Saturday 13 February 2016

BRITISH ART SHOW 8, Edinburgh, Gallery of Modern Art, Inverleith House & Talbot Rice. + Ingleby Gallery & Scottish Gallery

The BRITISH ART SHOW 8 is just open today - 3 venues in Edinburgh filled by 42 artists culled from around 150 by 2 curators, Anna Colin & Lydia Yee.   
Much is not British (16 from abroad) nor art (lots of design, ceramics, typography - even a carpet) but that aside, it's an invigorating, fascinating, must-see, look at what the curators think is the trend today. 
The focus here is on the object - things -  handmade or industrial, plus a look at the digital world, & the increasing convergence of real & virtual. 
As the catalogue demonstrates, a strong intellectual, sometimes abstruse element threads its way into new thinking, new possibilities; also into convoluted argument or digressions. While there is a huge amount of brain food here, eye candy is sadly lacking.

As u would expect, video is well represented; also sound. in all its forms.
Though I noticed no-one was listening or using the earphones. 
However one aspect did thrill me. I arrived early coinciding with the singer rehearsing Cally SPOONER's libretto composed of u Tube comments from fans outraged by their heroes fall from grace, eg Lance Armstrong & his drugs. The LED text is high above the main door, and the singer - with a glorious voice - was belting out her melodramatic lines from Damning Evidence
She only sings once a week I believe, 3pm on Saturdays. What a wonderful use & transformation of internet anger! 
The BAS is organised every 5 years as a touring blockbuster aiming to introduce the work of new generations of outstanding artists to a wide public. It aims to be provocative. Last time it attracted a half a million visitors. 
Launched in 1979, the first British Art Show was selected by art critic Bill Packer - on his own. Back then no email, no cell phones, no faxes. However did he manage? I asked Anna Colin if it was a daunting, exhausting task, covering so many miles + so many studio visits. 
"It was also exciting!" she offered. I asked her about the male/female ratio. She had to admit there were more men. "But not by much."

I did ask about Scots - tho in this global world with Turkish artist Ahmet Ogut, (born Turkey, living in Berlin, Amsterdam & Istanbul) represented here, it seemed pretty silly. In fact 5 Scots are represented, including typography from Will Holder, a disappointing, insubstantial piece by Hayley Tompkins, Charlotte Prodger plus 2 knockout pieces by Rachel MACLEAN & Ciara PHILLIPS.  
Maclean's new film, Feed Me, is a fantastic hour-long extravaganza in saccharin frilly sugary pink & blue, pulsing with satire & menace. Her palette is as distinctive as any painters; her acting ability mesmerising. 
Her tale is of hidden corruption, of child abuse & the dangers of consumer satisfaction at any price. A star piece.
PHILLIPS fills the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art corridor floor to ceiling with her characteristic large scale graphics punctuated by lettering: Cold CASH or Consider it a valid job" derived from late 1950s/early 60s texts. 
Also in the corridor & elsewhere are Alan Kane's irreverant gravestone benches, some with pink & purple legs, which, yes, u are supposed to sit on. 
Another corridor is dense with 11 panels containing 200 images - some from Flickr or Wikimedia - which, we are told, result from Andrea Buttner's  close reading of Kant's 1790 treatise on aesthetics. It's too much to take in. 
In fact there is a good bit of text around. I especially liked Imogen Stidworthy's dark, almost black, very moving 4-part video installation which tells of Solzhenitsyn's experiences in Soviet prisons. The Russian voice is translated into white text, which moves alongside a large, luminous scan of the piece of bread he took with him in his pocket when he left Russia, - and kept! 

At Inverleith House another text piece, by Charlotte Prodger, involves a block of monitors for rotating video text naming racehorse. Meanwhile a voiceover tells of Gertrude Stein's removal of the word 'may' from her own text. A bit too convoluted. 

The big impact bombast piece at GMA is a full-size plane propeller, part of a documentary by Broomberg & Chanarin. plus a Bitcoin mining TV film from Yuri Pattison, a young (late 20s) artist.
(Electric cigarettes also feature) . The show is very current. 

Smaller pieces which I preferred are the decorative padlocks created by Magali Reus. Wall-based, enlarged, they are beautifully designed, elegantly crafted mysterious objects with layers of laser-cut zinc, plastic, metal & jesmonite.
Another design item is Linder's gun-tufted wool rug backed with gold lame. Made by Edinburgh's Dovecot studios, it spirals upwards embellished by multiple beady surrealist eyes. She is I think the oldest one here, aged 62. The carpet also features in a specially commissioned ballet  - quite a few other artists here are involved with dance. 
The other 2 venues: Inverleith House in the Botanics & Talbot Rice Gallery at Edinburgh University, have less artists (GMA has 22) but some are more interesting, so make the effort to visit. 

Inverleith hosts the most beautiful work in BAS8 - by James RICHARDS. Using film sourced online, (including shots of Niagara Falls!) he turns it into solarised or negative images which float across the screen accompanied by ambient sound. 
Another standout is Pablo Bronstein's architectural wallpaper inspired by 19th century machinery surmounted by a huge heavy picture of a tower block! 
I also enjoyed the concept of Anthea Hamilton's playful 2D plexiglass sculptures complete with sandwiched ant farm. A gimmick nevertheless. 

More serious is Simon Fujiwara's contibution of film and fur. On the surface they seem odd bedfellows. Fabulous Beasts consists of vintage mink & fox fur coats shaved to expose laborious sewed seams and joins. His film tackles the different lives of a Mexican rag & litter-picker with a Berlin computer wizz born without arms. It makes a big impact in a short time. 

However Nicholas Deshayes' floor pipes, Caroline Achaintre's large shaggy wool textile hangings & Jesse Wine's ceramic tile pictures are surprisingly weak work - whatever way u look at it.
More uninspired pieces at Talbot Rice where almost all the main gallery space is given over to Ryan Gander's giant conveyor belt which moves mundane objects: dead birds, tools, a kitchen sink, before u into a small window - just like the old TV competitions of consumer greed but without the hilarity of a compere & contestants. A total waste of space. 
Upstairs  filmmaker Melanie GILLIGAN's 4 or 5 screen video installation presents episodes of her Common Sense dystopian TV drama.

And to end, memorable is Benedict DREW's complex psychedelic installation. With its multiple projections & rich red to purple, blue light-changes plus hot bubbling geysers, it is, he says, "an environment dripping with the false promises of desire & seduction conjured by the mediated image of the lens, the screen & the loudspeaker."  So there!   
                                                           Eye candy at last! 
             BAS8 runs till May 8th, & then goes on to Norwich & Southampton.

Also in Edinbro, 2 important shows.
JONNY LYONS  at Ingleby Gallery would not look out of place in BAS8. 
Now 27, Dundee graduate in 2013, he has a sure & sophisticated take. He creates anarchic performances involving well crafted objects (which he makes himself) and documents the whole in B & W photographs. 
Stilts & trees; benches that grow like Alice, to 20ft high, falling backwards into a lake - the high jinx of reckless youth. 
Also at Ingleby Andrew CRANSTON's tiny enamel-like paintings in rich jewel colours are intriguing, puzzling. 

At the SCOTTISH GALLERY 3 artists share a show of LIFE STUDIES. 
William CROSBIE, who died 1n 1999 aged 84, is well known for his luscious, characterful female nudes, posed with confidence, no coyness here. These women, happy in their skin, relished their buxom figures. So did he. 
He was painting full time till the end of his life in his Glasgow studio.  
I last visited Crosbie in 1995 & took my photos there. 
The Scottish Gallery has a grand collection of about 20 of his oils dating from 1954 right up to 1990. I also saw him paint the murals in the Edinburgh City Art Centre cafe when it opened back in 1983 or thereabouts. Have a look when u next go.   
Rebecca WESTGUARD can draw! Really draw. She studied at Grays Aberdeen (under the influential Joyce Cairns,) where she now teaches. Her remarkable pencil drawings, large & bold, are, she says, "structural mapping,  For me, drawing is a conversation with detail." Impressive. 
DAVID EUSTACE, now Chancellor of Napier University where he studied 1987-90, is famous for his portraits of celebrities. His figure studies are less known, & more personal. Here he shows classic nudes, semi-draped with cloth & shadow, so that they hover delicately with old fashioned elegance & beauty. Moving Head, a more recent series, explores the boundaries. A joy to see all these 3. 

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