Donald Urquhart Edinburgh: Collective Gallery
Sat 8—Sat 29 Mar.
While urban kids were hanging around the chip shop, a young Donald Urquhart was taking in a bit of bird-watching and hill walking. Such was the life of one born and brought up in Bankfoot, Perthshire. But twenty or so years on, Urquhart is far from being some tweedy rural romanticist. Sitting in the appropriately metropolitan City Cafe in Edinburgh, he makes it clear that he's not into perpetuating the romantic myth of the Scottish landscape.
’I don’t run about with a Greenpeace T-shirt on but you have to be aware of what's happening to the landscape,’ he says. 'lt’s completely fucked.’ Yes, Urquhart is a bit of an angry young man of an artist. But his anger isn’t worn like it’s some fashion accessory. Politically agile, he's happy to put the critical boot in. He pours scorn on the Scottish landscape painting tradition with its romantic leanings, but admits he is ‘picking up the baton of the tradition’ because he wants to offer a counter-balance. He also believes it ’outrageous' that so many painters of the Scottish landscape use such over- blown colour. And to prove the point, he goes on to describe Arbroath as slimy green, dreich and drab. He then adds his allegiance to the grey credo of Jasper Johns - ’It
seems as good a colour as any.’ For Urquhart is an artist who once titled a grey field of colour, Dreich.
Just back from a year in Amsterdam on a Scottish Arts Council bursary - 'it was a luxury not to worry about where the next £10 was coming from' - always felt so assured about what he was doing. A student at Edinburgh College Of Art in the late 705 and early 805, Urquhart did find the hero-worshipping tendency of early 20th century Scottish colourists Gillies and Cadell irritating. Yet he candidly admits he was making lousy art. That prompted him, together with an overdose of daytime television, to think about what he
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'I am passionate about the landscape so I decided to get involved in what I was passionate about,‘ explains Urquhart, who describes his work in painting and photography as a distillation and an emotional response to the landscape. In Paired Land, his first show in Scotland post-Amsterdam, Urquhart has filled the rooms with his alternative views on the Scottish landscape. And it’s no rural ride into the colourfully picturesque but muted tones of slab-grey. But there is no apparent ’message'. ’
A typed sheet of A4 of interpretation would devalue the language that makes art,’ says Urquhart. ’People
should look at it how they want.’ (Susanna Beaumont)
David Nash Edinburgh: Fruitmarket Gallery, until Sat 5 Apr.
Dense, black and charred, David Nash's pyramid, sphere and cube are a monumental sight. Exuding a slightly burnt air, they cast angular shadows across the white, sunny space of the Fruitmarket. Elsewhere stand a cluster of thick-girthed columns of wood, a spliced tree trunk and a block of wood, cut and divided in a manner that puts one in mind of nesting tables. On the gallery’s walls hang exploratory drawings made in charcoal, watercolour, mud and sheep shit.
This is the third show in Scotland for Nash, a profilic artist who has exhibited worldwide. Perhaps best described as an artist coming out of the minimalist tradition, Nash combines this with a passion for the 'real physical world’ and what he calls the 'geometric landscape' which surrounds his North Wales home. It has led Nash on a sort of Cezanne-like pilgrimage to reveal geometry as a component of nature.
Hewn from various unseasoned woods - lime, oak, beech and palm -
MTIIE U3T 7—20 Mar 1997
his sculptures reveal a near-passionate intrigue with his materials. 'I look for volume, length, curves, colour and size,’ says Nash of the process of choosing his material. Fresh from a wood-searching foray to Italy, he is full of the delights of the country’s indigenous grain.
Nearer to home, Nash says he’s been largely inspired by the slate wasteland of geometric angles and horizontals that can be seen near the Welsh chapel where he lives. Believing he lives in a ‘physical geometric process', Nash is out to explore the properties of wood and the geometric ordering of nature. And far from seeing his work as a static statement on the natural world, Nash feels he is ‘borrowing’ from nature and spiritualising his work with what he describes as a human sensibility.
Nash admits he is excited by concepts. 'Ideas come from the back of my head,’ explains the SO-something artist. ‘And sometimes, when I’m looking over a potential exhibition space, they just wink at me.’ (Fiona Shivas)
Standing tall: Nash's cluster of wood columns
Gillespie, Kidd and Coia
Edinburgh: Matthew Architecture Gallery until Fri 14 Mar.
Quiz most people about celebrated Glasgow architects and they will probably refer you to Charles Rennie Mackintosh or maybe Alexander ’Greek’ Thomson. Mention the names Gillespie, Kidd and Coia and they doubtless blink and admit they have never heard of them. Point out their innovative designs — often cited as the quintessential examples of post-war Scottish architecture — and they may question your authority. Announce they rank alongside Mackintosh and Thomson in Scotland's architects' pantheon and they may claim your view is highly suspect.
The work of Gillespie, Kidd and Coia is contentious because it is unashamedly 'modern' and therefore rather unpopular. So much so that in 1991, St Benedict’s Church in Drumchapel, Glasgow was razed. Completed in 1969, its demolition took place just days before it was due to be listed for its architectural merits.
The practice had enjoyed considerable patronage from the Catholic Church prior to this debacle. The architects’ style was robust, but sometimes oscillated between the wilfully unconventional and the over- bearingly brutal. But wanton demolition surely is the mark of a philistine society. This exhibition offers a good opportunity to see why their work polarises opinion. (Mark Cousins)
JoyJoy Glasgow: Transmission Gallery, until Sat 15 Mar.
David Burrows' More More More
This show is a steaming heap of amateur rubbish by a bunch of technically inept fools. It’s also the best thing on in Glasgow at present.
Paul McCarthy’s Painter video follows the antics of a phallic, rubber-nosed, cartoon-like macho painter, as he gives 'birth' to his latest masterpiece. Although the macho painter is something of a lame target, the video still manages to be both funny and disturbing.
Gitte Villesen's hand-held video of a night at the fair with several drunken Scandinavian youths is a compelling look at this little-observed species. The swaying head of one particularly delirious imbecile is something I want to forget. Unfortunately, like the after- effects of Thunderbird wine, it won't go away.
The show isn't gratuitously serious nor does it have quality stamped all over it. Instead it finds meaning and significance in unlikely places. Joy oh joy. (John Beagles)