Let there be
Lorna J. Waite delves among the liver and lamb‘s tongues in “the most interesting photographic exhibition in the festival.’
Self-portraiture ofa visceral. allegorical kind can be seen in the photography ofcultural worker. Helen Chadwick in her exhibition. ‘Lumina‘. Concerned in the past with using a variety of media: performance. installation and xeroxography to represent the discourse of the body. Chadwick has now focused attention on more traditional forms ofpresentation. large Polaroids framed with raw silk. to ‘create portraits for being alive and healing the split of mind and body.‘
Reminiscent ofa Next interior design advert complete with dusty pink carpet and domestic lighting. the gallery space has become the bourgeois interior with which to contain the photographic works and to display meat. How do we read these strange. aesthetically difficult images bereft of the comfort of the existence of the human figure as conventionally defined?
Becoming metaphors for human flesh and the visceral reality ofconsciousness. Chadwick uses ideas appropriated from medical text books and the tradition of Dutch still life painting to reverse the meaning of the selfas mind and luxuriate in the energetic beauty of the physical body as revealed by its organs. Lying on a bed ofdark velvet or shining silk. different kinds of meat — lambs tongues. liver. deep red steak — remind us ofour common identity as animal. yet seduce us with their vitality and erotic potential. For Chadwick. meat becomes consciousness and a force of attraction enabling us to perceive the indivisibility of spirit and body whilst ‘constantly negotiating what is and what isn‘t us — this is the dialectic ofdesire.‘ The portraits of meat illuminated by a solitary, simple light bulb
complete with flex redefine life and death through the idea ofenergy and the boundaries of our physical existence. The static quality of still life composition is undermined by the fusion of light and matter. so that the pictures ofmeat. possessing a textural lusciousness. are vibrant and alive. resisting decomposition. Convention demands that we perceive the meat to be dead and certainly not beautiful. subverting this also questions the origin of our existence which for Chadwick is more to do with evolution than any reference to the divine. By making flesh real rather than denying the life ofthe body. Christian dogma is called into question.
Helen Chadwick's work refuses to make any separation between body and consciousness which she perceives to be ‘a dangerous divide in our culture given that consciousness is a quantum phenomenon which is always in the process of transformation either through information or bodily processes‘. Perceiving our bodies as living meat the only means by which we can engage with the world implies boundaries between self and other. human and animal which are elastic and slippery. This rupture fascinates Chadwick in a manner which is reflected both in the ambiguity and directness of her work. The body becomes an idea as well as reality. transforming how we see ourselves from the inside out. Definitely. the most interesting photographic exhibition at the festival.
I Lumlna at the Portfolio Gallery until 2 September.
ARMANDO-RESONANCE OF THE PAST
‘Resonance of the Past', is a retrospective of the work of the Dutch artist, Armando. Encompassing work completed over a thirty year period, both paintings and drawings, in style and composition, draw upon the influence of various ‘art movements' since the end of the second world war principally the Cobra group and the abstract expressionists. Armando's work diverges from strict adherence to the principles of the above — rooted as it is In exploring the psychology of his personal history through the condition
of war as both real and perhaps fundamental to the human psyche. Having lived as a child near a Nazi transit camp, the terror and poignancy of these memories are evoked in work which becomes a cathartic process through the repetition of images and the symbolic use oi colour as in the series of paintings using primarily black and white to signify polarised conflicts. In these abstract representations of images of war, themes of suffering and the catastrophe of human agency are explored in a space where innocence or beauty are unthinkable. Titles of works reflect the leitmotits oi his experience -‘Gullty Landscape', “Enemy Observation; and ‘Black Heads‘ —
becoming a psychogeography of war where the landscape contains guilt and the haunting shadows of the past. Yet the manner of painting assumes an observational, detached style seeking universal truths through abstraction which perhaps mystiiy rather than account for the absurdity of human behaviour. (Lorna J. Waite)
— PATRONS AND PAINTERS
Scottish National Portrait Gallery
It is very difficult to breathe life into the dusty corpse of aristocratic portraiture. Submerged beneath centuries of grime and varnish, the comfortable, arrogant gazes of the social elite rarely elicit sympathy; the stately-home tourist/pilgrim usually— quite rightly— avolds them. By focusing on half a dozen Scottish dynasties and illustrating their patronage of a select group of painters with a superbly well-chosen variety of works, the
curators of ‘Patrons and Painters' have made what was previously considered a fallow field bloom like a beautiful garden.
The star oi the show is undoubtedly
the flattering, ltalianate Allan Ramsay whose buttering-up of the Third Earl of Bute led to endless Royal commissions and his ultimate appointment as Painterto the King. George III could not have been that mad. Well, at least he had taste. ‘Mr Ramsay is my painter, Sir' quoth he, in dismissing a plea on behalf of Reynolds! Pre-Union artists like the Scougals, Jacob de Wet (he of the massed ranks of spurious Stewart ancestors in Holyrood), and the polished SirJohn de Medina, emerge from this show as conventional physiognomic mapmakers — inserting likeness into festoons of drapery and stylised landscapes. Only with the Enlightenment came the proto-Romantic character study. Emphasising the family‘s aristocratic pedigree was the name of the game and this was by no means confined to the Anglicized Lowlands. The Laird of Clan Grant had the crude but spirited Richard Waitt portray everybody from his piper to the ugly estate henwife.
In communications from artist to patron obsequiousness was, of course, obligatory (even when they were related as so often seems to have been the case in 18th century Scotland!). No patron meant no bread. The artist was still nearer tradesman than prophet. Make what you will of the frequency of artists' appeals for payment. (Andrew Gibbon Williams)
The List 1 l — 17 August 198951