Pantomime tales

Creator of the Paper Boat and the Straw Locomotive. Glasgow artist George Wyllie takes time out from building his latest sculpture to review The British Art Show.

Andre Breton. the uncompromising surrealist. insisted that art should be in a continuous state of (’I'll/ll.\'tll -- meaning simply that it should create an Hill. I hastened to the fourth British .-\rt Show to absorb that necessary discomfort. clutching the beautiful pink and blue catalogue featuring one of Damien llirst's butterflies. lt promised great energy from youthful veterans who. like heavy-duty butterflies. have fluttered across Britain to attract almost unprecedented levels of attention.

This is a neatly packaged show -- which should worry those who thrive on chaos —- but its tidiness spreads untidin over seven Iidinburgh venues. I needed transport. so I borrowed .‘ylark Wallinger‘s panto horse from the Fruitmarket Gallery. ignoring the turbulent relationship going on inside its costume. Leaping into the saddle. I gave a flick of the whip and oops . . . we were offY

('lippety-clop and it was off to the ('in .-\rt Centre. to see (ieorgina Starr‘s l’isit In A San l’lunet. one for the kiddy-w'inks. For adult viewing. 'l‘acila Dean’s illiirtvnlmn ()tSt Agni/iii (/11 Several Paris) was worth a longer look. Up the hill. to satisfy my sperm-envy at the Stills (iallcry. we found a splatter of penile paper weights. Then to the Collective and Gillian Wearing's video confessional where masked penitents reveal their souls and other X- ceitificale stuff.

Then it was up the straight to Belford Road. where (.‘athcrine Yass has succeeded in bringing a sombre incandescence to the National Gallery of Modern Art's corridors corridors within corridors. a nice touch. We cantered past John l’rankland‘s untitled silvery hut. Sam 'l‘aylor-\\'ood‘s laconic opera. Marcus Taylor’s fro/en fridges and Jordan Baseman's regiment of blue shirts sewn with human hair. I stopped only to poke a finger at (‘hris ()lili's elephant droppings —— I once used divine dung from a sacred cow in Bangalore and it fairly cleans your hands but

why in the name of (ianesh did ()fili have to apply varnish to mute the gorgeous jumbo turds'.’ Such devices are erit/tisnni' ’tools of trade’. They should be sharp. never blunted.

Still on a cock horse. it was off to the Talbot Rice (iallcry. where l was untypically saddened by the intended awfulness of Gary llume's paintings —‘ and they are. Upstairs. Permindar Kaur knows a cuddlier India than I have experienced. A gallop took us to the Royal Botanic Garden. where. in a dark howf. Douglas Gordon‘s 'l‘rigger I’inger wittily informs the viewer that

The exhibition selectors should be sealed up in the dugout for not knowing there are young artists producing more meaningful work than that chosen for The British Art Show.

by using it too often. repetitive strain injury can develop -- Voltaire: ‘we are getting used to killing each other.‘ Up at lnverleith House. Mat C‘ollishaw projects a bonnie fluttering bird into a bell-jar Blake: ‘to see a robin in a cage . . Collishaw"s paperweight snowstorm. created from video images projected onto a frosted glass. appears to hold a huddled. destitute figure. It is best viewed down on your hunkers. like those who have to get into a cardboard box each night (Blake again:

predicts the ruin of the State.‘ The oldies were certainly ahead of the field). Damien ilirst is there too. Away From The l-‘lm'k. his dead sheep dipped

Mark Wallinger: Oh No He’s Not. on Yes lle Is

in formaldehyde. proves that sheep may not safely graze and that flies and blucbottles haven't a look-in.

A slow cantcr let me read exhibition selector Richard Cork‘s catalogue essay about ‘lnjury Time' —— in it. he suggests our British Art Show team are giving their youthful all to change things before the referee checks his watch at 2()()() -— but whoah. you can't blow the whistle on continuity. and scoring is a transient pan of the evolutionary game. I wonder ifthc catalogue reflects the sardonic humour that Cork observes in the exhibits.

The exhibition selectors should be scaled up in the dugout for not knowrng there are young artists producing more meaningful work than that chosen for The British Art Show. The show fosters the fluttering. meaningless face ofan just when better things are required from the art world.

Back at the Fruitmarket Gallery. Mark Wallinger‘s footage of Tommy Cooper plays backwards. taking the dead comedian from joy to sorrow a bit like me. I'm saddle sore and don‘t know whether to cry from relief. laughter or pain. Thanks. Mark. for the use of your steed. I confirm what Richard Cork suggests naughty things are going on inside an innocent-looking costume. You have given me a big. sardonic belly-laugh and the perfect metaphor for the whole Goddam show - the great human race screwing itself inside a pantomime horse. It's a winner. Mark!

The British Art Show 4 is at various lz'ilin/nitg/r venues until 28 April. See Art listings. George Wyllies Sin-high steel safety pin Just In Case. is to hang in (ilusgmv (is part nfMayfest.

The List 8-21 Mar 1996 71