class discussions and the wide range of painting effects that individual students could achieve.' Sandie retired from the Art School , which she loved, in 1988 - it had been a melting pot for her; 'Not only did it teach me how to paint, it also taught me about people, music, food and about life and colour'.
Thus, one of the great contemporary artists of our time emerged from one of the great art schools of our time - a brilliant compositional technician with an exceptional 'marking' ability. Whether it is a La Traviata, or one of the figurative or interior scenes, when you acquire an Alexandra Gardner, you gain an 'emotional force' on your wall, rather than simple decoration. Sandie's paintings have an artistic focus that is deep and masterful. They exude her personality and confidence and are about her reaction to life. In art, you get many soulless 'grey' paintings and then, at the opposite end of the spectrum, you get Alexandra Gardner's - vital and dramatic compositions, bursting with personality and artistic effect.
When asked - what do artists do for society, Sandie's view was - 'Art gives a quality to life. People need something to lift them up and out of the day to day issues, the poverty, the misery, the horrors and the drudgery. Many in society worship greed - that is why you need the arts in your life - to inspire us and challenge us and to remind us about life and the value of human nature.'