E31135— CHRISTINA noernrson
City Art Centre, Edinburgh until Sat 5 Hot.
In the late 1830s Christina Robertson, a young woman from Fife, left Britain for St Petersburg. What took her to Russia isn’t clear but within years of her arrival Robertson had become one of the most successful court artists of the mid 19th century. Painting court beauties swathed in silk and cherubic- looking children with rose-bud lips, Robertson was everything a court painter should be - artistically competent and able to paint a suitably attractive likeness of her sitter.
This is the first showing in Britain of so many of Robertson’s paintings (the majority are on loan from the ilennitage in St Petersburg). Included are portraits of doe-eyed countesses elegantly posed in sumptous interiors and butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths portraits of children. Pretty and ultimately decorative, they were well-received in the corridors of the Winter Palace and Robertson was much sought-after in court circles. As to Robertson herself, her history is sketchy. Born in 1796, she received art tutition from her uncle, exhibited at the Royal Academy and travelled to France where she painted members of
Count Pavel Shuvalov With ills Sister, 1850
the French aristocracy before heading east to St Petersburg.
like the vagaries of fashion, Robertson’s popularity was seasonal. By the early 1850s, her commissions from the well-heeled were on the wane. She died in St Petersburg in 1854, but she is undoubtably a rare figure: a woman who managed against the odds of the age to be a successful career artist. (Susanna Beaumont)
JAMES McNElll WHISTLER
Httnterian Art Gallery. Glasgow until Sat 26 ()t'l.
For years. a prim of Whistler's Mother has lived in my family home and given the curator - my mother — a lot of trouble. The artwork managed to suck the life out ofevery room. so ﬁnally the offending article was banished to a dark corner. unnoticed by everyone except hardened enthusiasts. One hopes the new Whistler exhibition running in tandem with Glasgow University's permanent collection of the artist‘s work avoids the same fate.
However. this show also seems to revel in dullness and struggles to generate any sort of passion for the man or what he achieved. Comprising sketchbooks. illustrations. etchings and
watereolours. this is simply of historic interest. touching on productive periods throughout his 50-year career.
Obviously a talented drawer from his earliest days. the American Whistler travelled extensively in Europe. Etchings from London (l859). Venice ( I879) and Amsterdam ( l889) show his ability to capture the human story - character. mood and context - with richly detailed snapshots of living rooms. bars and canal banks. These are worth a look.
On the other hand. the remainder barely scrapes above rough compositional sketches and poor watereolours apparently rescued from his studio post-death. Whistler would probably turn in his grave if he knew they were on public view. Downstairs, meanwhile. a single portrait by Rubens blows away most of the work in the permanent collection. That says it all. really. (Paul Welsh)
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ERIE!— vmro WORKS
CCA. Glasgow until Sat 2/ Sept.
By definition. there is not/ting new in this show. French artist Claude ('losky has appropriated -- to beg. borrow or steal for artistic ends — all tlteﬁ/ootage for Video Works at CCA. Full of faces. his work creates a mini-anthropological study of western culture in the process. Treading over familiar ground. it‘s all there. from the perfect vision of eating (as presented in countless adverts) to the perfect explosion (as created by Hollywood).
Closky does more than expose stereotypes. however. Placing like- with-like countless times. he attempts to re-classify everyday ‘invisible' experiences while encouraging the audience to reconsider the realities offered by different media.
In the midst ofthis worthy intention. however. MTV still gets a look-in. [in
Avant (Onwardsl. a large projected video. swallows the viewer whole. Cutting together fast zoom and tracking shots from numerous ﬁlms into an eternal chase. it’s impossible not to become the speeding ear. swooping bird. slavering ghoul or soaring arrow in tnovieland.
Closky could be highlighting the repetitive. cliche’d nature of the technique. or simply glorying in the impact ofthe medium. For me. it can only be the latter. so beside 200 Boar/res a Monrrir (200 Months '12) Feed) — a potentially nauseating take on food advertising and Photos — a montage of actors unleashing the ‘buy me!‘ look - this seems inappropriate.
()verall. Closky wrestles with some potent imagery and symbolism which is not easily cowed. Repetitive styles of editing. visual loops and montage may have been effective in the early days of video. but tnore imagination seems to be required today to bring about change. (Paul Welsh)
A still from a Closky video work
Danish Cultural Institute, Edinburgh until Sat 21 Sept.
With Copenhagen the 1996 Cultural Capital of Europe, Denmark and its cultural output is currently under the spotlight. To coincide with the festivities, Edinburgh’s Danish Cultural institute is showing the work of Wilg ilansen, the artist hailed as one of the country's major 20th century artists.
Since the 1950s, iiansen has used the human figure in his paintings, sculpture and drawings to depict “the hopelessness of the human condition and man’s relentless struggle to overcome and rise above it’. ills weighty ideas span four decades and his work can be found in such prestigious collections as the Museum of Modern Art in iiew York.
Yet the work on show in this exhibition doesn’t seem to live up to the scale of his reputation. Produced in the 80s and 90s, these
Seated Figure from 1986 expressionist paintings of anguished figures feel curiously unresolved and also appear derivative of William Blake, Munch and Kandinsky. Though this modest exhibition deserves a look in, one can’t help feel that Danish culture has better exponents than . ilansen. (Tanya Stephan)
The List 6- l9 Sept 1996 59