Sermon on a bypass: Nesbit’s soundpiece at Newbury

Shock tactics

Career diversity has taken Renny Nesbit from engineer to artist. Now his work is on show as part of an exhibition where art meets science. Words: Susanna Beaumont

Renny Nesbit is an honest sort of guy. Just as our chat is ending. he admits he is no good with ‘tritc soundbites‘ when talking about his work. but he goes on to add: “or maybe it‘s just a skill I don't have.‘ True perhaps. Nesbit doesn't go in for catchy verbal minimalism but then our conversation has been far from pedestrian. It has tackled everything from Britain’s road building policy to electrical engineering with a detour to incense burners and toilet roll holders. And that‘s

after a swift run through a couple of scientific


Nisbet has a good line in conversational diversity. But then we have been talking about his career and it is hardly what you would call a straightforward affair. In his early twenties he was an engineer at :Vlonktonhall colliery near Musselburgh. ln his late twenties he moved south to Bristol and took tip making novelty bits and bobs that‘s where the incense burners and loo roll holders come in. Then there was a spell as an engineer at a vast industrial laundry in Windsor and. by way of filling in the gaps. brief stints as a motorbike courier and a jazz.

musician. All proof. as Nesbit puts it. of his credo of

fluidin in career.

blow in his early thirties. he‘s fresh out of art college he graduated from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art last summer and his work is on show at Demarco's in a group exhibition as part of the

‘My ideas aren't really conceptual or literal or rational, they are fluid and just reveal themselves in the work.’

Constellation point: Nesbit's Circumstance at Demarco's

Edinburgh International Science Festival.

And the work sure is a good alliance between art and science.

Sitting in on his Red Shift at Demarco’s is a pretty awesome experience. A vast sphere set on a plinth, it slowly rotates within a glass panelled cube. Lit from above by ultra violet light. it has an iridescent glow and is coolly calming. almost mesmerising. Then, disrupting the quiet reverie, comes an ear-piercing squeal an electrical current fires and sparks a white intense light. It is arresting to say the least.

‘It cuts a swathe through you.’ says Nisbet of the work. ‘It is a kind of confrontation and demands attention.‘ He then describes the electrical logistics of the piece. but there are no easy explanations here. ‘My ideas aren’t really conceptual or literal or rational, they are fluid and just reveal themselves in the work.’ he says. ‘I sometimes hate explaining these things.’

Nesbit. however. is not really playing elusive. He‘s just playing honest again. Later we go on and talk about the time he spent last summer working for Art Bypass. as part of a Friends Of The Earth initiative at Newbury. while demonstrating against the bypass. Alongside artist Christo’s wrapped-up Volvo. Nesbit made Sermon. a large wooden tripod- cum-sound piece that emitted the noise of traffic. ‘It was about raising the debate.‘ says Nesbit. ‘and it’s a valuable way. sometimes the only way. of reaching people on certain issues who might be turned off by direct action.‘

That seems all-important to Nesbit’s work. Presenting an experience. grabbing attention and breaking down conceptions. But then Nesbit doesn't like being pigeon-holed. ‘lt is more than just a collection of words. People think they have a handle on you when they know where you are coming from.’

Equation is part of the Edinburgh International Science Festival at Demarco European Art Foundation, Edinburgh, Sat 22 Mar-Sun 6 Apr. See feature, page 18.

preview ART Artbeat

Murmurs, musings and goings-on in the art world.

VARIOUS PERSONAGES are on the move. Andrew Nairne has resigned as Director of Visual Arts at the Scottish Arts Council, Charles Esche of Tramway looks set to down tools and take on other challenges - he's joint curator for Video Positive 97 happening this spring in Liverpool and Manchester - and there's talk of Nicola White, Exhibitions Director at CCA, taking flight. Elsewhere, other art world figures seem resolutely settled. After a splurge of attacks in the media, Julian Spalding has just received a vote of confidence from Glasgow City Council's Arts and Culture committee (see feature on page 17).

WHAT'S GOING ON at Edinburgh's Fruitmarket Gallery? Months after a Scottish Arts Council review, Scotland's 'flagship for contemporary visual arts’ (SAC quote in 1996) still seems to be just cruising along. There have been rumblings from the art community that the gallery is not a ‘flagship’ and that the line-up of exhibitions fails to excite or show initiative. The Fruitmarket’s SAC grant for 1997/8 is down £10,000 from 1996/7 and now stands at £305,000, but it remains the recipient of SAC's largest visual arts revenue grant. Surely it should now be a case of the hand that feeds also calling a few shots?

MEANWHILE OVER AT that bastion of entrepreneurial artistic activity, the Demarco European Art Foundation, it's all change. Their St Mary's School premises is under offer after being put up for sale by Edinburgh City Council. No regrets here: the place is fridge-like and frequently damp. But where is Demarco to go? He may have his detractors, but Richard Demarco and his band of artists do show can-do verve. A few years back, Demarco suggested decamping to Budapest if the council failed to give support. Now it looks likely the move will be more local - to a school in Torphichen Street.

GLASGOW'S CCA IS holding a symposium, Women On Art on Mon 24/Tue 25 March. Speakers include Glasgow School of Art's Sam Ainsley and Sue Innes, author of Women, Change And Challenge In The 905. For more information contact Gail Stevenson at (CA on 0141 332 7521.

Light beacon! Light commision by Peter Fink planned for the Fruit market

21 Mar—3 Apr 1997TIIE usr 81