Tuesday, 23 February 2016

GLASGOW exhibitions February 2016

10 GLASGOW exhibitions. CCA, GPS, Street Level, Billcliffe, Compass, Modern Institute, Gandolfi. 

With self-help exhs all over the city in flats, cafes & temporary venues, it's still good to look at what the well established galleries do.  That's where the public go & where curators begin. 
What worries me is how RARELY students trawl these. So get out & LOOK! 

Aggressively modest & minimal, Merlin JAMES's small, subdued paintings are a challenge. His subjects are also modest - houses, churches, seascapes, the occasional dog, bird or figure, seen in melancholy mood.
He loves paint: its texture, smeared, combed, thick, layered, bumped, scrunched. 
The challenge comes from the diversity. One minute a conventional seascape, the next a conceptual fragment. He often embraces the sketchy 1 line format, as in Ruin, but can also produce disjointed colourful abstracts,
tricks with black holes, (painted or real)  or memorable images like Looker. On one wall hangs the impressive Green & Orange near a banal Sandymount and a true let-down, Arrivals. 

It's a big show in 3 rooms. If he was younger one would say James is all over the place. Yet James is also a respected academic, writing extensively on art, & knows his stuff, so intention is there. 

The pictures date from the last 35 years, covering a lot of ground from relatively straightforward landscape etchings & charcoal sketches to abstraction & recent conceptual pieces where transparent voile fabric is stretched over strange shaped stretches or frames. Occasionally he sticks tiny crudely made wooden houses onto the fabric. 
These have a good gimmick - even without the houses - but why adorn these strange creations with such conventional birthday card imagery? - cottages set in vaguely pastoral landscapes!  Better are recent all abstracts like Loving Painting, a see-thro pink complete with echoing  iridescent frame. 

I keep tying to see the Intermedia Gallery exhs but it's always closed. 

GPS exhibitions have been part of my life now for 44 years!! And PHILLIP REEVES is an integral part of both GPS & printmaking in Scotland. His role as Head of GSA Printmaking for many years, starting in 1954, - & founder member of both Edinburgh & Glasgow print workshops - makes him the father, grandfather now, of Scottish printmaking.
Reeves was a minimalist well before Scotland was attuned to such radical art. In his etchings his use of fragments of metal, torn card, wood & collage is intermingled with intaglio & etching. 
Many etchings are  printed from bits of broken metal that produce wonderful textured surfaces of scrapes & holes, worn edges & .shadows. Some images from the past I know by heart. 
Reeves has maintained his austere stance for well over 50 years. I remember when he won the Glasgow HERALD first prize in 1981 (from 750 pictures submitted) & shocked the exhibition audience with his "challenging", so called, Forest Clearing Dunkeld. "An Abstract Picture to Provoke Discussion" was my headline. "Its warm olive colours recalls the enveloping woods during his walks. a hint of cold metallic turquoise is introduced to avoid blandness and sketches of criss-cross fallen trees suggested the diagonals across the picture plane," I wrote... .
The show is over but GPS stocks Reeves work. One intense blue piece I saw n the GPS shop I will always remember. 
Another minimalist printmaker is SARAH WRIGHT, who, I am reliably informed, is a wizz technician. She graduated 2009 from GSA, & now lives part of the year in NY. 
Her GPS installation, till March 23, involves lots of semi transparent white net curtains transforming the gallery into, she hopes, a meditative space. 'Feels like being in the shower', quipped one visitor.
These translucent drapes gives glimpses of small rectangular collages made up of haberdashery stuff - zips etc - plus selfies of Sarah. One series of images which I really liked are contained in plastic bags. American internationalism has obviously been an influence & it will be fascinating to see what she does next.  
Downstairs in the cramped difficult space under the stairs - (so much better when this in-demand members exhibition area was at the front in the alcove!)  Ross MCAULEY's clever witty portraits of his friends are just great. I love the way he uses pattern to emphasise character while giving us a smile

Next door to GPS, STREET LEVEL has 3 interesting shows. Nick Hedges's documentation of bad housing from 1968-72 for Shelter is memorable. Can things have been that dreadful so recently? Yes, it sees. And the children so happy playing weddings & brides with a flimsy net scarf over their heads. 

In the gallery photographs from Liza Dracup & Ulla Schildt work very successfully 
together, Dracup's birds and Schildt's images of natural history museums.  
My one complaint - the labels in the foyer are too low. 
Street Level runs interesting courses, as does GPS.   See steetlevelphotorks.org
Murray Robertson, Gandolfi. 
Robertson is a great printmaker & a GPS stalwart. 

Last year he spent a 6 month residency on Skye, producing his characteristically detailed but evocative images & prints of the island & Outer Hebrides.
Hand drawn, carefully worked but with a light touch, these really beautiful prints are on show at  Cafe Gandolfi, Albion St, till April 12th.


For the last 20 years every January Billcliffe provide collectors with a treat: small, tempting, luscious, unframed pix at affordable prices. Over 1600 sensible folk have pulled out their wallets or credit cards for a little gem. This year 60 are already sold.

Best sellers they tell me, "include top artists like George Donald, Peter Thomson   & Christine McArthur, plus David Martin,  Anne Ross, Jimmy Johnstone, Tom Shanks, Mairi McGregor, Michael Corsar, Damian Henry, Norman Edgar, Sarah Carrington, George Gilbert." Prices 85-950 quid. 
george donald 

Another 2008 GSA graduate JACK MCCONVILLE shows at the Modern Institute, soon to celebrate its 20 years anniversary. Its director Toby Webster has done a great job for Glasgow & for contemporary art. And with its pictorial website and now flipping book, one will soon be able to enjoy their shows at home. 
McConville also embraces a linear take on his large figurative canvases, but they do not excite. 

Last but not least A PORTRAIT of the late David MacLennan, actor, writer, producer, famous for the influential 7.84 Theatre Company & Oran Mor's so so enjoyable & popular lunch time theatre Play, Pie & a Pint, was unveiled in Glasgow. 
By Sandy Moffat, for so long head of painting at GSA, & equally influential, it will be hung in Oran Mor.

Compass tell me, "Returning from recent trips to remote Sutherland & Caithness + Norway, still beaming with excitement, Gregor brought his sketchbooks into Compass & informed us he was truly inspired by the stark crags & stacks at Duncansby as well as the startling Norwegian landforms - a true vision of where land meets sea. As a result he embarked upon this series of dramatic paintings & prints."

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.