The Vigorous Imagination - Ten Years On
Edinburgh: Scottish Gallery until Wed 1 Oct it *ir
Ten years ago the National Gallery of Modern Art showed work by seventeen young, Scotland-based artists. Entitled The Vigorous Imagination it was seen as a timely showcase of all that was exCiting and vibrant on the Scottish art scene.
Today the exhibition is often quoted as a good example of Curatorial initiative and more importantly, a trumpeting of indigenous, contemporary art. (Interestingly, The Vigorous Imagination was organised in
association With the Edinburgh Festival which this year was criticised for failing to initiate strong shows of contemporary art.)
Ten years on, the Scottish Gallery has brought together the same artists. It’s a sort of 'what are they up to now’ style of show and Without doubt a good idea. Only one artist, Ken Currie, refused, saying he didn’t think much of the first show, but the other artists are all in attendance. Yet the trouble is many of them are domg very well
Sickly features: Ian Hughes’s Trial
thank you, and you get the sense that the exhibition wasn’t viewed as crucial to their career. Many of the works are not that recent, so the impact is again diluted.
Peter Howson shows a sUItably Howsonian scene. Muscular men in a desolate, brown landscape are locked in physical struggle From Calum Colvm there’s a glossy photograph filled with films Presley memorabilia, while June Redfern shows an impastoed painting of figures in a landscape. Bright and vibrant, Redfern sure knows how to handle paint. Last time round, David Mach constructed a sculpted avalanche of magazines. Here he has gone 2-D with two collages showing nightmarish panoramic scenes populated by rearing horses and flesh-biting bats. From Philip Braham there’s a coldly silent blue canvas filled with sea and clouds and from Stephen Conroy, a couple of etchings.
Perhaps the most impressive work is by Ian Hughes. Two portraits show faces up close, pock-inarked and ravaged with disease. The flesh seems to be decaying before your eyes, blighted and rotten You can't quite fathom what the infliction is but it looks truly unenwable. (Susanna Beaumont)
Street Level Open
Glasgow: Street Level until Sat 27 Sep iii
This exhibition brings together the work of 40 artists who use photography and film. It consists of more than just photographs, although a number of the artists use the medium in a 'traditional’ way.
In a collaborative pr0ject, Patrick Jameson and Andrew Whitaker document some of the post-war tower blocks which dominate Glasgow's skyline. These images present what they describe as a sense of 'failed optimism' and they implicitly ask questions about the built enVironment which Will surround us in the next millennium.
By contrast, Zoe Finlay is not
interested in the quality of the photographic process She uses a cheap camera and has the film processed in high street outlets. She is interested iii documenting the dull, prosaic qualities of the Suburban enVironment On a lawn she has created a hexagonal pattern using bread crumbs — an echo of the slabs used in a typical suburban patio. Over a five day period she has photographed the scene and its destruction by garden birds.
Calum Stirling has mimicked off-the- shelf car components by creating car mirrors complete With authentic packaging. But here the mirrors have realised rear Views -— roads and mountains recede into the distance. (Giles Sutherland)
Glasgow: 18 King Street Gallery until Sun 14 Sep ****
At last, real value for money. In Rough Diamond, Ross Birrell plays a few old, avant- garde tricks and even the tabloids have reacted. The Evening News wondered if it was art — yes it is.
Birrell has insured a pile of coal for £5000. Just outside its security vault, there's a pile of identical coal. On a wall, Birrell's will is pinned up and beside it, sits a polished urn for his ashes (entitled Incomplete Works).
Following Birrell’s death and cremation, the urn will be filled, and along with the signed piece of paper will be worth a supposed £33,000. They will also be re-named Complete Works. It’s a magnanimous gesture — and in Rough Diamond the fun-filled polemic keeps on rolling.
Birrell’s work also involves shredding books. Dialogues With Marcel Duchamp is actually grated, while the Diaries Of Anne Frank are toasted and The Complete Works Of Franz Kafka burnt. Apparently Kafka wanted all his books, notes and doodles destroyed on his death. Obviously this didn't happen, so Birrell is doing the great man a favour.
The message in all this is Birrell's questioning of imposed values, originality and plagiarism. Old hat ideas maybe, but Rough Diamond is interesting, no matter what the papers say, and by the way, the show costs nothing to see. (Paul Welsh)
Glasgow: Transmission Gallery until Wed 1 Oct ﬁrst ii
As a society we are used to the idea of recycling. Simon Starling looks at the process from an artist's perspective. In the exhibition Blue Boat Black, he has taken man-made objects and transformed, recycled and reprocessed them. The show’s title is a brief description of this process.
Starling transported a discarded mahogany museum case to a temporary studio in Marseilles. There he fashioned it into a copy of a small Mediterranean fishing craft traditionally painted blue, called a ’barque’. After using the boat to catch fish, he had it made into charcoal, which he then used to cook the fish.
Starling's interest in recycling extends to two other objects in the exhibition — a chair designed by Charles Eames and a Marin mountain bike. In a neat act of double transformation, he has recast the metal from both objects to recreate the other: the bike has become the chair and vice versa.
There are many associations and references surrounding this work, including Kafka's famous tale Metamorphosis and stories by the Latin poet Ovid. Fuelled by Starling's love of a process of transformation and the need to make things, this show is fun as well as challenging. (Giles Sutherland)
Blue Boat Black: Marseilles 1997
Women In White: Photographs by Lady Hawarden
Edinburgh: National Portrait Gallery, Fri
12 Sep until Sun 16 Nov. Like many mothers she took
photographs of her daughters. But this was long before the days of the Kodak lnstamatic and family snaps magnetised on to fridge doors. This mother was aristocratic Victorian, Lady Hawarden.
Born in Scotland in 1822, Harwarden married an Irish peer, lived in London's Kensington, produced a vast number of children and took extraordinary photographs.
'To a degree you have to guess what is gomg on,’ says the National Portrait Gallery's curator of photography Sarah Stevenson, describing Hawarden’s work. 'We want to open up a debate about them.’
On loan from London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, Lady Harwarden’s photographs are intimate and a touch bizarre. Her daughters, often pictured with their arms draped over each other, appear serene and surreal. Often dressed in 18th century costume, crinolines or men’s fancy dress, they are shown in surprisingly uncluttered Victorian London interiors.
There might be a hidden storyline behind them, or perhaps they are simply family portraits, but they suggest something more. For Stevenson, they are intense and very strong images. ’They are certainly something to do with being a Victorian woman,’ she says.
Lady Harwarden died at 43. Compared to her contemporary, photographer Julia Margaret Cameron, she is not well known. She didn’t sell her work commercially, nor did she photograph supposed'fairies at the bottom of the garden like Cameron did.
Stevenson hopes this exhibition — the first in Scotland of Lady Harwarden’s work — Will raise public awareness of the photographer. (Susanna Beaumont)
Untitled - Lady Harwarden's daughters
12 Sep—25 Sep 1997 THE U87 81