The third and fourth floors of the City Art Centre are currently playing host to a great spectrum of works, ranging from ceramics, printmaking and textiles, to photography, jewellery, painting, glassmaking and new media. All of the 22 artists and makers exhibiting here have been supported by the Visual Arts Awards and Craft Maker Awards, run by the City of Edinburgh Council in partnership with Creative Scotland since 2000.
With the scheme now having run for a decade, this exhibition highlights not only the development and creative practices of these artists, but also emphasises the artistic talent that Edinburgh has to offer. Alan Kilpatrick’sFlame Tree, a stunning and soothing painting using henna and turmeric, is cleverly contrasted with Aeneas Wilder’s destructive video Est Nord Est, in which beautifully complex stacked creations are destroyed through Wilder’s forceful touch.
Beverley Hood reflects on the tradition of portraiture in the 21st century in her work, Doppleganger, depicting international artists in digitally printed portraits, disrupting the traditional notion of portraiture by producing almost computer game characters. Whilst Hood’s practice is clearly based in the digital medium, seen also in a video installation, many artists have taken to using everyday objects to create beautiful and sometimes dainty sculptures. Gemma Coyle’s Bonnie Biro Canvas 3, a delightful little caravan made out of biros, is presented almost regally on a rotating plinth, whilst Rebecca Wilson’s Memoria – 100 Cups of Tea, Never to Be…highlights the sadness of a beautiful broken object, turning the everyday into a collage of pleasurable extravagance.
An ambitious education programme accompanies the exhibition, and many of the exhibiting pieces are for sale, offering an opportunity to invest in the city’s talent and support Edinburgh’s thriving visual art and craft sector.
Exhibition: Reflection: Contemporary Visual Arts and Crafts in Edinburgh
Venue: City Art Centre
Dates: 19th November 2011 - 12th February 2012
Originally published on The Journal website, 20/11/11
Emily Burke interviews James Holloway, director of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, in preparation for the grand re-opening.
Having been closed for refurbishments since 2009, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery may be a distant memory for some, maybe even never experienced by others. However, it is a definite must-see for all once it re-opens on 30 November.
‘Portrait of the Nation’, the project that has taken over the gallery, aims to “restore and reveal much more of the building than ever before; to show many more works of art by introducing a new, regularly changing display programme; and to create first-class education and visitor services”. This project has completely transformed the space and aims of the gallery, catapulting it to an entirely new level.
However, it has been an uphill struggle to get to this stage. Having been threatened 16 years ago with closure and the removal of its Scottish collection, it’s no wonder that James Holloway, Director of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, is proud of their achievements. “It’s what I dreamt of, but I really never thought it would happen. To be honest, it’s exceeded my wildest dreams, and we’re just completely thrilled with how the building looks and how the collection looks in it.” And why wouldn’t he be proud? For 120 years, the original Robert Rowan Anderson building has only been used to half its original intention, with only three galleries in operation and the rest of the space taken over by offices.
Through this extensive renovation, the Portrait Gallery has now acquired an additional seven gallery spaces, along with a digital media area, a sumptuous Victorian library– now open to the public– and a spectacular glass lift that provides a view onto every level. “It’s going to be very unlike the old gallery” stated Holloway as we walked around the new gallery spaces. Though this is evidently true, it is pleasing to see that the integrity of the original building remains firmly intact.
With this new expanse of space, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery now has the great opportunity to display more of its extensive collection than was ever previously possible. Portraits that have never been exhibited in the gallery before will now hang proudly, including a portrait of the Earl of Wharton and his family from the 1740s, and an Allan Ramsay portrait of the King and Queen.
However, the focus of the gallery will not specifically be on Scottish art, instead being threaded through the exhibitions as a sort of narrative. “To be honest, so much of Scottish painting until about 1820 was portraiture, and still was actually until the end of the 19th century, so a gallery like this does tell the first chapters of the history of Scottish art.” This will allow more room for photography and landscape, genres that were touched on in previous exhibitions, but will come to the fore in the new exhibition spaces. Highlights of future exhibitions will include Imagining Power: The Visual Culture of the Jacobite Cause, Out of the Shadow: Women of 19th Century Scotland, Migration Stories: Pakistan and War at Sea.
As a national institution, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery is ‘the people’s gallery’, which has been emphasised through the ‘Portrait of the Nation’ fundraising scheme, allowing us to feel engaged and part of the gallery’s journey. Although their visitor profile has always been more Scottish based, Holloway hopes that more tourists will now enter through its doors, and so increase its attendance ratings by 50 per cent. However, with a £17 million investment in the gallery, it seems in no doubt that they will achieve this conservative goal.
Just walking through the gallery space, still a month and half away from completion, the buzz around it is electrifying. With a collection that spans from the mid-16th Century to the present day, it’s a daunting task for any director, but Holloway seems to be taking it in his stride, envisaging the gallery as “a big party, where you meet lots of different people and different characters - a great party is the variety of people that you meet.” And that truly is what the new Scottish National Portrait Gallery is – a celebration of an artistic nation, with many new faces to encounter.
The Scottish National Portrait Gallery re-opens on 30 November 2011.
Originally published and printed in The Journal, 19/10/11
This year has been a great success for one of the world’s greatest living sculptors. With exhibitions in Venice, Duisburg, Dallas, Edinburgh, and Paris (his exhibition under the glass pyramid at the Louvre was the first to be staged there by a living artist) and a Turner Prize to his name, it seems that Tony Cragg can do no wrong.
Since the late 1970s Cragg has been one of Britain’s leading sculptors, and the exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art is testament to this. Tony Cragg: Sculptures and Drawings will be the first UK museum exhibition devoted to the artist in more than a decade, and with such a vast range of work on show, the exhibition takes on almost a retrospective character, encompassing works from his Early Formsand Rational Beings series. The sculptures, both inside the gallery space and in the exterior grounds, are satisfyingly beautiful, incredibly tactile and do not fall short of technical brilliance. Alongside sculptures such as Bent of Mind and Outspan is a selection of some 100 drawings, watercolours and prints which offer a fascinating insight into the artist’s working methods.
From an early age, Cragg has been captivated by the manipulation and chemical processes of certain materials, which can be seen clearly in both his use of drawing to understand experiments, and in the range of materials he uses in his sculptures – varying from bronze, iron, wood and Kevlar to plaster, steel, polystyrene and glass. However, what is most apparent about Cragg’s work is that they refuse to be categorised. Here is an artist who refuses to do what is expected of him, with always a hint of humour, something that is hard to find in the often-solemn world of sculpture.
Exhibition: Tony Cragg: Sculptures and Drawings
Venue: Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh
Dates: 30th July - 6th November 2011
Originally published on The Journal website, 03/10/11
‘For the first time I have been able to look at myself and realise how I have led my life’. Mirrors: Prison Portraits, the new exhibition at the National Gallery Complex, displays a dramatic and thought-provoking collection of portraits, aiming to help prisoners from five Scottish jails take a look at themselves and come to terms with the crimes that they have committed. The exhibitionis part of Inspiring Change, a pioneering partnership project, led by Motherwell College, which uses the arts to stimulate engagement with learning and improve literacy skills among offenders in custody, as well as demonstrating the potential of the arts to support the process of rehabilitation. Displayed anonymously and with no details of the crimes committed by the artists, the images include photographs by female offenders in HMP Greenock, figurative portraits created by long-term prisoners in HMP Shotts, and other works from HMP Barlinnie, HMP Polmont and HMP Open Estate (Castle Huntly). However, it is through this anonymity that the viewer gains a real sense of sadness and the loss of identity of these prisoners, a feeling that emanates throughout the whole exhibition, and makes it harder to engage with the work.
One can see a vast array of artistic influences in the work displayed by these prisoners, ranging from the Francesca Woodman inspired pinhole photographs of the reality of rehabilitation; the stereotypical female fictional characters of Cindy Sherman, representing female inmates’ personalities; or the Kevin Reid inspired graphic novel, where inmates channel the harsh realities of prison into some kind of narrative within ‘cells’ or boxes, mirroring everyday prison life. However, whichever way the work is produced and displayed, there is an overriding sense of misery, emphasising their imprisonment even further, but still showing an honest representation of prison life.
Exhibition: Mirrors: Prison Portraits
Venue: Scottish National Gallery Complex, Edinburgh
Dates: 5th November 2010 – 16th January 2011
Originally published in History of Art Review, 13/12/10