Scrolls From The Dead
Glasgow: Art Gallery and Museum until Sun 30 Aug an: air ‘k'*
As a card-carrying atheist whose knowledge of religion is confined to Charlton Heston's performance as Moses, I think it would be fair to say that my cynical tendencies got the better of me on arriving at Kelvingrove, I knew there was a proverbial mountain to climb when I became more exoted by the sight of a Stars Wars stormtrooper in the foyer than at the prospect of seeing texts written during the lifetime of Jesus Christ.
The ZOOO-year-old scrolls were written by a sectarian, all-male militant group called the Essenes, who were preparing for holy war. Now the
Afragment of the Dead Sea Scrolls
Kelvingrove, without a hint of irony, writes, ’it seems appropriate that the scrolls should come to Glasgow, a city which has specifically linked its prosperity to the word of God’. Well, its prosperity might be, but equally the destructive sectarian gulf which divides Glasgow seems to owe much to the son of intolerance the Essenes were into in their caves of Kundran.
Nevertheless, this exhibition is awe— inspiring against the odds. The sheer age and religious importance of what is today just papery fragments framed in layers of glass is tremendous. The fact that they have surVived down the rnillennia provokes emotion, if not belief, in even the most unrepentant unbeliever l command thee to go. (John Beagles)
William Gear 8r COBRA
Edinburgh: City Art Centre, until Sat 20 Jun “it: a a
Tree, 1947 by William Gear
William Gear was an internationalist Born in Fife in l915, he went on from Edinburgh College 0? Art to the Paris studio of Fernancl Leger. Here, wrth fellow Scot Stephen Gilbert, Gear rubbed shoulders wrth the Euro gang Of avant-garde luminaries and soaked up the Parisian scene that
oozed a real sense of artistic adventurism Sadly this mini-retrospective
(Ontains a scant number of paintings from this time, when Gear's work
was at its most exhilarating. Earlier work such as St Ives from I948 shows a penchant for angular shapes and an interesting interrogation of space and form. But in his later work from the 70s and 80s, there is a heavy reliance on blotches of Vibrant colour. These works dominate the show. Gutsy and garish they may be, but they are from Gear’s waning years.
More interesting is Gear's involvement wrth COBRA, Little talked about these days, this informal group was fairly influential back in the late 40s A fallout from one of the routine schisms wrthin the Surrealist movement, the group formed its name form Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam, Gear was inVited to 10m COBRA in 1948 and took part in many of their group shows in Europe. And it is this w0rk, by other members of COBRA, that lands the most powerful punches of this show Belgian artist Corneille’s intricate ink drawrngs seem a little half-crazed but all the more appealing for it, while Karel Appel’s childlike drawmgs of bizarre figures and forms tackle COBRA's interest in primitive art and the subconscious. It’s a shame Gear is not shown to his best advantage. (Susanna Beaumont)
i e if x a w Unmissable
y 2 a s y Very good
i R s it? Worth a shot
I it 1» Below average
I it You've been warned
Glasgow: The Lloyd Jerome Gallery, until Thu 28 May at 1hr
Some artists' lives are iuSt screaming out to made into a film. Norman Gilbert is one of the t'l'hem. The details of his biography are studded with peculiar iobs - a piggery supervrsor being one — and Glasgow School of Art called him ’unteachable'. And at the age of 40 he was 'discovered'.
Gilbert's work is highly decorative. Painted in flat, clean colours, his figurative works are of contented, suburban domestic life, owrng more than a passing nod to Matisse aid Raoul Duly. There is nothing in his work which doesn't aim to please the eye. Gilbert is doggedly pursumg a career rooted in the artistic concerns of the early 19th century.
Their location, in what is essentially a dentist’s waiting room, seems apt. The pleasing arrangement of tasteful colours may divert from the horror of root canal work, but I wasn’t fooled. I could hear screams from behind the pine doors. (John Beagles)
A detail from The Critics by Norman Gilbert
Edinburgh: City Art Centre until Sat 23 May r **
United by geography and perhaps an mevrtable concern for their environment, ten artists from the arctic regions of Finland, Norway, Sweden and north western Russia are brought together in The Edge.
In Quotation Contest / 81 II, Alexei Grigoriiev fuses old and new, as almost Biblical-looking street scenes are given a contemporary slant. Taking a more earthy approach to man's relationship to his surroundings is Tom Engblom. He looks at indigenous cultures through a combination landscape photography and traditional Finnish woodwork, while Russian artist Gennadi Semakov's portraits take on a comical edge. A bored housewrfe poses by the fireside — as if for a famin snapshot or 'Readers’ Wives' — wearing nothing but a inane grin and a pair of stilettos.
The vrdeo installations and sculpture are less impressive Jaakko Heikkila’s series of photographic portraits, though highly sensrtive, are ultimately uninspired, Diverse experiences make for a Stiitably mixed bag. (Claire Prentice)
Detail from Luther Ape a work by Helen Beckman
Helen Beckman & Graham Little
Glasgow: Transmission until Sat 16 May wk at
It is good to see a two-person show at TransmiSSion, after a succesSIon of group shows. Graham Little's slick, brightly painted, geometric, free-standing sculptures could herald the start of a retro 80$ chic revrval. Exploring the relationship between modernist art and design, he stages a contest between utilitarianism and aesthetics, producrng perverser dated-looking ObjC’CIS.
Grasping the innate truth that you can't go wrong wrth pictures of monkeys, is Helen Beckman. She provrdes the hit of the show wrth her painting Man/y Ape. In a reclining pose With protruding genitalia, the human-looking speomen illustrates that the leap from ape to man seems to have been gune small,
A nostalgia for modernism and sceptiCism about our level of progress fuels this show, but it has to be counter-balanced by new ‘media developments’, such as the arrival of Resident Evil 2. With zombies as the main protagonists, it is the biggest selling computer game to date, and recalling this gives the show a context. It lifts it above the one-liner, and makes it devoid of the paradoxes and contradictions of our century, Evolution clearly isn’t over. (John Beagles)
14-28 May 1998 THE usr 81