_ High hopes
Jonathan Collin gets dizzy on Scottish sculptor David Mach’s temporary creation.
We’ve all heard about Edinburgh‘s elaborate bid to become City of Architecture and Design 1999 - it’s been one of the greatest public relations stunts the city has ever known. If it fails to win the accolade. one thing is certain: no one will cry. ‘We should have tried harder.‘
it comes as no surprise then. that the internationally recognised Scottish sculptor David Mach should be invited to create a temporary work of art of gigantic proportions to celebrate the city’s judgement day.
Until yesterday. if anyone had told me l’d have difficulty finding a lOOft high sculpture, l’d not have believed them. I would now — Mach’s Temple A! Tyre is buried in Leith Docks and like any busy dockland. the area boasts a wealth of visually stimulating activity, enough to dwarfeven the tallest ship. Sited within yards of the new Scottish Office headquarters, Mach’s giant work of art blends in with the surrounding construction site.
Mach sees the work’s assemblage as a performance and its construction team as the players. By piling multiple steel freight containers on top of one another like building blocks. Mach has constructed a plinth for a crown of tyres: tyre columns depicting a stylised temple. lt‘s site specific, but also
‘world specific’ — we are all familiar with Mach’s tools and materials.
Temples can symbolise permanence and mankind’s past achievements, their ancient remains scattered worldwide. lts materials — tyres and containers — are also universal. perhaps alluding to our ultimate achievement and downfall as road transport becomes increasingly anti-social, anti-environment.
Perhaps the most astonishing thing about this work is how it came about. It was originally planned for London’s docklands as putt of The Bid’s public relations exercise. ‘Nothing much was happening down there so they decided to build it up here,‘ says Mach. He’s not interested in how these
commissions come about — he simply wants the opportunity to make his work.
if Mach’s sculpture had been built in London would it have emphasised Edinburgh‘s desperate attempts to pander to the London-based judges? Glasgow and Liverpool might have muttered as much. However, we can be the lucky judges before planning regulations demand the removal ofthe impressive sculpture. Local resident Susan Kinnear for one looks forward to watching the sun set through the rubber columns throughout this month. Temple At Tyre is at Victoria Dock, Leith 10 Nov-4 Dec. Open seven days. admission free.
E- Moanin’ in the Gloamin’
"Essentially,’ says artist Donald Urquhart, “nature is fucked. This is a personal lament for the decline of nature. To pretend we can save the earth by recycling some wine bottles is nonsense.’
Sylva, at Inverleith House in Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden, is the first solo show by Scottish painter Donald Urquhart, and could easily be dubbed ‘cone-gatherers go to hell’. The palette is distinctly dreich and titles such as The Death of Warmth, Grey Glen Falloch1-4, Grey Birches 1-5, Dead Birches and The Lost Trees of Drumbuich say it all.
The work, for the most part, centres in and around the Perthshire woods where Urquhart grew up, and deals with the themes of nature constrained, repressed and generally ruined by man. This is expressed by large amounts of grey paint smeared over photographs of trees or daubed below or to the right of some dead trees. Occasionally, a small, carefully drawn leaf will appear. However, these too are quickly obscured with generous [daubings of light grey paint.
There are also large blow-ups of botanical illustrations against a sandy colour. Sunshine? Ho. The point, says
the artist ‘is to show how the wonder of nature can be reduced to a line drawing, a facade on a geometric block.’
But although the work is melancholy, it is also appealing and is evocative of the serenity and dour beauty found in the Scottish Highlands. What is truly unfortunate is that Mr Urquhart probably has a point. To depict nature in a romantic, symbolic or abstracted
j‘Figus’ from the exhibitionSylva
way is outdated and untruthful. To stop and look at the land honestly, is to accept what a mess it has become. A picturesque Scotland only truly exists on contrived postcards and as William McGibbon tells us, it is no longer God that produces the spectacular colours of the sunset, but car exhaust fumes. (Hick Dewar) Sylva, Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, until 29 Jan 1995.
:— Vive le seat
The French love lounging about on their bottoms. Every French park has a seemingly unlimited supply of cast- iron chairs and every cafe charges double for the use of a seat. In this show, 40 chairs, made and designed in France, span 300 years, one revolution, two world wars and numerous technical innovations to prove just how seriously, but nevertheless creatively, the French treat the humble chaise.
Arranged by date and placed on plinths of wooden packing cases there are a whole range of styles including Second Empire, Art Houveau and Functionalist plus contemporary work by designers such as Philippe Starck.
The show is given a bit more French zest with the addition of a relevant item to each chair which supposedly reflects either the era it was invented or the inspiration behind each design. A mid-18th century padded La Voyelle chair, used for watching card games is paired with a set of 1761 Marseilles tarot cards and a 1900 Drucker cafe chair with a copy of Le Monde. This is a clever device, as to sort out each chair puzzle you have to read the blurb for both the chair and its object, thus discovering not only the short history of each seat but also a potted profile of French products such as Drangina, Gigogne Duralex glass and the Parisian metro ticket.
The tenuous link is exploited just as, far as it will stretch and it often snaps, but besides the blatant
promotion, this show is a fascinating and amusing display of some of the best of 20th century European design, and includes the bizarre, such as a pony-skin chair, the classic, such as the 1950 Mullca utility seat, and the sumptuous Ecart lntemational, a steel and elastic stretch from the 30s. (Beatrice Golin)
Meubles d’en France is at Glasgow School of Art until 12 Nov.
The List 4—l7 November I994 69