Talbot liice Gallery, Edinburgh until Sat 27 Jul. Glasgow School 0! Art, Fri 2—Fri 30 Aug.
You can’t help thinking that David Donaldson is a bit ot a quirky old chap. Perhaps even a bit at a tease at times. In a self-portrait lrom 1986 he has painted himself in tront ot a cluttered mantelpiece, upright and proper. All very traditional in pose, save the tact he’s not wearing any clothes. lle’s naked, his pot-belly hangs and he holds a rose over his penis. In another sell-portrait, we get just the top halt oi his naked body. This time he holds a daisy, and on his head he wears a chef’s hat implanted with a large cactus. Undeniably, this is a wry line in sell-portraiture.
David Donaldson, lauded in some quarters as the grand and great old man of Scottish painting, is 80 and this retrospective is a celebration of his life. Studying at Glasgow School of Art in the 30s, Donaldson went on to become the school’s head of painting and drawing. It’s good to see his work brought together.
From the exhibition you also get the feeling Donaldson is a bit ot a ladies’ man. There’s a preponderance at women with slightly tuned hair (perhaps it’s the same woman). There’s Marysia In ller 0&4 Pyjamas, where a woman sits curled up in a cosy chair and Annette And The Elders- a play on Susanna And the Elders - in which Annette looks wisttully out at the viewer. Donaldson’s brush work is quick,
Sell-portrait with a rose by Donaldson
passioned and sometimes impastoed, the scenes are interestingly loaded with colour, movement and mood. Yet in his more spare paintings, such as Rage, which shows a lone naked boy set against an expanse of sand, swinging a goose by the neck as he throttles it, there’s a heightened menace. likewise, in Cutty Sark, a busy scene of figures, there’s a detinite psychological drama going on. Intense and seemingly allegorical, it’s a painting that grabs. (Susanna Beaumont)
Street Level. Glusgmv until Sal l7/lug. Familiar objects made unfamiliar. Annette Heyer‘s show of new work at Street Level asks to be contemplated. digested and mulled over. Perhaps it was the time of day - early in the moming — and the empty gallery. but her work quickly spun a little magic. Using sculpture. photography. drawing and domestic objects found and made. many pieces in the show had a distinct resonance. Heyer has decorated the top of an old table made from deeply scored wood. and stained with a disk of dark reflective colour. Leaning over. it is as if you see yourself in some pool or dark well. The mundane and familiar start to tell a personal.
Somewhere else. on a ledge. a shell sits inside a wire and steel gadget designed for slicing boiled eggs. The pattern of lines on both these objects are similar but one is designed to protect and encompass life. the other to cut and disrupt a form. Similar but different — a serious contradiction unfolds.
Finally. on the wall. a soft expressionistic photograph of stairs. Descending. they narrow towards an empty space. Ascending. they reach a wall with no opening. What is their purpose? Who are they for? This is a familiar motif but form and suggested meaning remain strong here. Although not everything works. Heyer over and over again pushes buttons and asks questions. (Paul Welsh)
Royal aver-Seas League, Edinburgh until Fri 27 Sept.
It you ever wondered what contemporary art from Singapore looked like, you can catch a glimpse of the artist Ming Wong at the lloyal Over-Seas league. Billed as one of Singapore’s rising stars on the art scene, Wong’s show is entitled karaoke ( The Electric Geisha). Wong’s photo-based paintings are all about Karaoke singing, an unusual subject to see hanging on the walls of this traditional institution. Playing on the artilicial glamour of karaoke, he prints distorted laces of each star- struck singer onto the image of a gramophone record, subtitling the work with classic lyrics like ‘Whether you’re a brother or whether you’re a sister, you’re stayin’ alive!’
To confuse matters, Ming Wong is actually Chinese and to prove it he has made a traditional-style ink painting of Edinburgh Castle. But much of Wong’s work is about the artilice of performance whether it be
Ming Wong’s electric geisha
Chinese street theatre, Chinese opera, or karaoke. Wong sees karaoke as the modern-day equivalent of the geisha who used music and song to entertain and titillate male guests on a night out. Wong doesn’t believe that it is possible to produce work which is either entirely Western or entirely Eastern so like karaoke, which was the big-time entertainment export lrom the east to the west in the 80s, Wong’s work is a case of both the east and west appropriating trom each other. (Tanya Stephan)
EMBE- MERE JELLY
li'uns'nnssirin (fill/('1'): (i/uxymr‘ illllll .S'ul 27 July.
Personally struggling to make a strong connection. Transmission's More Jolly — a return leg of a group exchange with Nottingham‘s ()ldknows Studios — is a puzzling affair. The title suggests something soft and pliable but this is a difficult show to push into any recognisable shape. Overall. the mix of painting. sculpture and computer- assisted drawing is low on impact and most crucially. lacks humour — that welcome and necessary balm in all rigorous contemporary shows.
If there is a theme for the show. however. apparently it is the body but in this context the notion extends in every semantic direction. A body of artwork. Body pans. Body boundaries. lnanimate objects as bodies. Places bodies go'.’ The list goes on. In other
words. it‘s loose and amidst the looseness. only one or two of the six artists keep things relatively together.
Anthony Hall‘s richly detailed paintings. for instance. are understated enough to deliver. His picture postcard. misty-eyed views of a family in a field seen in I’lt'lllt' and a tent under a tree in 72an lack the vivid colours that would make the images a celebration. Instead the hue and tone ofeach make them ominous. permeated by a sense of restriction and circumstances not fully explained. Implying something else but never giving the game away. these paintings last.
Like Irene Rogan's Apprehension — a dark metal drawbridge weighted by sandstone blocks — More Jelly is only half way there like the half-open gateway ofAppre/renslmr. Yet though this show does encourage the viewer to cross imagined thresholds. what do they find? This time. probably not enough. (Paul Welsh)
Anthony llall’s Baptism
ﬂ The List 26 Jul-8 Aug I996