Festival Visual Art
THE CREATIVE WORLD OF ALAN DAVIE Remarkable mix of the dark and the sublime from much-loved Scottish artist ●●●●●
Saxophonist and journeyman translucent Alan Davie is surely one of Scotland’s greatest living artists. At almost 90 years old it’s remarkable to think that this is the first exhibition of his work to embrace the breadth of his output in painting, tapestry and rug making (and to a lesser extent sculpture and jewellery design). The result of an eight-year long collaboration between Davie and this wonderful tapestry studio and exhibition space, The Creative World of Alan Davie traces Davie’s artistic trajectory from gauche art student to grifting musician and artist to sponge-like spiritual seeker.
Moving from the intense early promise of his pre-war ‘Self Portrait’, the exhibition opens out with the familiar glories of ‘Jingling Space’ (1950) and ‘Woman Bewitched By the Moon’. Like his beloved jazz music, the surrealist influences of Paul Klee, Jackson Pollock and Joan Miró play off Davie’s need for improvisation and the frenetic. Davie’s experiments with geometric structuralism and domestic paints and brushes pass by like so much catharsis – and then the bearded one crosses the border and discovers Latin America and tapestry in ‘Celtic Spot No 2’. Vivid colours and the skies of Venezuela are everywhere but soon Davie is channelling Africa as well. Ever the shaman, ever the Zen artist, Davie puts himself out of the way in these works: these beautiful hand-hooked rugs and tapestries seem more a manifestation of tribalism and Guli masked delusion than anything else.
Funnelled by ceiling to floor photographs of a younger Davie at work and glass cases full of personal ephemera it’s easy to linger a long time in the first room, but it only tells half the story. The second room brings things up to date with modern works including the vibrant ‘New Adventures in Blue’, the humorous ‘Second Attempt’ and the cluttered ‘Cosmological Structures’. In the window frames and on the walls sit the talismans that have inspired Davie for half a century. A ceremonial dance mask made by the African Bebo people, purchased in 1966, sculptures and fertility masks from other tribes complete the picture. Like a true translucent artist Davie has come full circle to embrace the spectrum of human experience. A potent blend of the dark and the sublime, it’s a remarkable journey with an amazing artist. (Paul Dale) ■ Dovecot Studios, 550 3660, until 26 Sep (not Sun), £3 (£2).
SELF-MADE CAVALCADE Playful, engaging group show by international artists ●●●●●
Artists from Munich, Edinburgh and Glasgow go head to head in this enjoyable and playful exhibition of multimedia, multi-discipline work developed from a previous exchange show in the German city.
Christian Newby’s ‘Kromvex Mirror’ opens the show with an ingenious nod to the theatrical, film and performance elements that power the other works here. This twin-screen black and white Super 8 projection brings to mind night vision aerial shots of war zones – but look closer and anthropomorphism is taking hold. Aiko Okamoto’s ‘Ruft’ places childhood obsessions in a benign performance art cycle (in more ways than one). The three-wall hung sculptural works by the brilliant Pio Abad – ‘Dikta’, ‘The Humanist’ and ‘Mass Follows Class’ – are like variations on the 1970s flying geese decorations, albeit ones rich in gold leaf, intricate design and vinyl tiling. Floe Defoe brings a bit of Germanic order to things with the neatly conceptual
sound and film piece ‘Leo’, which uses chance and the interference to create both its aural and visual content. Allison Gibbs’ environmentally savvy sculpture ‘Pylonic Vibration’ and sound piece ‘Transmission Remission’ deconstruct the familiar electricity pylon (and all its inherent radioactivity) with ideas of colour therapy and architectural depression. Elvis-loving Gang Hut doyen Amy Marletta brings her usual humour and quirk to the joyous video ‘Elvis Lives Upstairs’. Best of all, Clea Stracke and Verena Seibt’s five-minute film ‘Und das Schiff fährt’ [and the ship sails on] re-imagines the Munich Art Academy as a high sea sailing ship. All aboard! (Paul Dale) ■ Art’s Complex, 07851 405417, until 5 Sep (not Mon–Wed), free.
78 THE LIST FESTIVAL MAGAZINE 13–20 Aug 2009
MILESTONE Provocative exhibition accompanying a live stone-carving project ●●●●●
Entering the quad of the Edinburgh College of Art feels a bit like discovering yet another ill-placed tram construction site. The air is full of the drone of power tools, and dust clouds settle in your hair and mouth. Milestone is an unconventional exhibition. In a row of tented booths in front of the main entrance to the ECA, ten sculptors are at work. Over the next 30 days each of these ten will carve a new sculpture out of a one to two-tonne block of stone.
It’s a project that will take shape through the month, and while I can vouch for
the magnetism of these early days, when forms are only just beginning to emerge from the stone, there’s no telling, for the viewer at least, where anything’s going to end up by September.
But one of the things that makes Milestone truly challenging is the accompanying exhibition. The fruit of a three-year research project, this delves not only into the philosophies of sculpture – ‘the hand knows many things’ – but goes back to source with photos and films from the quarries where much of this stone comes from. Watching a white-haired woman in a sari bringing down an immense iron mallet, again and again, inches away from her flip-flopped feet; seeing the coconut-fibre vest worn by Chinese stone-carriers to protect the skin on their backs, and then going back outside to inhale the dust from the power tools, is one of the most unsettling experiences you’ll ever have at an art show. (Lizzie Mitchell) ■ Edinburgh College of Art, 221 6000, until 30 Aug (not Mon), free.