Over the last couple of years, Scottish Art Blog has gone from strength to strength. In summer 2011, only my mum, on occasion, was reading the site, but now a post can receive up to 2000 reads! That’s really quite a lot.
Given the demand for SAB, it’s time to let it expand. If you like what you’ve read thus far, and want to get involved, then please answer the following questions and submit your answers to firstname.lastname@example.org
- What is your favourite work of art and why? (250 words)
- What is the best art exhibition you have ever seen in Scotland and why? (250 words)
- Lastly, I want to know about you. What do you do? Why do you want to write for SAB?
As SAB is completely voluntary, I cannot pay you. What I can offer you, however, is an established and respected platform on which to showcase your writing abilities. You would publish under your own name. Posts wouldn’t be general like they are now.
This opportunity would be ideal for art history postgrads thinking about going into arts writing or arts journalism after university. The only absolute requirement I am making at this stage, however, is that you are based in Scotland! If I like your answers to the above, I’ll be in touch and we can arrange a time to skype or meet up in person to discuss possibilities further.
Thanks and I’ll hopefully hear from you soon!
‘Duologue’ is the eagerly awaited two-person exhibition of new paintings by husband and wife team, Erlend Tait and Pamela Tait, running at the Royal Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts, Glasgow, this May. The show represents a visual conversation between two artists who work alongside each other, but have only recently combined their ideas and methods.
The outcome of the Taits’ recent collaboration is a body of individual and collaborative works that share a common theme and style. The pictures become less portraiture than images of detached heads, which Erland is famed for, sometimes set in expansive landscapes or cloudy skies. Images such as Priestess and Double-edged sword appear to allude to themes of alienation and transcendence. The gorgeous figure in Priestess, for example, appears to materialise as if by magic from the ether around her. Set against a bright white void, the striking face steals the attention of the viewer as her beautifully patterned red and white hair, which also takes on the form of clerical vestments, dissipates into a rhythmic matrix of colour. The image is somewhat reminiscent of the spectacularly transcendent work of Edward Atkinson Hornel. In his paintings, see The Druids Bringing in the Mistletoe for example, one finds striking faces entrenched in a sea of colour and rhythmic technique which adds to the arresting powers of the characters contained within. The Taits’ imbue this sentiment with a modern day vogue. The result is that their work takes on the form of iconic magazine art. Essentially, what they have made are contemporary icons.
Erlend Tait’s drawings and paintings combine images of the human head with symbolism and pattern, and consider the nature of existence. The product of a healthy diet of Heavy Metal, comics, Science Fiction and Horror films, references are made to mythology, religion and the occult and address themes of heritage and conventional wisdom. His works in this show are painted in acrylic on watercolour paper, and combine his love of anatomical representation with techniques developed over years of working in the tradition of stained glass painting and staining.
In recent years, Pamela Tait has concentrated on drawing, the main theme of this work being sexy ladies and pithy phrases, the mood shifting between mysterious and sweet. This new body of work sees a change in medium and a development in theme and style, where pattern and a sense of place and purpose are of more significance than before.
Having immersed themselves in the collaborative process, the outcome is an accumulation of ideas, themes, discussions, and techniques. Shared works might start from a conversation, or a sketch in one studio, and are then passed back and forth with enthusiasm until completion. In terms of witnessing the end product of continuous editing, by one person and then another, therefore, the works are intriguing things to look at.
‘Duologue’ runs at the Royal Glasgow Institute, Kelly Gallery, 118 Douglas Street, Glasgow, G2 4ET from the 9th until the 25th of May. For more information, click here.
‘I’ve always believed that art gallery interpretation shouldn’t be a one way street. Nor should it be governed by regulations, or restricted to the written word. Every individual can illuminate a work of art, no matter their knowledge or background, and any visitor to an art gallery should have the opportunity for interactive, immersive and self-fulfilling experiences.’
These strong beliefs, held by RSA curator Sandy Wood, have led to the development of an innovative exhibition called EGO: Awaiting your Interpretation to be shown in the Friends Room of the RSA from today (Monday 22nd April) until September. The exhibition comprises self-portraits of RSA members from history to the present; from George P. Chalmers and William G. Gillies to Joyce Cairns and John Bellany. Instead of utilising the usual mode of display which has come to be standard in art galleries, interpretive control is handed directly to the visitors. Wood states:
‘There is no guideline on how to interpret, no authoritative voice; just the opportunity for visitors to be creative and let their imaginations be the guide.’
So if you have ever read gallery literature and thought it was pretentious, filled with superfluous artspeak or was actually ill-informed then this is your opportunity to rectify it. You can write or draw whatever you want beside the work. Simply pick up one of the ‘Ego’ branded postcards, respond in any way you wish and then it will find itself on the wall next to the work of art. If you can’t make it to ‘Ego’, or if something perceptive pops into your head once you’ve left, you can also use #EgoArt to respond to the works via Twitter and Flickr. In addition, there will also be various live debates on Facebook over the coming months featuring some familiar names from the Scottish art scene, art students and school pupils. The aim is to get everyone thinking, talking and, inevitably, disagreeing!
Over the course of the run there will be interactive workshops occurring in the Friends Room. You’ll be updated on those here in due course. For now, check out the Facebook site and let the debate commence.
‘Ego: Awaiting Your Interpretation’ runs until 30 September 2013. Open Mondays 10am – 5pm, or by arrangement (call 0131 225 3922 or visit the National Galleries of Scotland Info Desk in the Weston Link). For further information, click here
This exhibition draws together four Glasgow-based artists – Nadége Druzkowski, Jitka Perinova, Dominic Snyder and Penny Chivas, each at diﬀerent stages in their artistic careers and with disparate yet complementary practices. This compilation of work straddles the lines between sculpture and painting, drawing, choreography and dance, pushing the boundaries of what contemporary sculpture is today, as two-dimensional and three-dimensional forms, moving bodies and objects are interwoven in a series of works.
Together the three pieces create a mobile portrait that rips lines from the canvas (Perinova), blurs the roles of artist and muse (Snyder and Chivas), and through shadow and linear forms (Druzkowski) creates a series of sculptural motifs that are both robust and fugitive and as such sit on either side of the line between abstract images and the sculptural object.
The exhibition takes part in ‘Objective’, a Glasgow-wide celebration of sculpture and will remain open 20 April – 3 May, Friday-Sunday, 12 pm – 5 pm, by appointment.
For further information, email curators Nina Enemark and Bo Hanely at email@example.com
Sir John Steell’s statue of Queen Victoria sits confidently on top of the RSA building. With her sceptre casually resting on her lap, to remind all within the vicinity of her status, the impressive woman gazes over and beyond the rooftops in front of her. As she surveys her land, the public on the street below are never within her field of vision. She appears out of reach. Being so high above, dressed in weighty robes, she also seems somewhat godly. A direct contrast to this image of majestic serenity can be seen hanging below. Stretched on banners, between the columns guarding the entrance to the building, is Victoria’s antithesis: Heather Anderson. This girl stares manically down Hanover Street, confronting those who walk towards her. As the Queen ignores you, the sovereign of this thoroughfare confronts you aggressively. Before even entering the exhibition, contrast has already made an impact.
Inside, Anderson’s work provides further contrasts. Introducing a set of photographs is a touching video which sees the artist confessing to the audience that her exterior image does not represent the person who she believes she truly is. Whilst relaying intricate details of her body dysphoria and, inspirationally, systematically working through her insecurities in order to seek liberation, she grabs and squeezes her flesh. This motion is conflicting too. As she speaks, is she is coming to accept the feel of her body or is she trying to obliterate it?
The strategic hang of the photographs also creates a visual symmetry of contrasts. The first and last images depict the artist’s arms. Tattooed on the underside of her wrist on one arm are the words ‘let go’. In the photograph of this she makes a clenched fist. In the same place on the other arm she has ‘hold on’ written. In this picture she is seen to be opening her hand. The two inside pictures, flanking the central photograph, are also a pair. In one she is covering her mouth so as not to blurt something out. In opposition to this, in the other image, she is letting her frustration out through throwing her hands up in despair. All this difference revolves around the central image – an image of her stomach. The appearance of the body here has been manipulated so it looks like it is made of wood. This hardness of this material is far from the flexibility of human flesh. Having the flesh immortalised in this manner emphasises that the internal conflict the artist experiences, as demarcated through the other four photographs, all centre on one thing – being fat. In this respect, the message of Anderson’s work is similar in theme to that of GSA alumnus, Jenny Saville. Anderson’s subject, herself, however, does not appear as liberated as the figures one commonly associates with Saville’s large scale works. This makes Anderson come across as human and likeable.
The most controversial offerings in the show come from Nicola Brennan. In one of her pieces, a video entitled ‘Rabbit Talk’, she presents the viewer with a deliberate contrast. Whilst an American father preaches his opinions regarding sex before marriage on the right side of the screen, a carefree rabbit repeatedly washes its face, paws clasped sweetly, on the left. This passes comment on the difference between the two species – one puts so much thought into an activity that the other doesn’t think twice about. After watching for a while you may think that Brennan is labouring the point somewhat, but, keep watching because the end, if I’ve interpreted it correctly, is really amusing.
Drawings after old family photographs demonstrate that contrast was also at the forefront of Kevin Smith’s mind too during the creative process. To accompany his highly proficient pencil copies after the treasured pictures, Smith has provided Andreo Kartovsky’s thoughtful statement that images capture ‘the eternal within finite, the spirit within matter’. Smith goes on to lament the loss of the accidental in photography in the remainder of his accompanying literature. Instead of capturing things as they are, he believes most of us instantaneously delete images which do not appear ‘perfect’. The result is that our records of life appear fictitious. In order to recreate something ‘real’, therefore, he feels he consciously has to recreate, in pencil, accidental life of the past. The way he has left sections of paper bare and then gradually fades into intense intricate detail is very powerful. It is as if he is visually demonstrating the transience of memory and, simultaneously, warning the viewer to be more select in their deleting in the future.
After noticing the contrast between the temporary advertising and permanent features on the entrance to the building, it was entertaining to actively seek further contrasts throughout the exhibition. This was an attractive option because, as per usual, the content of the exhibition is so vast and varied that it is difficult, but also amazing, to take everything in at once. Last year I discussed the recurring topic of globalisation. This year I would say, in general, a great deal of focus has been on unpicking the concept of individuality. It is interesting to consider what in society over the last year has brought this change on. Perhaps the concerns of last year’s show speak volumes about the focus of the current one.
In addition to the three brilliant new contemporaries which I have briefly introduced here, there are 57 other exhibitors showcasing a range of styles and subjects. With such an abundance of fresh talent in one place, you are sure to find something in the RSA this spring which will either excite or inspire you. Should you indeed find inspiration, or just like the way something looks, the good news is that most of the work is for sale. This means you can snap up a bargain before one of them makes it big!
‘RSA New Contemporaries 2013’ will be at the Royal Scottish Academy, The Mound, Edinburgh until May 8th. You can find more about the show here – http://www.royalscottishacademy.org/pages/exhibition_frame.asp?id=392
Art in the early modern era, my period of research, is not strictly a laughing matter. In satirical prints, humour was used to make abrasive and snide comments. In seventeenth-century Dutch genre paintings, it was employed to make a stereotype look foolish. Though slightly earlier, in a painting by Bosch or by Bruegel, odd looking creatures were used to instil a fear of an afterlife, rather than fuel enjoyment for the living. Also, look at Rembrandt’s ‘Laughing Cavalier’. He’s not really laughing is he? He’s just smiling, confidently, proudly exerting his status. I’ve suddenly just remembered depictions of Netherlandish proverbs – they do make me laugh. However, once again, this laughter is far from innocent. I laugh because I enjoy seeing how seriously some people can take an image of someone, literally, said to be ‘shitting on the gallows’ or ‘pissing in the wind’. Again, on my part, this is not an ‘innocent’ laugh. To a viewer at this time, a laugh would have been from innocent too – it would have been a dirty guffaw. Moreover, real life lessons could have been drawn from these paintings and one must not forget that the characters within the images were educational tools. None of the aforementioned examples espouse humour for humour’s sake. The reason I have been thinking, briefly, about how humour is depicted in my own area of expertise has come about upon hearing of an exhibition coming up at Kilmorack Gallery near Inverness called ‘Art of Humour’.
Within ‘Art of Humour’, Gallery Director Tony Davidson explores how selected contemporary artists use humour in their work. He states:
‘Humour, I foolishly thought, was mostly a soft thing, a sugar pill to make life better. I envisaged sheep on stilts, rocket dogs, cartoons of cats and other funny animals. This would be an exhibition to cheer people up in hard times. It would be entertainment like a classic Hollywood film, Errol Flynn slapping his thighs with a grin. But something more interesting and more human has appeared. Humour is the sugar pill that lets us look at life… and death.’
After seeing some of the works to be included in this show, it is no surprise that I personally was drawn to a piece rendered in a ‘classical’ style. ‘A Pessimist in Heaven’ by Alan MacDonald shows a Franciscan monk with a cabbage, a half-(empty, I guess) bottle of Jack Daniels and white cloth attached to the knots on his cincture. Given these knots typically signify poverty, chastity and obedience it seems a bit chilling that the man’s companion is a skeleton. The implications of the items are, on the surface, ambiguous and could make for some interesting and varied interpretations – I won’t share my own. I think, however, this is specifically the great thing about Alan MacDonald’s paintings – the controversy surrounding what they mean. Is he defacing art of the past or is he regenerating it and making the aesthetic more accessible to a contemporary audience? The answer to that question aside, the reference to Bill Wither’s (or Will Smith’s, depending on your age) ‘Just the Two of Us’ on the bottom of the painting is hilarious. I would recommend downloading the song and playing it on an MP3 when you are there – it might help you understand what was going on in MacDonald’s head when he painted the piece.
The second ‘lol’ came from seeing David Kemp’s ‘Well Heeled Bitches’. Reading the title alone, one would anticipate something a bit sexier than a dowdy looking Labrador made of shoes and boots, but that’s what you get. It’s probably just meant to be funny, but if you wanted to go down the line of interpretation then the object does challenge gender stereotypes. I’m not proud that when I saw the title written down I had expected to be presented with a picture of some women.
The concept of ‘Art of Humour’ is an interesting one. In order to fully explore the set question of the show, Davidson also enlists the help of Paul Barnes, Eduard Bersudsky, Helen Denerley, Steve Dilworth, Michael Forbes, Henry Fraser, Illona Morrice, Robert Powell, Ronald Rae and George Wyllie in addition to the two artists mentioned above. The show runs at The Kilmorack Gallery, from the 19th April until the 1st June, situated just outside Beauly near Inverness. You can read more about the gallery here – http://www.kilmorackgallery.co.uk/.
‘ACIDIC, I LIKE THAT’
A plague of drawings rendered in uncompromising black ink gather on Chris Wells’ densely colonised triptych, Unanswered Prayers – a piece included within the Smart Gallery’s current exhibition; Process. Depicted somewhere within this warren of pop culture, high art, satire and junk lies the quote ‘Acidic, I like that’ written on a note of paper shown as being cast aside by the artist himself. I found the presence of this and the fact that the note on which it is written upon is un-crumpled extremely satisfying, for acidic is the adjective which I used to describe Wells’ art when I first had the pleasure of viewing it at the RSA Young Contemporaries last Summer. I am happy to report that Wells remains caustic. Van Gogh depicted dying for his art on a crucifix, taking centre stage in both this work and Starry, Starry Night in the back room, is hardly light viewing. Is it? Some viewers may wonder if Wells is likening himself to the iconic post-Impressionist madman; the man who only sold one painting is his life, but dedicated its entirety to the pursuit of truth in nature. I am not so convinced that this is what is being done, but rather I think Wells is attempting to convey how the role of those who have been hailed as masters in the canon of Western art is vastly different to the role of those who are branded artists within contemporary society. A similar message is implied by the recurring presence of Bruegel’s Tower of Babel. Wells depicts himself frantically piecing the symbolic tower together – only to discover that it is impossible to complete it because he refuses to adopt the language which artists communicate in today. Like the builders in the Bible, it is not for a lack of trying. The ability to complete it is just not in his nature. This sentiment summarises the works as a whole – they are a struggle. The instantaneous result of applying ink to paper helps to convey this. I am, therefore, excited to see what the results of Wells’ forthcoming paintings will be. Will the element of struggle be discernible given paint cannot be worked so rapidly? I wonder what will happen next.
Smart’s exhibition also includes the work of two other young Grey’s graduates: Matthew Higgins and Lindsay Clark. The three contributors all shared a studio together at art school when studying painting. It is, therefore, interesting to observe the different paths which each has taken after them all having received the same foundation.
Higgins’ sculptural paintings are wonderfully obscure things. Walking towards them is similar to what I envision skydiving, in slow motion, towards land would be like. From a distance, Amphitheatre looks like a patchwork of colour and texture. In close proximity, it looks like the view from an aeroplane window. Circuits, buttons, keys and other random objects pepper the terrain of Higgins’ mythical landscape and appear to represent hallmarks of civilised society. With such varied media, the works become the Earth, a city, the inside workings of a machine and a cell magnified under a microscope all at once. Not one thing is depicted in particular, but in doing this everything is actually depicted. Higgins, an avid traveller, appears, therefore, to be likening the evolution of modern human life to both mechanical and natural processes.
Wells conveys the mental process which goes into making his art within it, whilst Higgins uses his mixed-media works to capture the process of something external taking shape. Clark appears to depict process within her work too. In paintings rendered in an ultramodern aesthetic, she deconstructs the organic forms of animals. Through applying futuristic shapes and neon colours to the contours of the animals’ bodies, she visually celebrates the energy which the creatures in question naturally exude. The process scrutinised here, therefore, is that which goes into animal movement and how the precision of that animal interacts within its environment. This intention of the work is evident in the photographs upon which she has marked her geometric skeletons included within the collage in the back room. This wall comprises various sketches, scraps and preliminary works which have played a part in the construction process of the final pieces on display upon the remainder of the walls. The concept of the term process and how it relates to the art exhibited is, therefore, explored to a prodigious depth.
Process will run until 28 April. The Smart Gallery is open from 12-4 on both Saturday and Sunday. For more information and lots more photos click here.