Dutch touch

The National Galleries flagship exhibition traces Scotland’s artistic links with Holland. Andrew Gibbon Williams reports.

For most of this century Britain has looked to France for guidance in matters artistic. Even minor French Impressionists have become household names and modern collections in this country are crammed with late 19th and 20th century French pictures. There is a temptation to think that this has always been so but. as the National Galleries of Scotland‘s flagship festival exhibition demonstrates, this is not the case.

Dutch A rt and Scotland: A Reflection of Taste focuses on the Scottish collecting of Dutch art and. in doing so. reminds us that for three centuries or so Scottish collectors

tended to go for the art produced on the other side of the North Sea in preference to any other. English collectors were no less enthusiastic than their Scottish counterparts. so - with its narrow perspective this exhibition might justifiably be accused of misleading the general public.

Nevertheless. an extraordinary amount of research and effort has gone into relocating important Dutch pictures which have, at one time or another. passed through the great Scottish collections. and these

have been added to the impressive array owned by the National Gallery of Scotland.

No more typical Vermeer has been found to supplement the superb Christ in the House of Martha and Mary, but two Rembrandt self-portraits have been borrowed from the Rijksmuseum and Washington to back up the wonderful example still on loan to the gallery from the Duke of Sutherland. Likewise, Glasgow's Interior of St Bavo’s Church by Saenredam joins the artist’s version in Edinburgh.

More interesting than the provenances of the various pictures -

Peter Saenredam: Interior ot StBavo's Church. Haarlem


which I would have thought will be principally of interest to academics are the several portraits commissioned by Scots from Dutch artists of the first rank. It comes as a surprise to discover that Rembrandt’s pupil, Nicholas Maes, painted the lst Duke of Argyll, and even more ofone to find the pre-eminent Dutch master‘s friend, Jan Lievens, painting the lst Earl of Ancram.

Dutch Art and Scotland: A Reflection of Taste and complementary exhibitions on the subject are at the National Gallery of Scotland until I 8 Oct.

Mucha muerte

In spite ot the iargonistic essay which introduces the show, Chicago Latino can be said to represent a high point in a Festival disappointingly short on good contemporary painting.

The artists whose works are gathered at the 369 gallery are all at Latin American stock- Cuban, Puerto Rican, Chilean, Argentinian, Mexican- but have grown up in the United States, with the distinct impression that they were not always welcome there. ‘I don’t consider myselt American,’ says Gamaliel Ramirez, who is from the Bronx, New York. ‘I was born in the States, but when the police pick me up I’m a Puerto Rican.’ in a sense, Ramirez’s evocations oi lush

Caribbean scenery intercut with steely Chicago skyscrapers express, more concretely, what all the paintings hint at: the mental and physical distance between Americas South and North.

Santiago Vaca’s series of tour canvases show withered corpses, wrapped mummy-like in leaves, grass, cloth and skeletons. Although they are chilling images, they call to mind the peculiarly Central American obsession with death as something which can be picturesque, even jovial. ‘Mexicans believe that death is part at iiie,’ says Ramirez. His own mural at the 369 is inspired by the Mexican ‘Dia de ios Muertos’, —Aii Souls Day—when whole tamilies take candles, gifts and tood down to the cemeteries and eat there with their departed triends and relations.

Elizam Escobar’s dark, doom-laden paintings also depict sinister masks oi Central American lore, although they are combined with the long dresses and mils ot 16th century European dress. Escobar is serving a 68-year

prison sentence tor his alleged involvement with Puerto Rican terrorists, lighting tor their country’s independence.

Paula Pia Martinez's caretully detailed expressionist paintings are appealineg remnlscent oi Frida Kahlo, but Paul Sierra and Raul Ortiz Bonilla provide the brightest notes, with paintings that dip into deep reds and greens.

All the artists are represented by Chicago’s Near Northwest Arts Council Gallery, where Ramirez works at boosting the coniidence oi Latin and black artists in the neighbourhood. ‘Latino and black artists test that people don't care, so they don't apply,’ he explains. ‘Women don’t apply much either. White men are the ones who apply the most.’ You can see more Latin American art at Edinburgh College at Art: Cross Cultural Currents in Latin American Art starts 15 Aug. (Miranda France)

Chicago Latino is at the 369 Gallery, 15 Aug-16 Sept.


B is tor Boxer: Peter Blake's tribute to Joe Louis

Alphabet is the title and subject of an entertaining series of screenprints by Peter Blake on show this month at the Printmakers’ Workshop and Gallery. Thirteen prints have been chosen (because of the restricted space) from the series of 26, each one devoted to a letter of the alphabet. If you think this sounds a bit like kids’ stuff, you wouldn’t be far wrong Blake‘s work has always appealed through its childlike simplicity and charm.

Although it was the psychedelic artwork ofthe Beatles' Sergeant Pepper’s album that brought Blake into the public eye, his recent work harks back to his earliest collaged ’pop‘ paintings of the 19503, works like Love Wall and ()n the Balcony. In fact his illustrative hand is almost completely absent from these works: they rely more on his arrangement and juxtaposition of personally collected cuttings. photos and scraps.

In [for Idols, Blake displays 36 photographs of his favourite people, from Shirley Temple to F. Scott Fitzgerald. Francis Bacon to Bridget Bardot. It is inevitably tempting to try to identify each of his idols and compare them with one‘s own. One of those depicted, James J oyce. is also featured in a collection of etchings, derived from old photographs of the great writer. The series neatly rounds off an attractive and accessible show, and one that offers a light counterpoint to the major exhibitions in the Festival. (Ross Thomson)

I Peter Blake‘s Alphabet Edinburgh Printmakers Workshop, Aug 15—12 Sept.

The List 14 20 August 1992 67