_ Hospital matters
Edinburgh’s Collective Gallery recently organised an exhibition of works by young Scottish artists for the Eastern General Hospital. Administrator Cindy Sughrue talks about the delicate business of taking art out of galleries and into wards.
I’m sure I ran a half-marathon the ﬁrst time I was in the Eastern General Hospital. Dr John Munro whisked me along the corridors, up and down stairs, and through wards and examination rooms, on the grand tour of their splendid collection of contemporary art. It has been built up over the past few years by the East Unit Art Fund, which purchases at least one piece from every exhibition held in the hospital’s Main and Outpatient Corridors. Visitors are invited to participate in the selection process by voting for their favourite artwork. The tour ended with what John refers to as his ‘mistakes‘. In a small
Donald Clark's trompe l‘oils emerged as clearlavourltes
meetings room, very much out of the public view, hang several impressive paintings. ‘Now what do you think is wrong with this one?’, he asked. It was a large canvas, well-balanced in composition and colour and finished
- to a high standard. The problem was
that the painting depicts a crab, the symbol for the astrological sign of cancer. It could be hung in any ofthe seaside establishments in nearby Portobello and no one would raise an eyebrow, but this is a hospital, and here it matters.
With this environment in mind, we considered a theme; looking for something with positive connotations, but allowing for various interpretations. we settled on Generation. Seven artists working in a variety of media — from oils and pigments to lead and latex — explored the theme in as many ways. The exhibition was viewed by hundreds of people and produced the full spectrum of reactions -— ‘wonderful colour’, ‘not colourful enough’,
‘clever and amusing’, ‘quite depressing’, ‘highly imaginative’,
‘ ‘dull’, ‘excellent variety— one for 6 every mood imaginable’.
Generation’s audience was certainly much wider than the one that typically comes through a gallery‘s doors, and possibly more appreciative. One viewer’s comment was ‘ifonly all waiting rooms did this!’
When the votes were tallied. Donald Clark’s distinctive works emerged as clear favourites. Trompe-I’oeil paintings of beach flotsam and jetsam, they portray bits ofdriftwood, seastones, torn netting and a dead fish or two. . . but no crabs.
Generation can be seen in the Rheumatology Ward at the Western General Hospital, C rewe Road South. unti1100ct. The Eastern General Hospital is showing new works by five Scottish women until 9 Oct. See listings.
_ Mirror image
It's an excuse for a group show, really, but a great excuse at that. Glasgow Print Studio invited an awesome line-up oi artists to submit portraits of themselves. Of course the artist’s business is to interpret, so, you might reasonably ask, what is a sell-portrait? What is a sell, tor that matter? The subtitle ‘alter ego’ covers a multitude of possibilities.
Roughly speaking, these 26 artists present themselves in three dilterent ways. There are straightlorward representations, like those oi Sue MacKechnie, James McDonald and even John Byrne - although he is admittedly less stretched and lrizzled in real life. Then there are adaptations; many artists routinely use themselves as characters in their paintings, it’s cheaper than using a model, alter all. Joseph Davie recalls a medieval monk, working in the lields, or brandishing a cross. Peter Howson exaggerates his own features in the knobbly wadges of head and thick lips ol his lamous Glasgow louts. Ken Currie fits the third category. His Memory of Conflict in no way resembles his real appearance, but the angst does have some Currie-esque resonances.
Javier Mazorra, who curated this show, believes that Scottish artists are unusual in their lrequent sell-
representation, which is interesting it it is true, since the canvas is so obviously a lorum tor sell analysis. At any rate, you can't fault a show as vibrant and contrasting as this.
The same cannot be said lor City Racing, an exhibition at Transmission of works by the members at an apparently like-minded London Gallery (called City Racing because it used to be a betting shop).
Almost all of this is so-what art. It doesn't take an enormous amount of imagination to fashion the words ‘shit’ and ‘crap' out of toilet rolls, and i couldn’t dredge up enough enthusiasm to wonder at the reasoning behind Peter Owen’s inllatable-rings-and- birthday-badges concoction.
Exceptions are Matthew Hale's pungent-smelling perspex, light and bubble-bath installation downstairs and Paul Noble's penis-fixated comic books. City Racing came oil better in this exchange deal -Transmission artists Julie Roberts, Ross Sinclair, Annette Heyer and Andrew Lockhart are showing at there. On the other hand this show serves the positive purpose of underlining how very talented the Transmission crowd are, compared with their guests.
Sell Portrait/Alter Ego is at the Glasgow Print Studio until 24 Oct. City Racing artists’ work can be seen at Transmission'until 4 Oct.
I Entries are invited for this year‘s Arts Council/British Gas Working for Cities Awards, designed to recognise the contribution made by the arts to the social, cultural and economic revitalisation of our towns and cities. Projects must relate to urban areas with a population of 70,000 and over. For further details and entry forms. telephone 071 221 7883. The closing date for entries is 16 October.
I Victorian Photographs of Famous Men and Fair Women Julia Margaret Cameron (Chatto and Windus, £25). This updated and expanded version of the book first published in 1926 keeps Virginia Woolf‘s original witty account of her great aunt. the pioneering photographer who was 49 when she took her first
i successful picture in 1864.
‘Like a tigress where her children were concerned. she was as magnificently uncompromising about her art.‘ remembers Woolf. ‘Brown stains appeared on her hands. and the smell ofchemicals
: mixed with the scent ofthe
sweet briar in the road outside her house.’ While most early photographers tend to be admired, in an academic way, for the ingenuity with which they manipulated the new
: medium. Cameron‘s
indisputable scientific skill is overshadowed by the power of her images. Her portraits of men like Charles Darwin or Tennyson are striking for their simplicity and sense of movement. but her women are particularly interesting. Herc Cameron strips 19th century women ofthcir jewels, make-up, social poise and smiles, and presents them with a pre-Raphaelite naturalness which, on the face ofit. seems remarkably modern.
48 The List 1 l - 24 September 1992