EIIIIIII Dazed and .conFused

Now in its third year, a Government-funded art exhibition in Glasgow is losing its way, as Beatrice Colin discovers.

Young artists based in Glasgow have

had a good run recently with a series of

major shows. a host of small galleries willing to show work and a big surge of support from the ftmding bodies. They even have the Fuse project. a governmerit-supported initiative providing free studio space and an allowance for materials. Maybe it's all too tnttch. for the current Fuse exhibition of work by 30 artists reveals that complacency sometimes replaces genuine creativity. Of course, like any group show. it‘s a mixed bag ofthe good. the bad and the what are you on? The video work is appalling. one film an insult to anyone in the vicinity. and the installation veers from the interesting to the indigestiblc. Elsewhere. there are prints. photographs. paintings and sculptures. In several pieces of work. narrative text a la Oprah is used with several artists confessing. apologising and ranting in words all with a high so- what‘.’ quota. While pretentions soar here. there is work which is ftm. such as art referring to art in James Thornhill‘s Utt/lllt’tl (I‘m-inlay. and Jamie Burroughs lz'quator where lengths of old frame are tied together to resemble a cluster of skyscrapers. Another interesting direction is the influence of the camera or video lens

on the way we perceive. Alistair Pender‘s oil. from a Polaroid of an old film in pause mode. blurs and seeps. and Maedbina McCombe’s series of photographs of delicious nudes decorated with fruit and sugar is playfully seductive.

Nick Walker’s painting of hundreds of

spent matches against a sky, Burnt. is also promising as is Joseph lngleby’s throbbing. spiky sculptures and Ross Turpie‘s installation Mother ofall Parliaments.

But overall. although there is evidence of solid work and real inspiration. some of these artists seem to have chucked

up whatever they have lying around their studios. be it old work. work in progress or hastily made photocopies. This may be a good showcase for the scheme. but how good is it for the individual artists? Tepid. not shit hot. Fuse is at The Italian Centre. Glasgow until I 7 Dec.

Desert songs

When the whites arrived in 1788, they wrote that Australia was all ‘waste and uncultivated, a land without owners’. The indigenous population, the Aborigines had never previously any need for ‘Iand ownership’, but the incomers soon changed this and as a result 90,000 died and the Aborigine population dropped in number to only 10,000 in just over ten years.

A challenging exhibition at Edinburgh’s Fruitmarket Gallery highlights the clashing of these two cultures and its devastating consequences.

In Western society our traditional perception of land resides in how we see it rather than how we know it. Aboriginal people place the emphasis on experience, their terminology is more diverse, subtleties are more pronounced. By naming and knowing one’s surroundings, survival in even the most arid places can be ensured.

Indeed the Aborigines’ direct translation for “own Country’ is ‘the place I do not have to ask’. The land becomes a living resource from which its inhabitants can draw sustenance both physical and spiritual.

The landscape, for the Aborigine, is personal; his place in the scheme of things is not in doubt because there are myths - or Dreamlngs - which are as real as the rocks and waterwheels

he can see and touch. lie finds recorded In his land the ancient stories, attitudes and deeds of the immortal being from whom he is descended. The country is family, the land nothing less than his own body in a spiritual form, active and influencing the present by granting life and well being. Aboriginal art is the application of this experience to canvas.

Aboriginal art is commonly thought to be abstract; huge masses of swirls and dots arranged in geometric forms painted in muted ochre’s or reds. However it is only abstract to our eyes and needs explaining. The paintings are spiritual route-maps perhaps closest in interpretation to the tendon Underground map. Time and distance are ignored and each dot represents a distinctive place with its own attendant myths and personalities.

Traditionally these would have been drawn in the ground around the fire, and used to illustrate a story or song. In the past twenty years, however, they have been painted on canvas using Western tools; similarly the art has become a commodity sold for large sums of money in galleries.

The collection currently on show at the Fruitmarket Gallery was bought from these galleries and put together to inform people around the world about Aboriginal art. The work is truly spectacular, and fulfilling to look at. But you can’t help feeling that this is the final resonance from the impact of colonialism, and as much as anything these works are a lament for a culture we have irreversibly damaged. (llick Dewar)

Aboriginal Art of the Western Desert is at the Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh until 28 Jan.

The List 2—15 December 1994 73