Urban invasion

For the next three weeks, Edinburgh will be a hotbed of conceptual art. Everywhere you look, a young artist will have got there first and made their mark. Beatrice Colin takes a look at Aerial and their policy of rampant intervention.

‘Let‘s Talk About Art. Maybe . . . ’. is a permanent neon fixture on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. Maurizio Nannucci‘s installation beams down on passers-by like some sort of art-dinosaur, devoid of its potency after two years of posing a question with no answer. Now the artist-run project Aerial is about to take over Edinburgh with a series of 27 installations and interventions which will make the whole population of the city look. wonder and hopefully talk about art.

‘What’s Important is that this is an opportunity for artists to work In meaningful situations. This means that there is the potential to change the meaning of the work and lead to a different kind of engagement.’

Billboards. the outside and inside of corporation buses. pubs. shops. car showrooms. signposts and warehouses are the sites for an exciting range of work from young artists from all corners of Britain. Pieces like David Fryer's signs which show the pedestrian the way to ‘harmony‘, ‘complacency'. or

David Fryer's Speculation ‘liberation‘ aim to hi-jack the public's imagination and give an a new context.

‘What‘s important is that this is an opportunity for artists to work in meaningful situations,’ says Robert Montgomery, one of the two coordinators of the project. ‘This means that there is the potential to change the meaning of the work and lead to a different kind of engagement. Lots of artists have shown in galleries but few have shown in public spaces before.‘

Aerial was set up twelve months ago by a group of artists who were disenchanted by the lack of gallery spaces in the capital. With little room for contemporary art. let alone any for conceptual work. they decided to set up a project themselves. ‘to create an arena for contemporary art within the real context of the city‘. The first six months were spent holding temporary exhibitions in the 369 Gallery space in the run-up to this the first of two annual city-wide projects.

‘I see the project as the visual an equivalent of

Fotofeis. the Scottish festival of photography which

was held last year in sites all over the city. ' explains the other coordinator. John Ayscough. ‘As much art should be seen as possible and we have made as much use as we can of the sites available.‘

Although finding the sites has often been a ‘nightmare‘. the programme for the project is lively, sometimes humorous and should prove to be hard to ignore. Ross Sinclair will take over a shop in Canongate and sell pieces of work at knock-down prices. Fiona Wright will instal advertisement-sized cards on buses with dialogue from soap operas and Keith Farquhar’s time-based work is located in a car showroom and features a loop tape of dogs barking played through the car stereo.

Yet although it all sounds fun, does it mean anything? ‘The idea is to infiltrate media channels,‘

‘The kind of artist we commission is one who works between medias and will hiiiack them.’

says Robert Montgomery. ‘There's a whole arena of conversation in the city that art isn't part of

advertising. The kind of artist we commission is one

who works between medias and will hijack them. They then present a discourse of things that aren't usually acceptable by humanising the site and relating it to their own experiences.’

Next year we can expect Aerial to have infiltrated further into the media by making thejump to TV, radio and a range of publications, ‘94. however. is more low-tech. Look out for Otto Berchem‘s installation. ‘men's room etiquette’, in the public toilets at the Mound. which examines male neurosis. and Emily Bates‘s dress of human hair in the window display of clothes shop Venus Smith. Leith Walk.

But right now Robert Montgomery and John Ayscough are in a hurry. They have to dash to meet the Scottish editor of the Sun who has agreed to be hypnotised into believing he is Jackson Pollok. The meeting is a prelude to artist Martin Young‘s performance in the Abercom lnn where a hypnotist will convince drinkers that they are Picasso. da Vinci or Warhol. The results will hang in the Calton Road Gallery space.

Aerial '94 will run 22 Jul—[5 Aug in various venues around [fr/inbum/z.

:— Spiritual splashes

Vlith the imminent openings of the Monet To Matisse and the huge Romantic Spirit In German Art exhibitions, it seems strategic that the National Galleries of Scotland have decided to balance this foreign Invasion with something borne-grown. For the summer period the Gallery of Modern Art has on display its large collection of William Glllles’s watercolour landscapes. Indeed, the group of paintings is evidence of the late artist's determination to keep his eye focnaed on his native land.


March, Moorioot (1951)

GIIIIes’s vision of Scotland is not a romantic one. Painted on one of the many trips he took with his artist

friends, an image like Sky liills Ilear Morar (1931) reveals a spontaneous approach to the landscape. Gillies’s output was so energetic that one friend describes how, on their outings, he could complete half-a-dozen watercolours before others had even chosen a suitable subject.

Through this surprising productivity the artist appears to have been searching for the essence or spirit of a particular place. This, and the calligraphic ease of some of these works, seems more related to the Far East than to Europe. As Philip long, the exhibition’s curator, comments, ‘It Is difficult to assess exactly what makes an image like March, Moorfoot (1951) so good - it’s a sort of anti- art.’

II this is ‘antl-art’ it is certainly not

In the tradition of the Bottle Back, the monochrome, or the paint-splattered canvas. Perhaps it was good policy to choose an artist who so tacitly refused to compete with his foreign counterparts and simply got on with the business of painting what he saw. Yet there is a sort of stubborn unpretentiousness here that one cannot help feeling unsure about - on one hand It exposes much modern European art with a refreshing lack of romantic posturing and overblown Intellectualism, but on the other It braves the possibility of remaining a pleasing, but ultimame shallow, product of artistic lnsularity. (Ann Ilamlyn)

Watercolours of Scotland is at the

Scottish Gallery of Modern Art until 25


54 the List l5—28 July 1994