This issue the art ofportraiture is discovered in Edinburgh (below) with reviews ofBert Irvine at the Talbot Rice, the Soviets at Third Eye Centre, and more, overleaf.


Watch the birdie!

Kennedy Wilson talks to Sara Stevenson of the National Portrait Gallery about choosing faces to fit the frame.

Scotland‘s network of photographers is pretty incestuous. In Portrayal. Portfolio‘s annual open exhibition. there are photographers‘ portraits of other photographers. students‘ photographs of

their lecturers. lecturers photographing students.

photographers snapping spouses and offspring. And what a lot ofoffspring there are.

The selection ofsubmissions was made by Sara Stevenson. curator ofphotography at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. and is ultimately a personal choice. ‘You can‘t avoid subjectivity.‘ she says. ‘It‘s bound to be a reflection of my own personality. It was a very exciting and interesting experience. and a measure of the very high quality that it took so long. working flat out. just to look at the portfolios. I was immensely impressed by what people had sent in.‘

Although the selection was made from 7()() pictures submitted by 109 photographers. some ofwhom might not otherwise have gained access to exhibition space. others. it must be said, undoubtedly would.

Despite claims of reaching out to ‘the community‘ (that mythical land so beloved of the Scottish Arts Council‘s funding department). many of the photographers represented in the show are students of photography. ‘name‘ photographers like the ubiquitous David Williams. or photograpers already working in the commercial sector. freelancing for magazines

and newspapers.

Sara Stevenson rejects the idea that the open exhibition is elitist. ‘In any business. whether you‘re talking about art or engineering. the professionals tend to be better than the amateurs because they work at it hard.‘

It‘s exceptionally difficult to take imaginative and inventive portraits. the genre having been reworked endlessly. So what makes a good portrait photograph? ‘A very strong relationship between photographer and sitter; the ability of the photographer to take on the personality of the sitter‘. says Stevenson. ‘Its all too easy to assume that what the camera will take will be a likeness. As anyone who has had their passport photograph taken will know. the camera can lie.‘

Overall. Portrayal tends towards the safe. with a lack ofvariety. There are no pictures that could be called abstract or experimental. But some of the work shines out. Anna L. Sommerville‘s ‘Mary‘. the image used on the exhibition poster.

has a moody intensity. Robert Burns‘ ‘Neil Burns, Martin and Marlene‘ is particularly

striking. Catriona Grant‘s absurdly titled ‘Aspect

of Love —- Peebles 1988' uses bold shapes and the distortion ofa convex bus mirror.

Graham Maclndoe‘s Polish drag queen displays affectionate humour without intrusiveness, and is notable for being a series of pictures that tell a story. Can one picture ever really sum up the sitter?

The trick would seem to be. as Sara Stevenson says, ‘to capture an expression that is characteristic of the person. in some way that is deeper than just a fleeting expression. 'l‘hat‘s what makes portraiture so difficult. we have all these endless fleeting expressions which are totally uncharacteristic of the way we are.‘

Portrayal, Portfolio Gallery. 4.? ( 'amllemaker

Row, Edinburgh. 220/911. Tue—Sat noon—5.30pm. 25 Nov—131ml.


City Arts Centre, Edinburgh, 1-16 Dec. World AIDS day is, appropriately enough, the opening day at an exhibition at the City Art Centre organised to support Milestone House, the first purpose-built Hospice for HIV positive patients. Around eighty leading Scottish artists have donated works, which will be auctioned to help raise lunds tor the Milestone House Project. However the primary purpose at the exhibition is not lundralsing, according to Dr Jamie Inglis from the


Project. ‘Initially we want twenty works of art to be selected by the people who will use the Hospice to go on view

Planning permission tor the Hospice has recently been granted by the District Council, though not without affording the proposals the same depth of consideration usually reserved tor such large scale developments as the inlamous ‘Hole in the Ground” near Lothian Road. Dr Inglis also hopes the exhibition will help induce a less passionate response to the whole problem. ‘We have invited all the local

residents to come down to the City Arts Centre where the plans will be on show. Really the lundraising aspect ol the exhibition comes third on the list at priorities.‘

The cost oi the first specially commissioned Hospice Ior HIV-positive patients in Europe (it not the World) runs to a cool £1.65 million and, despite assistance lrom the Regional and District Councils and Lothian Health Board. the voluntary sector must still stump up £415,000. Quite a milestone to reach. that. (Ross Parsons)


The List 24 November ~ 7 December Will) 55