Glasgow: Hunterian Art Gallery, permanent 1r ~k *
Lately, standing stones have figured in my life. Two weeks ago I visited the Ring Of Stenness on Orkney. In material, volume and line, these standing stones are as contemporary as today’s best sculpture. They are not some irrelevance from the ancient past. Sculptured first by hand, then by wind, ice and time, they are resonant for all the right reasons. They are far more than kitschy new age paraphernalia.
Turning to contemporary sculpture, Jake Harvey, one of Scotland’s leading sculptors, has produced Tools For The Shaman. Commissioned last year, it rs a permanent addition to the recently renovated Hunterian Gallery Sculpture Court at Glasgow University. The brief was simple: the gallery wanted work with a strong vertical emphasis. The result is five standing stones of irregular form.
They are carved in black limestone and
with a hole wide enough to take your arm. Another lies flat on the ground with a small seat on the upper side. Another is overtly phallic. Each is scored and chiselled, and towards the head of each stone the limestone is polished to a smooth, reflective black.
From my understanding, each stone functions as a conductor - earth to sky, physical to spiritual - and a Signifier. Here the arm-sized hole is a gateway; the seat an elevated place, and the phallus a fundamental energy. These ideas, ancient as they are, are still relevant and offer pause for thought. Minus new age trappings, all carved stone has presence, density and duration - three qualities humans will always be fearful of losing. As a result, like the work of Brancusi, Hepworth or Moore, Harvey's work will always be contemporary and stirring.
In the Hunterian sculpture courtyard, freshened-up with new cobbles, Too/s For The Shaman sits beside some over- complicated work by Paolozzr and a decorative piece by Mackintosh. Harvey’s is the best work by an age.
Stones for a modern age: Jake Harvey's Tools For The Shaman
Edinburgh: City Art Centre until Wed 23 Jul t ‘k *
Margaret Mellrs has had quite a life. Born in China, she grew up in Scotland, has lived in France and spent
Margaret Mellis's Paradise Jungles
seven years orbiting the epicentre of the St Ives Group. In St Ives in the 405, she hung out wrth the big three, Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth and Naum Gabo, painting landscapes and still lifes and creating collages. And in a mini-documentary screened along side this retrospective show, there is a glimpse of Mellis's private life, full of antics and traumas.
On one occasion, it’s said, she saw herself as being like glass: initially tough but transparent and easy to shatter. The break-up of her marriage, to the artist and writer Adrian Stokes, was one such shattering mcrdent. Yet looking at Mellis dancing to Jazz in lurid-coloured leggings, you get the sense that this woman, now in her early eighties, is no push-over.
Something of a hunter-gatherer, Mellis now lives on the Suffolk coast, where she collects bits of driftwood
thrown up by the tide. These battered
and splintered planks and pallets — often retaining licks of paint, their ragged edges softened by tidal bash.ng — are tacked together With nails to form her 'constructs'. They may appear haphazard, but you get the sense that Mellrs approaches these works like Jigsaw puzzles: every piece of wood has its right place.
As for her paintings, some tend towards the pedestrian. Her work from the 1970s, With its psychedelic colours and angular forms, can leave you feeling a touch queasy.
Home on the water: The Island Pagoda, 1870
Captured Shadows Edinburgh: National Library until Sun 28 Sep * 1% t it
Travelling 3000 miles up China's Yangzi River With an lnstamatit is one thing, but going it alone in the 18605 — with photographic egurpment ‘ is quite another.
John Thomson, born in Edinburgh in 1837, went deep into the interior of China, as well as journeying through Siam and Cambodia. His photographs of plump Chinese mandarins, rnountarn ranges, monasteries and preened royal princes are magnificent. Not Just for their sepia insights into yesteryear in the Far East but also for their technical preciSiori. All are intensely atmospheric.
It comes as no surprise that, on returning to Britain in 1.872, Thomson v-Jer‘t on to pioneer photo-jomnalism. Hrs photographs of London's public disinfectors, recruiting officers and shoe shines, are the forerunner of documentary photography. Thomson is little know today brrt by his death ll‘. l921, he had made a name fOr himself A peak on MOiint Kilimanjaro was trained Perot Thomson in his memory (Susanna Beaumont)
Glasgow: CCA until Sun 27 Jul av st vi Claire Barclay’s sculpture exrsts between extremes Flocr arttl tt‘ll'll'l, aiurr-t material, hard and soft lt’s lively work, full of twrsts and turns
In one corner, pink feathers adorn two steel rings On one they radiate outwards, on the other they fill the circular space Nearby, a stretch of rubber matting covers the floor, another piece, cut into a lattice, rs suspended from the. ceiling The work unleashes the potency of a material that is usually flat and inert - but it also looks like it could collapse.
Elsewhere, this animation is reversed A dying tree hangs sheathed in plastic. Leather rornts cover the ends of steel poles In a photograph, Bar'tlay is shown Sitting beSrde a wolf on a hilltop. In another, a lizard is shown settled -‘).'l l kerb stone Barclay's work rs bizarre, but makes the incongruous illlll(lllll‘.’l and the mundane sensual. (Paul \A-‘elshl
The Face Of Denmark
Edinburgh: National Portrait Gallery until Sun 31 Aug shirer
There are many parallels betv-Jeen Scotland and Denmark, and this show sets Out to illustrate a few Denmark's Museum of National History was set up Just north of Copenhagen, in l878, while Scotland’s National Portrait Gallery, opened a few years later Both were financed by large Concerns Carlsberg Brewery and The Scotsman newspaper respectively.
The Face Of Denmark, an exhibition of Playing again: Danish entertainer over 100 portraits, has been lavrshly Victor Borge by Ole Haupt curated. It shows great and good Danes from the past 250 years. The 18th century monarch Frederik V is shown in a portrait of baroque excess by Carl Gustav Prlo, and there is an extraordinary portrait of the aging arrstocr at Charlotte Louise Plessen by Jens luel,
Famous contemporary Danes also feature Peter Hoeg, author of Miss Sim/Li’s Feeling For Snow, is caught in a stunning black and white photograph, while the up-and-coming Danish artist Thomas Kluge shows his specially commissioned portrait of Scottish entertainer Rikki Fulton. The style is one of 'magrc realrsm' and makes for a real vrsual impact. A Scottish artist, yet to be announced, rs to be COHTTTTISSIOHOU to paint a portrait of a contemporary Dane for a show of Scottish portraits from the last 400 years which travels to Denmark in September. (Giles Sutherland)
ll--24 Jul 199/ THE lIST 69