Watching the Culture Show on BBC iplayer (, I was particularly interested in the piece on John Bellany, currently the most celebrated of contemporary Scottish artists.

The piece links to a major retrospective on Bellany’s work, ‘A Passion for Life’, which has just opened at The National Gallery Scotland. The artist, at 70, is as productive as ever, if not more so.

Bellany’s life has been a turbulent one, dominated early on by alcoholism, which led to a successful liver transplant in 1988. What helped him through his suffering and pain, and since, has been art. He does not separate his work from the personal, believing that this is what in fact defines fine art.

In 2010, the documentary Bellany – Fire in the Blood by the artist’s son Paul was first screened. It is the moving story of a family imploding due to Bellany’s alcoholism, and then coming together again.

The artist absolutely believes that painting has saved him. Following his transplant, his work changed, becoming more colourful and vibrant. He suddenly saw the world in cinemascope, whereas previously it had been cloaked in a haze.

Of painting, Bellany at 70 says ‘I love it so much’.

He also states:

‘I love being alive.’…