Take six

Katrina Brown discusses the strengths and weaknesses of an exhibition which features the works of six young Conceptualist artists poised to make the Big Time.

For the second time since it closed in February this year. Edinburgh‘s Fruitmarket Gallery is being made use of as the venue for an exhibition organised outwith that troubled institution. Given the number ofScottish galleries which currently have their doors closed for one reason or another, it is certainly something of a relief to see that the Fruitmarket space is not being allowed to lie empty until its future administration is settled upon. First. during the Festival, the Graeme Murray Gallery mounted an exhibition of the work of [an Hamilton Finlay. probably Scotland’s best-known artist abroad. Now Walk On shows work by six Scottish artists at the other end of their careers. in an exhibition originally brought together for the Jack Tilton Gallery in New York. On this side of the Atlantic. Walk On has been selected. organised and administered entirely by


It is the variety at concerns and techniques which is most apparent

artists based in Edinburgh and Glasgow. Its title despite the associations with football and its anthems is intended to reflect the attitude of those artists, who are concerned with creating their own opportunities, whether by developing their own artist-run projects or submitting pr0posals to other organisations, and their own frameworks within which to work. One particular piece of work in the exhibition seems, on one level, to play with the notions of confidence and progression also inherent in the title: Kevin Henderson has installed a section of an old. dilapidated wooden conveyor belt in the upper gallery and called the piece Closed Conveyor?

The idea for the exhibition came from Jack Tilton‘s suggestion that Alan Johnston, himself an artist and tutor at Edinburgh College of Art, should select a group of artists for a show of Scottish work at the New York Gallery. The six artists he chose Karen Forbes, Douglas Gordon, Kevin Henderson. Angus Hood, Craig Richardson and Graeme Todd have certainly been involved in many of the same projects over the last few years, Scatter at the Third Eye Centre in 1989 and this year’s Windfall , among others. Yet the Walk On group is far from being an obvious or a coherent team, and this is the root of the main difficulty with the present show. Diversity is no bad thing in an exhibition, but, in this case, the differences seem to be far more than anything which might unite the six.

All of the work at the Fruitmarket is new. Some

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pieces like Craig Richardson’s two wall works have been created specifically for the space in which they can now be seen, while others were produced in the studio, but still specifically for this exhibition. When the work of all six artists is seen together, more easily done in the upper gallery, it is the variety of concerns and techniques which is most apparent. And, while the majority of the work is quite sparse in its physical appearance, the overall impression of the show as a whole is quite the opposite.

Once you accept that Walk On is not a real group exhibition, but rather an exhibition by a fairly arbitrary selection of young Scottish artists, then it has much to offer, even if the works do sometimes seem to be shouting across the gallery floor at each other. Take, for example , one of Angus Hood’s Untitled combination paintings and its opposite neighbour, a text work by Douglas Gordon. Hood uses several small, rectangular and circular canvases, some painted uniformly in one colour and some bearing blurred photographic images, to


illustrate, in some way, the options available to a painter and to enter the current debate about painting. Opposite this, Gordon’s work consists of two parts - the text ‘I have discovered the truth’. painted on the gallery wall, and a note which tells us that a letter containing the same text has been sent ‘to persons known and unknown’. The latter work clearly tackles less tangible ideas, partly relating to the very nature of artwork. These two pieces may not be the most disparate in the exhibition, but their physical opposition in the gallery only seems to stress their differences.

Perhaps most importantly for its Scottish audience, Walk On provides a great opportunity to see the work of these six artists, all of whom are beginning to attract national and international attention. Let us hope that, when the Fruitmarket proper opens its doors again next year, it will not always wait for the international seal of approval before showing work by Scottish artists of any age. Walk On is at the Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, until Fri 29 Nov.