_ Laing time ago
The spanking new Fruitmarket has reopened with a Gerald Laing retrospective. Caroline Ednie talked to the artist about Pop Art, Pavarotti and pin-ups.
Despite being well past his sell-by date. an Andy Warhol connection still has the power to pull crowds at art
' galleries. With this year‘s reunion tour by the Velvet Underground not long left town. the Fruitmarket has picked a timely moment to show a retrospective of work by Scotland‘s own pop artist. Gerald Laing. who duly claimed his ﬁfteen minutes of fame.
Laing began his career in the army. He then turned to an in the early l960s. Like many artists ofthis time he became involved with the whole Pop Art scene and carved his own little artistic niche with a folio of unapologetically phallic images based on dragsters, skydivers. astronauts and women. ‘All to do with excitement.‘ claims the man who actually called one of his earliest exhibitions Space. Speed and Sex.
One ofthe earliest paintings in the show. a luscious, pouting Brigitte Bardot, was produced while Laing was still a student at St Martin’s School of
Art. ‘lt‘s a painting of a photograph. not a painting of reality, because i worked on an idea. which was common among pop artists, that we are more familiar with reproduced reality than reality itself.‘ This work, along with many of the early paintings which were completed in the States. is surprisingly similar to the work of Roy Lichtenstein. Laing’s pop an contemporary. ‘Actually', claims Laing ‘there was a brief worry when my dot paintings and Lichtenstein’s were going
to be in conflict but he came to my ﬁrst opening in 1964. it was a synchronistic son of thing but the way we approached the technique was different.’
During the 60s. Laing's work moved from pop painting to highly ﬁnished chrome and painted sculpture and then to large scale-sculpture in the landscape. This gave more than a passing nod to the macho American land art which was being produced around this time by the likes of Michael Heizer and Robert Smithson. Laing then returned to Britain and seemed to turn his back on abstraction and move towards ﬁguration.
Much of Laing’s work over the past twenty years has been large scale bronze sculpture. Portrait busts in bronze dominate the exhibition, among them one of Luciano Pavarotti. ‘You don‘t want to look at every fat person. do you? But he’s terriﬁc. a really great guy,‘ says Laing. Another is of Air Vice Marshall Jimmy Johnson. ‘He was our top scoring ﬁghter ace and in Douglas Bader’s Squadron. Thank God people like that are around when you need them.‘
One of Laing’s most recent pieces is a larger-than-life. posthumous portrait of Andy Warhol. it was commissioned by Fred Hughes. who has just recently been sacked as Head of the Warhol Foundation. is this Laing’s homage to the most notorious Pop Daddy of them all? ‘Actually, I didn't like Warhol at all. i didn‘t want to be part of all that scene. I had my own son of destruction. Anyway it's mythology, not art. A dismal story really,‘ he concludes somewhat philosophically. Gerald Liting — A Retrospective is at the Fruitmarket until [8 Sept.
Building for the future
This month the Fruitmarket Gallery re- opened its doors after a very sexy refurbishment. Whether it is ‘the best modern building since the Forth Rail Bridge’, as has been suggested in some quarters, remains to be seen, but it is nevertheless a stunning transformation.
Over the years, the Fruitmarket has provided Edinburgh with a much needed temporary exhibition space and has always presented a progressive programme of mainstream and avant-garde art. Yet the former dirty, miserable facade and lack of natural light in the galleries meant that there was significant room for improvement. it was left up to Richard
Murphy Architects to resolve these fundamental problems by creating a new facade of windows on to the street. They have also built a winged roof which raises the hanging height
in the first floor galleries while admitting natural light through a clear storey.
‘The philosophy oi the entire building’, says Richard Murphy ‘is to tie-segregate all the functions, and by that i mean looking at paintings, looking at books, having a cup oi coffee and walking by outside, so that you merge all these things together. Also, very strongly in our mind is to connect the gallery into Edinburgh. it sits in such an interesting place in the city that you can see monuments and everyday life from the inside of the gallery, and it’s important when you’re looking at art not to suffer from museum fatigue - it's nice to be able to look out and have a breather.‘
The emphasis on new work will continue unchanged at the Fruibnarket and the improved environment will help the gallery maintain its position as one oi the most important promoters oi the avant-garde. (Caroline Ednie)
Beatrice Colin selects the top five festival highlights.
I The Waking Dream Exploring the early history of photography, this show includes dozens of celluloid masterpieces including images by Man Ray and Lewis Carroll. As well as a whistle-stop tour of recent history. the 250 works on show. many of which have rarely been shown before. are stunning.
The Waking Dream. City Art Centre until 2 Oct. £3 (£1).
I Russian Painting of the Avant Garde Reﬂecting the collosal political changes in Russia, a comprehensive collection of paintings from l905 to l925. Work by Malcvich. Kandinsky, Larionov and many others is split into several stylistic movements and plots the new experimental approach to painting. Russian Painting of the Atari! Garde. Scottish Gallery of Modern Art until Sun 5 Sept. £3 (£l.50).
l Requiem for a Paperweight Third pan ofa photographic trilogy by New York artist Arthur Tress. Using coloured light and textured screens. he compiles a narrative about the life of an overworked Salaryman in a faceless. corporate world. Requiem for a Paperweight. Portfolio Gallery until [8 Sept. £1 (75/2). I Phoebe Anna Traquair From fragile. enamelled jewellery to huge embroideries. this collection of highly decorative work displays an inspired talent. Once a leading exponent of the Arts and Crafts movement. Traquair has recently been rediscovered and celebrated. Phoebe Anna Traquair. Scottish National Portrait Gallery until 7 Nov. £3 (£1.50). I Recent Work Non-representational ! an by several generations of Scottish
artists including Alan Johnson. Eileen Lawrence and Callum lnncs. in paint and pencil, the artists have pared down 3 their work to the essential. to create ‘ work of astonishing diversity and approach.
Recent Work. Edinburgh College oj'Art until Sat 4 Sept. Free. ;
__-a-_ ___ , __,__. _-._.J The List 27 August-9 September l993 59