Glasgow: Tramway, until Mon 25 May it A it it
The smell of salt beef hangs heavy, and of course there's a bar. This is only right and proper for an exhibition that seems to be part show and tell, part meet and greet, and part close encounter of the installationary kind. It’s the final fling before Tramway closes its doors for some major renovations. Mill about and you’ll dodge between crashed cars, toffee on a string and white flags made of Y- fronts. A trio of crucifixions sees a woman nailed at the centre of it all, while there's more bloodletting on a series of Video banks that show a man shaved head to toe — and all the bits inbetween. Jessica Voorsanger’s series of letters to and from assorted celebs exposes her as a latter-day Henry Root,
Dogs on the run: one of the exhibits at Host
while Donald Parsnip’s ’Daily Journal’ is a series of DIY mini-diaries dating back to I995.
Much of the work appears to have been dragged out of skips, so there’s a ’car boot sale at the end of the world' feel to things. Informal, sure; but also a little in love with itself. The video works in particular put the creator at the centre of their subject, while Ross Birrell’s tombstones are the final comment on the death of the artist.
In its ramshackle, unframed glory, the whole thing seems like a big sister to the Fruitmarket’s recent Sa/e Or Return exhibition. Both seem to be blowing a great big raspberry to the rarefied atmosphere of more formal spaces. And the salt beef? That was Restaurant Pruskin, the place where art, hunger, and just a tad of greed meet. And, like the exhibition, it fills a hole.
A still from David Williams's Listen . . . Sunﬂower Blues
Findings . . . Bitter- Sweet
Edinburgh: National Portrait Gallery until Sun 3 May * ﬁr
David Williams was once described as a ’blues photographer’. The phrase obviously pleased him, as he has called his latest work a ’visual blues poem’.
To be honest, this does not do the blues justice. Williams's 14-minute long photo animation is too consciously stylish, reminiscent of overly sweetened nostalgia, rather than emotionally taut blues. Images of beaches, fields and park benches blend, melt and dissolve on a large screen. Shadowy figures appear and disappear in a range of
archetypal ’romantically lonely’ landscapes. Frequently captioned with
’handwritten' titles like He Loved To Hide or Mostly He Hid From Love, Findings . . . Bitter-Sweet, is over- indulgent and more akin to soft-focus mood adverts than anything else. All the more so for being accompanied by a soundtrack of guitar strumming, written and performed by Williams.
Williams has said that Findings seeks ’to somehow integrate its opposites — joy with sadness, hope with despair, life with death, the bitter with the sweet’. The result however is a pastel- hued rather than blues visual poem. (Susanna Beaumont)
Edinburgh: Portfolio until Sat May 16 run
Once upon a time, going to the 200 was a school-day treat. Cuddly toys come to life to entertain and educate. Look closely behind bars, though, and from jungle to cage it becomes plain the call of the Wild has been tamed to the point of psychosis. Britta Jaschinski’s startling set of images captures, if that’s the right word, the full pains of confinement So while a pair of polar bears appear to be slothfully looking for some way out of their rock pools, a close-up of an orangutan’s solitary claw rests helplessly against metal.
Part of a much larger collection, Jaschinski’s emotional though never polemical work puts her subject matter in the background, off-centre or seemingly peripheral to the frame. This both counterpornts and accentuates how the creatures’ natural grace and beauty is stifled by their artificial environment, an animal kingdom equivalent of breezeblock council estates. Creature comforts indeed. (Neil Cooper)
John Kobal Photographic Portrait Award
Edinburgh: Scottish National Portrait Gallery until Sun 3i May hurt
Nadar Kander's Haircut
Photography, like most art forms, has been a symbol of patriarchal male dominion. For every Annie Leibovitz, there have been 50 Helmut Newtons or David Baileys lurking sweatily round the corner, yet if the evidence of the 1997 award nominations is to mean anything, it is that John Kobal’s legacy will be creating an avenue to shift the balance. While the outright winner is Richard Sawdon Smith, whose moving ’Simon 20.6.68 — 15.7.97’ pictures a friend in the later stages of Aids, shot in the style of a 19th century medical portrait, the runners-up table is led by women.
Among the finest here are Emma Risheq’s ‘Red Sea’ — with the glorious rouge backdrop, fruit and flowers subsuming and accentuating the naked child — and Hannah Starkey with her ’Women Watching Women’ series, including a pair of gin-sodden teenagers and a dignified old woman regarding herself.
One element the collection lacks is humour. Asides from the joker playing Batman in Katia Liebmann’s ’Gotham City’ and the meat-packer with bloody apron and cardboard box on his/her head in ’Smithfields’ by Bill Robinson, the exhibition is one of grim and stark humanity embodied perfectly in Nadar Kander’s ’Haircut' — an image caught somewhere between supermodel and concentration camp survivor. (Brian Donaldson)
Papier Tue-Mouches Edinburgh: lnstitut Francais d'Ecosse until Thu 30 Apr * * 1:
More often than not, events gain a rose-tint as they become memories. Not so for Sophie Benson. In this work, made in a studio in Collioure on the south coast of France, Benson opts for muted greys and browns to evoke faded recollections and the passage of time.
Her subjects are mundane objects of everyday life — benches, chairs and tables — but Benson is concerned more With the shadows cast by these objects. Presented on huge sheets of paper, her use of several coats of dry pigment and diluted acrylic has created a faded look. The objects seem stripped to their essence, and thus devoid of the living embellishments of anecdote and narrative.
In pictures like Papier Tue-Mouches / and II, the same deserted patio is seen from different angles, creating a sense of the mysterious. It’s an approach that doesn’t always come off, but in the main, Benson’s work is fresh and probing. (Claire Prentice)
16-30 Apr 1998 THE LIST 81