David Austen/Indian Botanical Drawings

Edinburgh: Inverleith House, Royal

Botanic Garden **** Think botanical prints and what

comes to mind? Way before you can utter the Latin name for buttercup, it will probably be visions of cross- sections of horsechestnuts or virulent-coloured roses on the walls of suburban kitchens and halls.

But no. Dismiss your prejudices against inane prettiness and restrain your knee-jerk reaction against the botanical print. In this exhibition at Inverleith House, we get to see exquisite Indian botanical drawings. Taken from the garden’s collection and dating from 1790 to 1850, the prints are much more than 'pretty'. Drawn at a time when the need to classify every whisper of grass drove bands of botanists abroad, the botanical print was viewed as simply a 'scientific resource'. Indian artists, working in the gardens of the East Indian Company alongside frock-coated botanists, were employed to catalogue leaf structure, seeds, blooms and petals through ink and paint. Exquisite and to a degree awesome, it is easy to see how the tradition of the Indian miniature into these botanical drawings.

Downstairs at the Botanics we move into the 20th century. Wandering around this show you get a sense of London-based David Austen's roving curiosity. On one wall there are drawings of a naked woman. Recumbent, legs stretched, arms up, breasts spreading, these small- scale works are all about intimacy and not 'through-the- keyhole' voyeurism. Elsewhere there are watercolours of seed pods, vegetables and berries. Austen gives no detailed description of these nameless bits of flora. In contrast to the precise detail of upstairs, here there is a straightforward relish of colour and form. There is also a faint memory jog back to the 605 to Formica tabletops and kitchen curtains patterned with fruit and veg.



In Austen's text

The mood aga informal painting

Word-play: David Austen's Blue Painting

paintings, word are thrown out with

the same sense of relish. ‘Long Blackstockings', 'Pink Milk', ‘Heartshadowland' and 'Eat Fat Birds' appear on Blue Painting, a word game of a picture. The various words lead up avenues of mental chain-reactions.

in changes gear in Austen’s more s of cubes of colours. I-Iere text again

plays a part. Typed out on what must be an ancient Remmington red ink colours many of the black-typed words - the phrase 'Death is Yellow and Vanilla Scented' sits beneath squares of lilac, greens and yellow paint. You catch yourself imagining the smell of vanilla and wondering if it's true. Austen, you also guess, is curious too. (Susanna Beaumont)

Tar and Feathers, a work by Mark Dion featuring various taxidermic animals

so rususr 14—28 May 1998

Mark Dion

Edinburgh: College of Art, Tue 26 May, 7pm.

Mark Dion lends himself to elaborate description. This Is an artist who apparently 'metamorphoses into an ecologist, bio-chemist, detective and archaeologist’. His work crosses Darwin with Disney and Hitchcock.

But is this all just Over-inflated copy- writer hype? It seems not. An American, based in New York, receiving international coverage, Dion is over in Britain to Install a show at the Liverpool Tate and give a talk at Edinburgh College of Art. A modern age, hunter-gatherer kind of artist, Dion collects remnants of life, from stuffed animals to household waste. His agglo-merations of everyday detritus seem a bleak narrative on our throw-away lifestyle or perhaps a poignant still-life on consumerism. But then there IS the bizarre. A

wheelbarrow filled with brightly coloured, furry cuddly toys, entitled Survival Of The Cutest (Who Gets On The Ark?), gives the sense that Dion can tease out a confrontation With a sure-handed touch of humour.

Like 19th century explorers or collectors who foraged for evidence in the undergrowth of the world’s forests to back-up theories and points of view, Dion seems to be gleaning tell- tale signs of the 'state we are in' from life. His 'nature tables' are assortments of nature’s leftovers, and his stuffed animals are mute but lifelike evrdence of death. Dion has said he believes that today nature is most influenced by ideas of environmentalism. And when looking at much of his work, if you listen hard, you can imagine a quiet squeal for help.

(Susanna Beaumont)

u Tickets to Mark Dion ’5 talk are available from Stills Gallery, Edinburgh, [4 (£2.50).

Artbeat l

Overheard from behind the installation.

JULIAN SPALDING HAS had many precarious moments in his career, but the latest could topple him. The controversy-friendly director of Glasgow Museums is rumoured to be fighting for his job. In a cost- cutting drive, Glasgow Council is pruning back its departments, with the post of Galleries Director now extended to take in Parks and Recreation. Spalding has been interviewed for the post, but the rumour is that the job is being re- advertised nationally. Will his CV be up to it or will Spalding be put out to grass?

A CASE OF misrepresentation at the Saatchi Gallery in London's latest exhibition, Young Americans 2. ’Nobody here is actually young: the oldest are almost 50, the youngest 39. So, let us give the exhibition its rightful name: Middle-Aged Americans.’ So wrote Waldemar Ianuszczak in the Sunday Times; but who said ad-man Saatchi didn’t understand the art of glamourising your ‘product'.

DUBBED ’THE MARTIN SCORSESE of painting' by the hi-gloss men’s mag GO, is artist Ray Richardson. Richardson's work is going on show at the Glasgow Print Studio and is set to feature numerous references to the ‘bovver boy' of the canine world, the English bull terrier. I Richardson apparently has a penchant for the small-scale but sharp-toothed hound, which stands as 'a metaphor in his narratives’.

DRESSING IN BLUE overalls and masquerading as a maintenance man did the trick for artist Virgil Tracey. As part of Glasgow's Visual Arts Projects' on-going commission for the University of Paisley, Tracey decided to give the student telephone kiosk a make-over. An unloved and a down-at-heel space. Tracey slowly moved in on the kiosk not wanting to cause anxiety among the students. The brightly- painted kiosk is now apparently a much-loved addition.

Hound dog: Ray Richardson's English bull dog terrier, Framboise