Sunday 6 September 2015

Sarajevo 1993

HE says: "It's a miracle.  If you just hold on and don't give up it can happen!" Professor Richard Demarco, late of Edinburgh, now Kingston University, is 'talking about Witnesses of Existence, a unique ongoing cultural dialogue with Sarajevo.
The original exhibition began in war-torn Sarajevo on Christmas Eve, 1992, amid mortar bombs; carried on amid ruins; and has eventually after much effort, arrived in New York amid much acclaim. It comes to Edinburgh for the Festival.

Meanwhile another exhibi­tion and its accompanying book, Witnesses of Existence: a British Affirmation, published by Kingston, has been shown at Berlin's Reichstag as part of the European Youth Parlia­ment. The book reproduces work by 120 artists, including many Scots, who responded to Demarco's letter requesting a gesture of support and solidari­ty in the form of unmounted work, size A4, "to make them easily transportable in hand luggage. Smuggled in, the exhibition was presented as a Christmas gift to Sarajevo's citizens on Christmas Eve, 1993.

Several artists such as George Wyllie, Merilyn Smith,. and Jane Macallister had taken part in the first Sara­jevo/Scotland exchange back in 1988 when Demarco intro­duced many of us, myself in­cluded, to Sarajevo. No one could dream what would soon happen to that sophisticated, cosmopolitan city. .
Demarco's commitment to Sarajevo ensured a small show of their work, again brought out in hand luggage , at last year's Edinburgh Festival. The artists had been invited to ex­hibit large works at both Edin­burgh Festival and the Venice Biennale This proved impossi­ble. In 1993 art did not feature on the UN's list of priorities. Now it does. Any links with the outside world are a reminder of normality "We can't survive on food alone," they say. At St Mary's School, Edinburgh, Demarco is currently exhibit­ing screenprints from Sarajevo. You can offer support by buying the book.

Meanwhile the Fruitmarket presents. Enclosures and Spaces, one of many upcoming Edinburgh shows about archi­tecture, inspired by their bid for Year of Architecture 1999. It features two painters, Stephen McKenna and Ben Johnson, who explore unpeopled interi­ors. Johnson does this via hard-edged, precise, clinical perspectival views of public buildings. Predictably the hi-tech modern ones like IBM North Habour, or his 1993 Un­attended Swimming Bath, work better than the occasion­al classical foray. I find John­son's work cold and arid; his undoubted technique wasted on acres of gloss paint, stain­less steel, or iron rafters.

McKenna on the other hand, living between Donegal and Tuscany, is steeped in classi­cism. His seas may be Irish but the rest are Tuscan pictures, full of Italianate light, Roman remains, Mediterranean fruits, frescos, and urns. Santa Sabina Night is side lit a in Renny Tait. At first glance straightfor­ward, these oils are in fact alle­gories with intimations, if not of mortality, of duality, unease. Even the still lifes are heavy with quiet significance. This feeling of mystery rescues some images from banality. Not all.

Nice as it is to see McKenna's work again in Scotland (I well remember his 1985 British Art Show contribution) I am disap­pointed overall.
Glasgow Print Studio's show is more direct. Take three members. Let them get on with it. Charmian Pollok has a wide, range of talents from cat characteriser to leaf merchant. Her best works, the Elemental Cypher series, using only handmade paper, are austere • and minimal. More popular, and certainly very attractive, are wonderful compilations of actual oak, poplar, and silver birch leaves wrapped around the frame — but also etched and folded in the central panel.
Deran Fenwick was born in Clwyd, and a Glasgow MA did nothing to stem the organic Welshness of her woodland studies — even when drawn in Denmark. Her convoluted shell-like forms are mannered, but redeemed by a natural and delightful sense of colour and texture. I hope she finds a way • to simplify her forms.

Willie Owens tackles the most difficult subject: people. His figures are caught in brave expressive strokes which cap­ture the unknown as well as the known. Angel Behind Me is a good example. When Owens goes for colour he takes it head-on, with pure yellow, red, and blue.
Cartoons? How is it done? Children of any age should grab Animation Plus, all today or tomorrow (12-4pm) at the Collins Gallery, Glasgow. This fascinating, enjoyable show in­cludes a good section on Scot­tish films including Tubby the Tuba from Dundee; the title se­quence of Muriel Gray's Walk­ie Talkie; an endearing Polar Bear by Iain Gardner, and Strange Fruit by Rachel Bradley.

Stirling is soon to be enliv­ened by Elspeth King who takes over as director at the Smith Art Gallery. She is sure to put it back on the map with style. King has just seen Dun­fermline's Abbot House half­way through its building programme. Meanwhile Ewa Buniczak's felts form a lively display full of unusual fibres and threads. Brilliant rainbow hues suffuse many like Colour Poem and Spectrum while deli­cate Fibre Bowls and Celtic Spirals are light as a feather and a bargain, as are her terrif­ic fantasy hats.
Sound City, Glasgow's week­long live music event on Radio 1, is accompanied by a Glasgow Art Party. It aims to show "the very best in new Scottish art." If you fancy exhibiting, phone 041-552-6677.

This has been scanned from newsprint to digital 

No comments:

Post a Comment