Where would contemporary Scottish artists be without fish? Still showing at Kelvingrove is John Bellany, an artist for whom the skate is virtually a Ieitmotif. Now the Talbot Rice Gallery has brought us Will Maclean, another artist in mid-career who has been busy trawling his fishy background for all its worth.
For many years Maclean constructed fascinating wee boxes crammed with the paraphernalia of the fisherman and arranged in a manner reminiscent of the American. Joseph Cornell. In themselves these creations were pleasing to a degree, although they rarely escaped that unhappy no-man’s land between art and craft. and at their worst - which was admittedly not often - they could be objectionany kitsch.
But in this exhibition he has demonstrated how a theme worked upon with intensity and consistency over an extended period can be developed into something grand and poignant. The framed reliefs that replaced the boxes several years ago have grown larger and Maclean now incorporates a greater variety of artefacts, juxtaposingthem with carvings ofothers, a manner which
Surrealism remains his primary inspiration, and it is still possible to discern the influence of Magritte in oddball works such as Abigail ’s Apron. The effect more often though is like an extended spell of consciousness in Davy J ones‘s locker; the flotsam and jetsam of maritime life lies buried. protudes from the murky depths. ﬂoats to the surface.
I doubt whether the artist‘s work is of sufficient interest to merit the detailed analysis and philosophical pondering to which Duncan Macmillan subjects it in his new book. Special nationalistic pleading on behalfof Scotland‘s excess of
results in distinctly eerie resonances.
Will Maclean: Abigail's Apron. 1980
artists is in danger of becoming an academic sport. Nevertheless. half an hour in the company of Maclean's imagination is probably a better deal than most ofthe Fringe events ofthe Festival. (Andrew Gibbon Williams) I Symbols of Survival: The Art of Will Maclean is at the Talbot Rice Gallery until 12 Sept.
_ Pryde of
The archetypal painting by James Pryde, whose work can be seen at the Gallery of Modern Art, ieatures a towering four-poster bed hung with wine-red drapes, while from lofty windows light axes diagonally into the surrounding gloom with savage authority.
These claustrophobic interiors and the exterior studies featuring architectural monuments, gaunt facades and ruins, are nothing it not dramatic. They have a grandeur about them that reduces the human figure to a cipher.
Working in oils, Pryde (1866—1941) used broad brush strokes and a rough canvas to achieve his powerful simplifications of form, a restricted palette of colours with occasional bursts oi primary hues to set the mood of his pictures, and truly startling contrasts of light and dark to give his canvases their great depth and subtle sonorlties.
This beautifully mounted exhibition features some 60 of these magnificent works, ranging from the poignant imagery of An Ancient Harbour. in which two monumental columns frame a sailing ship on a storm-tossed viridian sea, to The House, one of Pryde's most beguiling works, where a simple architectural trontage is bisected by deep shadow with crimson drapes licking at its blind window sockets.
Although he was based in London for most of his life, Pryde must have been inspired by the closes of his native city with their vertiginous perspectives and
slanting shadows, with the result that this rectangular framing of the visual world (echoed for instance, in the form of the four-poster bed), becomes an almost obsessional Ieitmotif of all his work.
The exhibition includes, as well as some portraits and memorabilia of Pryde's stage sets for a 1930 production of Othello, some examples of the famous posters which he produced in collaboration with William Nicholson under the title of Beggarstalf Brothers—wonderfully elegant graphic works which capitalised on the artist’s facility for simplytiying forms and colour blocks.
Also to be seen at the same venue are the photographs oi J. Craig Annan . (1864—1946), one of the first } photographers to recognise the artistic j potential of the photogravure technique 7 in which the image is photographicaliy i transferred to a metal plate which can 3 then be engraved by hand. Such small masterpieces as the White Friars and j Bullock Cart, Burgos, reveal Annan as possessing an intense visual . awareness, as well as great technical t expertise. (Richard Jaques)
James Pryde's works are at the l Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art ' until 11 Oct. l
It happens every August: a risque photograph appears on walls and brochures and suddenly the Scotsman letter page is buzzing. Last year. the Moral Minority singled out a poster from the Mandela Theatre company. This time. they‘re gunning for the Theatre Workshop.
You've seen the Gavin Evans's photograph around. A beret-clad member of the apocalyptic Archaos circus troupe clutches a plastic replica of his own severed head; he kisses its mouth defiantly. lt‘sa splendidly provocative image. an alluring blend of death and life. violence and tenderness. 'l'o dismiss it as ‘homosexual necrophilia' is facile.
The walls of the ’l‘beatre \N'orkshop cafe are festooned with livans‘ photographs of the Archaos cast as well as players from productions by the likes of Robert I.ei’age.
From the jumbled collage of faces. limbs and shadows. some of the pieces jump out. Against a dark background. a woman holds a sword in front of her naked torso. 'l'he lip-shaped end of the handle masks her mouth while the small spheres on the tips ofthe hand-guard cover her breasts: her arms are at odd angles. You can almost feel the contrasts: the black backdrop against her white skin behind the black sword; the cold. dark steel shielding her warm body.
That photograph is one of the better chips off the same block. Under carefully controlled lighting. Evans shows his subjects lunging. twisting and staring: the design and the pose are always undisguised. Sometimes the effect is a haunting snapshot ofthe human form drifting in and out ofshadow and cliche. Sometimes it all adds up to little more than a body doing unusual things in a black and white photograph. (Carl Honore)
The Gavin Evans Retrospective is at Theatre Works/top until 5 Sept.
55 The List 21 — 27 August 1992