The Real


Andrew Gibbons Williams finds ‘big, original talent’ at the RSA.

To mark its recent commandeering of the Royal Scottish Academy premises on Princes Street.

the National Gallery of Scotland has mounted an i exhibition of the work of William McTaggart.

This is the first exhibition worthy ofan

International Festival for several years. It is not before time. McTaggart is. beyond doubt. the most important Scottish artist since the prolific portraitist Henry Raeburn and the painter of genre and history subjects, David Wilkie. flourished in the first part ofthe last century. He is a big. original talent and his career spans the historically crucial period in art between the coronation of Queen Victoria and the death of her son. Until now his reputation has been ! confined by the provincial and somewhat nationalistic attitude he took to the promulgation of his work in his own lifetime and the superficial

resemblance of his late manner to

Impressionism. Although only slightly younger than Sir John Millais and Lord Leighton. he became neither Pre-Raphelite nor High Victorian. ‘Expressionist‘. the term which springs to mind when confronted with the free. turbulent brushwork of his mature seascapes. is inappropriate and misleading. McTaggart is temperamentally a Victorian (witness the sentimental inclusion of innocently frolicking children in almost every scene). and the

development of his style into something shockingly near-modern is an original and remarkably uninfluenced achievement. Now -— post-Picasso -- we think of it as normal. Before the invention of ‘modern art‘ it was not. Professor Lindsay Errington has set the record straight in her scholarly, objective catalogue. McTaggart‘s subject matter is extremely limited; he rarely strays from the sea and seashore. By the 18805 he is flicking and scumbling oil paint with controlled abandon, heightening tonal contrasts with pure white a technique learnt from his hero. Constable. The effect is vivid and natural; large 1 canvases full of rushing wind and reeking of

sea-salt. This is full-blown Romanticism. By the

1890s Scottish emigrants were already fleeing by l‘ steamer. McTaggart‘s treatment ofthis subject | shows a sailing ship. What could be more " ! typically Romantic! In his last works he applies

i the very mimimum of pigment to low-key

l grounds to evoke subtle light effects. It is impossible not to be reminded of late Monet. For several years a very late perhaps unfinished seascape hung on my sitting-room wall. The amount of paint on the canvas would not have filled a teaspoon. The flickering sea undulated, clouds scurried over the indistinct horizon. (Andrew Gibbon Williams) I McTaggart is on throughout the Festival at the Royal Scottish Academy. See Scottish listings.


Contemporary Art From The Netherlands, Richard Demarco Gallery.

As one oi the more interesting venues taking part in the ‘Holland at the Festival' theme, work oi an unconventional, avant-garde tradition could be expected to be shown. The artists, Rob Birza, Willem Builenweg, Manel Esparbe Gasca, Joost Hoekstra, Michael Jacklin, Toon Kuijpers, Stanislaw Lewkowicz, Joost Van Den Toorn and Charles Vreuls use a variety at media from metal sculpture to cardboard hanging objects and lithographs on corrugated perspex, yet the overall impression is one ol leellng underwhelmed despite the humour, whimsy and serious aims oi the collected work.

The photography and printing techniques at Stan Lewkowicz have interesting Implications lor design in an urban context. By incorporating tragmented, abstract images oi urban liie into pieces at corrugated perspex, possibilities are opened up lor architecture and the aestheticising ol space. The concave, black metal sculpture ol Michael Jacklin questions linguistic categories through the possibilities oi iorm and geometry. Sculpture oi a surreal, gimmicky sort is to be lound in the work oi Joost Hoekstra and Joost Van Den Toorn who make bizarre cardboard relieis through the use oi ‘lound objects’ and domestic materials. The ludicrous, iun air eiiect achieved by their work is to be matched with the absurdity ol their sale price.

Manel Esparbe Gasca and Rob Birza employ iormalisi means to comment on industrialism, destruction and coniinement, Nevertheless, the eiiect

Sculpture by M. Jacklln oi the overall work is diverse but dampened by inconsistencies in quality and commitment. (Lorna J. Waite)


The Horse, Gaierie Mirages.

Found in the darkest depths oi Stockbridge, a delighttui collection at ancient and modern Asian artelacts contains more than the usual display oi Indian and South East Asian jewellery and textiles. The cluttered collection concentrates on that noble beast, the horse. Represented in art since the cave paintings at the Stone Age, this exhibition illustrates an age-old iondness tor the animal, a iavourite motii on objects ranging lrom betel-nut crackers to oil lamps. An impressive yet naively worked 19th century Gujarat guardian horseman appropriately stands at the entrance oi the gallery's tent-like exhibition room, inside which there are brightly painted wooden horses, some at which slide open to reveal a secret hiding place. Wall hangings in rich earth colours and wonderiul collage designs cover the wall, but the most impressive pieces are the blackened brass horses (see photo); beautilully arched necks and stylised manes pay tribute both to artist and beast. (Jo Hoe).

The List 18 24 August 1989 51