Sensible art

Blind and partially-sighted artists enjoy an understanding of their materials which gives their works an extra dimension Aaron Hicklin reports from the Glasgow School of Art.

In 1976 The Tate Gallery in London took down its Do Not Touch signs and invited the public to explore works ofart with their hands. For a brief few months Degas. Moore. Laurens and Malliol were assessed under a new set of criteria. enabling the blind and partially sighted access to a world usually open only to the sighted. For others. with sight unimpaired. the experience was a

revelation, dispensing with the oppressive space which vision insists upon, to bring the artist into direct contact with the audience. The exercise was a great success, so why has it not been repeated?

This month. Glasgow School of Art goes a step further than the Tate. bringing together a collection of work predominantly. though not exclusively. by VIPs Vision Impaired People. As with the Tate exhibition. hands are more important than eyes. but this time it is the artists themselves who have interpreted the world by touch.

Among the exhibits there is a series of heads. emphasising the features which tend to dominate our personalities, like the caricatures in a Scarfe cartoon. In a sense. the art is expressionistic, because the artists are expressing their feelings. free of the conventions which a field of vision can impose on creativity.

Paisley-based artists. working under the banner Art to. Touch, begin by drawing fruit. holding the subject in one hand and the pen in the other. As they feel the contours and textures so they attempt to reproduce them on the page. emphasising the outlines so that the reader’s hand. running across the

page, can identify the image. From these simple drawings they progress to sculpture. One artist has created a series of small pieces which reflect the simple moments in life. such as Myselfin Bed. which shows in detail a woman lying on her side. hair splayed against the pillow. her back smooth, almost supple. curving gently round and broadening at the hips.

Another artist depicts a vivid lifeboat scene. wonderfully alive to the elements and with a texture that suggests sea waves. while simultaneously giving shape to the boat and men. Thus sea and boat become one. as ifthe vessel is already lost to the ocean.

This is art at its most interactive. and while the experience will differ for sighted and VIPs, the quality of the work is impressive by any standards. In a world which has been almost exclusively designed for the sighted. Art and Sensibility raises questions about how we integrate our senses. and suggests that there is more to art than a visual aesthetic to be admired from a flat and impersonal distance.

A rt and .S‘ensihility is at the Glasgow School of A rt until Sat 29 Feb

:-. From tiny acorns...

“What a curious leeling!" said Alice. “I must be shutting up like a telescope." And so it was indeed : she was now only ten inches high, and her lace brightened up at the thought that she was now the right size lor going through the little door into that lovely garden.‘

The French lnstitute’s current exhibition, Démesures, invites the viewer to shut up like a telescope and

enter the Wonderland ol the miniature.

Nine well-known French artists are represented and their small works wittin call into question accepted notions about the scale, perspective,

power, and permanence ol art.

One gem is Marcel Duchamp's _ Museum in a Suitcase, which contains 3 83 miniature reproductions at his work. ; By packing doll’s house size versions oi ' his pivotal works of art- like the infamous ready-made urinal and bottle rack— alongside his moustachioed Mona Lisa and Large Glass, he challenges the conventions of museums and the value given to art. In the same vein, Patrick Neu mocks monumental sculptures ol heroic men astride great steeds by placing a crushineg heavy chunk of lead atop two tiny model horsemen. The importance ol the artist is lurlher questioned by the impermanence ol Petra Werle’s insect-sized sculpture made at dough.

Gillies Ghez creates the ironic l illusion at a spy movie by staging two , lilm sets in a double-laced box. The | viewer is manipulated: lrom one side

L‘Allaire Ciceron by Gilles Ghez

we witness Ciceron spying and from the otherthe espied. Michael Sauer similarly shrinks his message into small boxes. Most ettective are the twelve boxes lashioned into cell-like rooms containing a table, book and

5 bed. Throughout the series, Sauer ; introduces miniscule changes, challenging the viewer to spot the

ditterences. Georges Touziens teases lurlher by inventing an elaborate,

, dilettante Journal de Voyage on 50

prestigious hotel Ietterheads. Philippe

Favier presents microcosms in timid collage, and Marcel Broodlhaers an i alternative atlas which portrays all

countries as unitorm in size and alphabetically ordered. Curiouser and curiouser. . . this

. experimental exhibition scotls at the

visual statements we expect in a gallery. (Sarah Knox)

Démesures is at the French Institute, Edinburgh, until Sat 22 Feb


I As we go to press. Pat Lally. Leader of Glasgow City Council. is announcing details of ‘a major visual arts event which will be staged in the city as part of a Century of the Visual Arts 1896—1996. The project seems to have been mooted as somethingofa recompense in the wake of the rejection ofGlasgow's submission for Visual Arts City 1996— the Arts Council acknowledged it to be the best proposal. but nonetheless conferred the accolade on the artistically-deprived north-east of England. Some are sayingthat Lally‘s plan. whatever it is. can only be a poor consolation prize. Others are concerned and stupefied to learn that we have only four years left of a ‘Century of Visual Arts‘ that no one ever told us had started. Does this mean there will be no more visual arts after I996? I think we should be told.



Lunch. 1963

I Ancient and Modern William ligglcston (Jonathan (.‘ape . £35). Widely regarded as the first artist to ‘legitimise' colour photography. Eggleton shocked the art world with the vibrancy of his images in his 1976 exhibition at New York's Museum of Modern Art and continued to draw attention for his thoroughly idiosyncratic photographs of the American South. w here he was born. More recently. his show The Democratic Forest was described by The New York Times as the first masterpiece of colour photography. This fantastically opulent retrospective. with a short biographical introduction by Mark llolborn . draws on every stage of Iiggleston's career. in the USA and abroad. and is published to coincide with an exhibition ofthe photographer's work at the Barbican Art Centre. London.

The List 14 27 February 1992 51