Tag Archives: Edinburgh College of Art

Frantic at the Fringe 2012 – Part II

28 Aug

So, only a week or so after my first trip I found myself back at King’s Cross early one Saturday morning boarding a train to Edinburgh.  Having previously realised that my aim to see everything in the Edinburgh Art Festival was a tad ambitious, I’d scaled back and had a more manageable list in hand.

My first visit was to the Talbot Rice Gallery – an absolutely stunning space .  The gallery has two main areas: first is the White Gallery which shows a changing programme of contemporary exhibitions.   For the EAF, the gallery is showing Tim Rollins and K.O.S.: The Black Spot which explores Rollins’ group strategy that enabled him to study literature and produce works of art as a response to the learning process.  Through this Rollins and his peers created their own unique aesthetic solution that inspired some intriguing works responding to literary masterpieces. The exhibition title comes from Treasure Island and the painting created in response summons audiences to reinvigorate a belief that the power of art can change lives.

Tim Rollins and K.O.S.: The Black Spot at Talbot Rice Gallery. Image courtesy of Chris Park and the Talbot Rice Gallery.

There is also the Georgian Gallery with an impressive neoclassical interior, originally designed by William Playfair as a natural history museum.  The upper level displays works from the Torrie Collection, collected by Sir James Erskine of Torrie in the early 19th Century. They are predominantly made up of 17th Century Dutch paintings across a range of different genres.  Erskine, a former student, bequeathed the works to Edinburgh University on his death.   Downstairs houses changing exhibitions and it is here that their second exhibition of Donald Judd drawings is located.  Talbot Rice Gallery are the first in Scotland to examine Judd’s working methods.  The exhibition brings together a number of Judd’s drawings and materials, mostly never before seen in public, all closely connected to his three-dimensional works.  Even after he abandoned painting, drawing was always an important component of Judd’s practice allowing him to problem-solve and express his thoughts and ideas.  The drawings don’t adhere to any formal method of composition-making and his lines escape from the pages, disappearing from our sight.

Donald Judd’s drawings in the Georgian Gallery.  Image courtesy of Chris Park and the Talbot Rice Gallery.

One morning, I realised that my flat on Abercrombie Place was very near a whole series of small commercial galleries and so after breakfast I set off, umbrella in hand, for a little stroll.  My first stop was the Open Eye Gallery who were showing John Bellany at 70 to precede a major retrospective of his work at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery which will celebrate his birthday.  Much of Bellany’s work focuses on the fishing communities and harbours that he saw when growing up in Port Seton.  Recently, Bellany moved to Tuscany and the bright optimistic colour range is a relatively new development inspired by his new surroundings.

John Bellany at 70. Own photograph.

Just along the road, Dundas Street is full of galleries.  Bourne Fine Art are showing an exhibition of works by Jock McFayden to coincide with his exhibition at the Fleming Collection in London.  McFayden defines himself very much as an artist rather than a painter and he sees his works as an organic way of describing the world we live in.  The gallery is very atmospheric but, fundamentally, it is just another commercial gallery where the exhibition spills into the office space, meaning you have to tiptoe past working desks to see all the paintings.  Underneath Bourne is the Dundas Street Gallery, a hire space that was closed and looking rather forlorn.

The closed Dundas Street Gallery. Own photograph.

Carrying on down the hill, I popped into The Scottish Gallery for their Duncan Shanks exhibition where large abstract paintings are filled with emerging heaving forms.  On my way back into town I stopped at the National Portrait Gallery.  This is a huge, beautiful gallery and one where you could easily spend hours or just pop in for 15 minutes to have a nose through one room and soak up the atmosphere.  When it opened in 1869, the space was the first purpose-built portrait gallery in the world and, since then it has expanded and grown from strength to strength. With works spread across 17 large galleries, here is somewhere to lose yourself, particularly during the Fringe when you’re longing for a bolthole away from the madness.

The National Portrait Gallery. Own photograph.

Although I had the amazing EAF art map to help me know where all the smaller galleries are, the blue festival signs outside all the venues are more helpful than you can imagine and act as art beacons around the city.  The Ingleby Gallery are showing Ian Hamilton Finlay’s Twilight Remembers which was included in lots of the festival previews and looked set to be a hit.  I wasn’t let down.  Before even mentioning the art, I have to say what genuinely nice people are working at this gallery.  You’re greeted on arrival and handed the information sheets.  They seem so pleased to see you and delighted that you’ve chosen to visit.  I can think of a fair few other spaces that could learn from this.

Ian Hamilton Finlay’s Twilight Remembers at Ingleby Gallery. Own photograph.

Downstairs is quite subdued with a video piece, Carrier Strike, models, postcards and rare works on paper. For me, this exhibition really comes alive on the first floor.  Three large boulders, bearing the names of Japanese war planes, become stepping stones from the Pacific warzone to Finlay’s famous garden, Little Sparta.  In the Pentland Hills, near Edinburgh, Little Sparta brings together Finlay’s work in a natural landscape which is shaped and changed around the artistic and aesthetic needs of the works.  The garden itself becomes an artwork, encompassing all the individual pieces under its ‘umbrella’.   Upstairs explores the garden offering puns and teasing evocations about what the five-acre outdoor space may offer.  Ingleby ran a number of trips throughout August but I only realised too late and then couldn’t free up the time – I’m gutted that I didn’t get to visit as it’s not regularly open to the public.

Finlay often explores the French Revolution in his work and two sculptures in the exhibition allude to specific historical moments – the Reign of Terror in 1794 and the Ventose, the sixth month in the new calendar adopted in 1792.  The spade refers specifically to the 10th day of that month and conjures up a layering of multiple evocative ideas.  Finlay’s use of objects such as spades and gravestones are a wonder.  Gelling seamlessly into the natural world, they are beautiful pieces of art that offer moments of reflection on all around us.

Ian Hamilton Finlay’s Twilight Remembers at Ingleby Gallery. Own photograph.

Later in the week, I found time to go to the Edinburgh College of Art where, alongside the postgraduate degree show, there is a video work, Apes as Family by Rachel Mayeri and also an exhibition responding to the cast collection at the college.  Although I personally didn’t think much of all the works in Cast Contemporaries,the method of display is great as the works have been shown in a cluttered curatorial arrangement, all mixed up with the actual casts.  Cast Contemporaries explores contrasting responses to the fate of the plaster cast collections in art schools which is particularly appropriate as ECA has one of the most important cast collections in the UK.  These casts are a feature of everyday life here and the exhibition considers them as catalysts for future visual arts experimentation.

Cast Contemporaries.  Image via http://fields.eca.ac.uk/

There was still so much to see that it was lucky I had a while longer…

Tim Rollins & K.O.S.: The Black Spot and Working Papers: Donald Judd Drawings, 1963-93 are at Talbot Rice Gallery until 22nd October 2012, www.ed.ac.uk/about/museums-galleries/talbot-riceJohn Bellany at 70 is at Open Eye Gallery until 4th September 2012, www.openeyegallery.co.ukJock McFadyen: The Ability to Cling…. is at Bourne Fine Art until 15th September 2012, www.bournefineart.comDuncan Shanks: Across a Painted Sky is at the Scottish Gallery until 5th September 2012, www.scottish-gallery.co.ukIan Hamilton Finlay: Twilight Remembers is at Ingleby Gallery until 27th October 2012, www.inglebygallery.comRachel Mayeri: Primate Cinema: Apes as Family and Cast Contemporaries are at the Edinburgh College of Art until 2nd September 2012, www.eca.ac.uk.

Frantic at the Fringe – Part I

20 Aug

I have a tendency to overdo it when I go to Edinburgh for the Fringe.  As soon as the Fringe Guide is released in June, I plan our schedule and come August we’re raring to go.

This year we only had three days in which to ‘do’ the Fringe and I managed to timetable 12 productions and 10 galleries plus nice restaurants in which to give our feet a break and our bodies a cocktail or two (or three).  Tempting as it is, I’m not going to mention the theatre side of the Fringe after this very brief paragraph.  Suffice to say it was fantastic.  Highlights were Out of the Blue (an amazing Oxford all-male a cappella group), 2401 Objects (Analogue Productions’ remarkable story of the world’s most famous amnesiac patient), Manscaping by Russell Kane (a comic genius who had us in stitches for an hour), Steven Berkoff’s Oedipus (an exciting modern rendition of Sophocles’ play), Fat Kitten vs the World (a brilliant improvised comedy group and one to watch for future years), Audience – Ontroend Goed (one of the best productions I’ve seen at the Fringe) and Ten Plagues (telling one man’s struggle through a city in dire crisis).  But, I had to start with seeing some art…

Audience – Ontroend Goed. Image via http://utopiaparkway.wordpress.com

Anish Kapoor’s Flashback at the Edinburgh College of Art features two works – his early seminal pigment piece, White Sand, Red Millet, Many Flowers (1982), and the new Untitled, a self-generating wax sculpture, exhibited here for the first time in the UK.  In White Sand, Red Millet, Many Flowers Kapoor places a strong emphasis on the relationships between the forms, presenting contrasts and similarities between these initially highly varied sculptures.

Anish Kapoor, White Sand, Red Millet, Many Flowers, 1982. Own photograph.

Untitled recalls his two crimson wax-works that were so popular at last year’s Royal Academy retrospective.  Here, a large steel-cutter journeys around a circular track, maintaining the blood-red bell sculpture that stands over 5 metres tall.  The journey is relentless yet almost invisible.  Those of you familiar with the girolle that shaves tête de moine cheese will understand the principle.  In the Classical setting of the ECA, Untitled resembles a memorial monument – the bell suggesting pain and death, the stillness presenting a solemnity.  From a distance, the bell appears smooth and lifeless.  Moving closer, the wax is blemished and damaged, stuck to the edge of the steel.  The sculpture is both beautiful and horrific, playful yet serious.  This was a wonderful start to the Edinburgh Art Festival and I was ready for more.

Anish Kapoor, Untitled, 2010. Own photograph.

In the same building is Body Bags: Simonides, an exhibition that incorporates the ECA’s famous collection of Classical sculpture.  The Greek poet, Simonides, is famous for his epitaphs for the Spartan dead at Thermopylae.  Here, his poetic fragments are translated by Robert Crawford and juxtaposed with photographs by Norman McBeath that provoke a contemplation on loss.

Body Bags: Simonides. Own photograph.

Next, it was time for one of the Fringe blockbusters and to see the work of a Scottish artist.  David Mach’s Precious Light is a revelation (excuse the pun).  I know Mach from his amazing assembled postcard-collage portraits but beyond those, I wasn’t that familiar with the rest of his oeuvre and how far his collage genius extends.

This is the biggest exhibition Mach has ever staged.  The works tell the story of the Bible (no wonder it took him 10 years to plan and four years to execute), focusing on the King James Bible, which celebrates its 400th anniversary this year and was the first Bible to be produced en masse.  In the entrance and free for all to see is Mach’s Golgotha, three crucified figures screaming with pain, nails impaling them at every conceivable point.  Regardless of your religious beliefs and how you connect with these works, they provoke immediate reaction – awe, disgust, bewilderment, fear…  The strength of Golgotha overpowers some of the sculpture in the upper galleries such as his matchstick head of Jesus which cannot compete.

David Mach, Golgotha, 2011. Own photograph.

We are more used to seeing Biblical subjects depicted in darkened oils by the Old Masters yet Mach’s dynamic collages have a raw edge.  Collage is an incredibly time-consuming medium with which to work and the intricacy of his detail is superb.   It’s easy to get lost in Mach’s world, fascinated by his characters, their actions and behaviour.  The works are serious but playful, commenting not only on religious history but the disparities in today’s worldwide cultures.  Hell is ironically depicted in Paris, Tokyo, Dublin, Disneyland (here overrun by riots, fighting, religious animosity and disaster) while Heaven is shown through simple and innocent pleasures across the four seasons.  Autumn is particularly luminescent and Mach’s use of colour radiates across the room.  The works require close inspection as well as viewing from a distance.  Money Lenders, hung alongside the escalator, does allow you to soak up the detail but fails to offer adequate space to see the work as a whole.

David Mach, Hell – Paris. Image via www.oranges-and-apples.com

Mach’s London Studio has temporarily relocated to the third floor of the City Art Centre for visitors to watch the final exhibition work being created.  This monumental piece, The Last Supper, will be unveiled on 20th September.  It is fascinating to watch the work in progress and it also breaks up the exhibition nicely.  The fourth floor is given over to the history and language of the Bible itself but, to be honest, I was exhausted by the time I reached this level.  As you journey through the building, the volume of work lessens.   Rather than the initial overload, it would have been better if the works were more spread out.  This is a huge exhibition, spread over five floors and, if anything, it is too big.  As I was conscious of the time, it was impossible for me to spend as much time with each piece as I would have liked.  This exhibition is a tour de force, a powerful portrayal of our modern world in Mach’s own inimitable style.

David Mach, Noah and the Ark. Image via www.davidmach.com

Time was ticking by and I crossed the road to the Fruitmarket Gallery, one of my favourite Edinburgh spaces.  I had never before heard of the American artist, Ingrid Calame who finds a unique visual vocabulary in the ground, tracing individual stains, cracks and markings from specific sites and turning them into artworks.  On first glance, I thought these were just pretty coloured patterns but when you learn of the principle behind these works, they are fascinating, transposing the ground we are walking on into art.  Her constellations (as she calls the layered patterns) move the ground to the wall.

Ingrid Calame. Own photograph.

Her wall drawing, L.A. River at Clearwater Street 2006-8, has been specially made for this exhibition.  Working in a slightly different style to her other pieces, Calame has pricked tiny holes through what is effectively a large transfer drawing, leaving pure pigment on the wall.  It focuses on the graffiti at one site and how it has changed and developed over a two-year period.  The works are about collecting evidence.  What first appear to be pretty pictures are actually full of an unimaginable depth about society’s imprint on the world.

Ingrid Calame, L.A. River at Clearwater Street 2006-8, 2011. Own photograph.

Whenever I now walk up the Fruitmarket staircase I think of last year’s exhibition where Martin Creed had transformed the stairs into a musical scale.  As you walked onto each stair, a note sounded.  The higher you ascended, the higher the note and the larger your smile.

Martin Creed, Work No. 1061, 2010. Own photograph.

Creed is never far away in Edinburgh and, to make up for my disappointment that the musical stairs have disappeared, I went to visit his Work No. 1059 at The Scotsman Steps just across the road.  Creed has re-generated these 104 steps; every stair is now a different kind and colour of marble and a leaflet produced by Fruitmarket Gallery, who commissioned the work in a bid to help restore this dilapidated staircase, lists all the different marbles and their origins.  The staircase is fit for royalty and yet the city rushes up and down it without even noticing the spectacular beauty beneath their feet.  Perhaps this is the charm of the work. It is so beautifully integrated into Edinburgh that it is easy to miss, yet when you spot it, you just have to stop and stare at the stairs.  Creed lives in Italy where it is not at all unusual to have marble underfoot and he has brought a piece of this Italian luxury to Edinburgh, to a staircase that acts as a thoroughfare in the centre of a busy city right next to Waverley station, linking the old and the new towns.

Martin Creed, Work No. 1059, 2011. Own photograph.

Walking back up Cockburn Street, I popped into Stills who are showing works by Stephen Sutcliffe, an artist fascinated with the idea of high culture and its representation in film and on television, and then into Collective, who have an installation entitled Remains of the Day by Hans Schabus.  This exhibition was met with derisory comments by my Fringe buddy who thought the work looked like a larger version of her recycling pile on a Sunday evening.  Yes, she’s not that far off as the work is an accumulation of rubbish by the artist and his family during one calendar year that has been installed, cleaned and displayed linearly along the gallery space.  The work is visible from outside or you can go inside and climb over the mounds of rubbish to fully explore the space.  Through his installation, Schabus questions the spatial layout of the gallery and subverts the standard exhibition experience.  He asks us to consider our relationship to the goods we use and the scarcity of certain products.  This is a good and interesting exhibition for a quick peek, either from the street or inside if you’ve got the time.

Hans Schabus, Remains of the Day, 2011. Own photograph.

And that’s a morning at the Fringe.  We slowly ambled back up the Mile to the Witchery for my favourite fish pie in Edinburgh.  By now you’ve probably realised that this trip necessitated a fair bit of walking. Sticking to my guns though, I wore skater boots for my first day of adventures over the cobbles.  Up and down various staircases, climbing hills, around galleries, running to venues – I was practically crippled by the end of Day One.  But it was worth it!

At the Edinburgh College of Art, Anish Kapoor, Flashback is on until 9th October 2011 and Body Bags: Simonides  is on until 9th September 2011, www.eca.ac.uk.  David Mach, Precious Light, is at the City Art Centre until 16th October 2011, www.edinburghmuseums.org.ukIngrid Calame is at the Fruitmarket Gallery until 9th October 2011, www.fruitmarket.co.uk.  Martin Creed, Work No. 1059 is a permanent installation at The Scotsman Steps, www.martincreed.com.  Stephen Sutcliffe: Runaway, Success is at Stills until 30th October 2011, www.stills.orgHans Schabus: Remains of the Day is at Collective Gallery until 2nd October 2011, www.collectivegallery.net.

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