Untitled. Lawrence Nowosad
Though enticingly lugubrious, the title chosen by Lawrence Nowosad for his current exhibition -— ‘Decompositions’ — tells only halfthe story behind his photographs. Sure enough, they are inspired by an interest in death and decay, occasionally remniscent of Peter Greenaway, but, in these new works, Nowosad has broadened his remit to accept that change, even for the worse, can sometimes be progress. ‘Initially the photographs came out ofthe idea ofdecay, negativity, ageing and political decline,’ he explains, ‘but then a more positive aspect came out of that — things don‘t just decay, they change, they develop forward , you don‘t have to say, “this is the end of it", ifthings take a downward turn.‘
The theme throughout is one of transience and renewal, explicitly so in a work which shows a human being rising, phoenix-like, out of ﬂames, and more subtly in the striking image ofa man who, caked in plaster, appears to be shedding a skin. A Passage, which Nowosad describes as ‘essentially a self-portrait’, is a series of six photographs showing changing symbols apparently etched on stone. With the artist on hand to explain the various symbols, the journey— from his Ukrainian roots, through ﬂirtation with various ideologies and ultimately to independence — is clear enough. But even without him, the theme of ﬂux, ofconstant renewal, makes perfect sense.
Other, older works — of a corroded clock, for example —- have a darker edge to them, but the most unusual, and humorous works in the show are a pair: one is of a bemused fish, presumably'one whose days were numbered, being hoisted upwards off a shattered plate. The other shows a woman who also seems to be being hoisted upwards, rather than jumping, a loose tangle of ropes on the ground beneath her. In both cases the impression is of a last-minute reprieve for an unsuspecting hostage. Nowosad says it was the fish‘s absurdly disconcerted expression that gave him the idea. (Miranda France) Decompositions is at the Theatre Workshop until 24 Dec.
‘That’s a lovely one isn't it,‘ whispers the white-haired lady to her husband. At the 130th RGI exhibition, the pick of the best in contemporary art and sculpture in Scotland, they admire a small painting ol a loaf of bread, painted in the realist tradition with each crumb picked out in detail. It is surrounded by a cacophony oi styles and subject matter: Campbellesque liguratives vie for position between bold landscapes and dripping montages in a show which is so shockingly cluttered that it induces nausea. The painting, like a lriend in a
crowd ol strangers, is comlortingly familiar.
Not that any of the work is bad -lar from it. There are various well-known names, including George Wyllle, Lesley Banks, Douglas Shanks and Tom McKendrick among the 323 works, but the clashing ol styles is so violent that it very quickly becomes numbing.
Sad to say, the numbing eltect begins in Room One, where the small works are hung. Three rows oi frames hang around the room, showing over 70 studies. Only Anda Paterson with her much larger ‘Studies oi Portugal’, in charcoal manages to escape - her stocky iigures with laces like bark, stand out from the various watercolours oi mountains and seascapes placed around it.
Elsewhere, lack of space means that abstracts implode in their own explosions of colour and ‘lound' sculpture like ‘Fullstop’ (plastic and metal) by James and Jonathon—two electric typewriters on a stack oi metal cases- looks like a pile oljunk in the comer. Only the easiest on the eye survive. ‘Three Flgures’, by Sharon Ouigley, a huge, predominantly blue canvas is like a cool drink.
It seems incredible that no effort has been made to hang this exhibition in a more sympathetic manner. Most oi the works are for sale - but they can hardly benellt lrom this car boot sale presentation. (Beatrice Colin)
The Royal Glasgow Institute Annual Exhibition is at the McLelian Gallery until Thurs 19 December.
The Collective Gallery has caught imaginations across the UK, America and Europe with their latest lund-raising enterprise -a show lor which artists, writers and celebrities were, invited to send, on a blank postcard, their artistic responses to postcards sent to them by the gallery. These will be exhibited until Sat 14
Dec, when they will be auctioned, at 2pm, to raise money lorthe relurblshment ol Collective’s new gallery space. Every conceivable kind of postcard was sent- lrom the wish-you-were-here seaside variety to 3-D images of Christ, or leminist pronunclamentos - eliciting every kind oi response, some artists using the inverse, written-on side of card lor inspiration. Scui?tor George Wyllle transformed a kitsch Stegosaurus into ‘Toastathaurus (Popus)’, and the Orcadlan poet George Mackay Brown, wrote a poem about Saint Francis.
Religious postcards drew provocative responses, particularly from Roger Moltat, who created a mawkish pastiche oi the Vatican City, with Pope John Paul ll inset. Tom Contl’s reaction to a drab cathedral was a scribbled ‘Beliglon is depressing'. Shakespearlan postcards were also met with wryness: Jane Hyslop imagined ‘Trying to Install Shakespeare’s Brain’ and Alistair Mack’s Shakespeare-inspired contribution is ‘The Portrait ol a Blinking ldlot’, in characteristic bright red, blue and yellow.
The 206 contributors include
- («v—x f".\\ ‘l, i‘ g i1 in) a j / 'f-h
George Wyllie’s ‘Tostathaurus (Popus)'
countless well-known artists as well as celebrities Gregor Fisher, Elaine C. Smith and Sheena McDonald. Olten the effect is purely humorous; other pieces are intricately worked and some are illuminating: when the artist’s source at inspiration and an abstract response are placed side by side in this way, the viewer gets closer to understanding the process of abstraction.
Gallery administrators profess themselves overwhelmed by the response to the Postcard show, but lrustrated that they have not been able to show it in their new premises; they are still awaiting permission from the council to begin relurbishment. The Collective will be moving to new, bigger premises in Cockburn Street sometime next year, the question is, when? Answers on a postcard, please. (Miranda France)
The Postcard show is at the Collective Gallery until Sat 14 Dec.
Derek McGuire and the winning paintings
I Derek McGuire has been announced as the winner ofthis year's £8000 Alastair Salvesen Art Scholarship. a fund set up with the intention of helping young Scottish painters who have already left college. but are not yet ‘established‘. The scholarship is intended for travel, and McGuire has spent five months travelling by coach across Australia. depicting life
? around the country‘s
racetracks and dogtracks. McGuire‘s obsessive theme is gambling and he is fascinated by the language ofthe track: ‘hands display tic-tac signals, bookies shout odds in their own poetic jargon, the marketplace is reﬂected on chalk-boards and number-boards‘. His own, vibrant paintings turn the race into ‘a menacing game with no players'. See his Australian paintings at the Royal Scottish Academy. until Thurs 12 Dec.
I The lirsl Scottish lntemational Festival of Photography will take place in June 1993 and become. it is hoped.
3 ‘Britain‘s premiere
photo-biennial‘. Uniquely. the Festival will not be based in one town but take in the entire country. mainland and islands; a roadshow team ofsupport vehicles and personnel will travel around Scotland bringing ‘a very necessary sense of excitement which makcsa festival festive‘. Jammed. as it will be, between the Science Festival, Mayfcst and the Edinburgh Festival. the organisers may find drumming up excitement something ofa chaHenge.
V IN PRINT
l Charles Rennie Mackintosh at the Hunterian Art Gallery (£3.50). This is the last in a set offour guidebooks to the University of Glasgow‘s art collections, published by the Hunterian. Illustrated in colour throughout, the book includes concise introductions to the Mackintosh collection, the Mackintosh House and a useful piece on his career and his role in the turn-of—the-century ‘Glasgow Style‘. There is also a bibliography, chronology and twenty plates. A good beginner‘s guide to CRM.
50 The List 6- 19 December 1991