Glasgow: Street Level until Sat 30 Jun * ~k it
Photography‘s big problem has been, and continues to be, its assertion that it alone possesses the means to record reality truthfully. Street Level’s Reflections, 3 show of five German artists, reiterates this idea in its claim that it provides ’a straightforward look at the relationships between people and their environment'. Contained within this remark is the same belief that the mvisrble photographer is able to capture the 'truth'.
Andreas Mader's photographs of family and friends faithfully follow this well-worn path. Like family snapshots, they purport to record the often intimate activities of domestic life but, unlike family snapshots, there is little indication of the subject responding to the presence of the photographer. In Zoltan Johay’s portraits of children, the aim is to extract repressed feelings
Detail of Eva and Herve by Andreas Mader
from the treacle of memory. While many of these photographs capture pre-adult vulnerability, one questions their ability to universally ’look out to the child within the viewer'. This is an over-investment in the cathartic potential of photography.
Andreas Weinand acknowledges the problems of making extravagant claims for photography's rights to objectivity, by rather self-consciously 'putting himself in the picture', to borrow Jo Spence’s famous phrase. In his work, the emphasis is on using the camera as a means of documenting the passage of time and meditating on the construction of identity.
Just as fly-on-the~wall documentaries frequently reveal how people behave in domestic situations with a film crew around, photographs are just as likely to illustrate the barriers people construct to prevent revealing their selves — whatever that might mean. (John Beagles)
Edinburgh: Portfolio Gallery until Sat 20 Jun vane
The River Taff starts life in the Brecon Beacons and ends its course at Cardiff Bay Barrage. It meanders its way from hilly rural heartland through concrete jungles to murky open waters.
John Davies' photographs record the river’s passage with clean-cut precision. Sharply focused and in black and white, the photographs have a crystal- clearness — even the mud flats of Cardiff Bay glisten with a seductive, undulating charm. The gist of the photographs is man's conquest of the rural: waterworks majestically regulating the river's flow at Pontsticill; a vast quarry that cuts into the earth, like a deep incision in to the earth's skin; the half-constructed bridge support at Merthyr Tydfil which stands proud like modern-day Roman triumphal arches. The march of humans and their attendant urban sprawl is
Waterworks. Pontsticill by John Davies
unstoppable. Even if not large scale or concrete, the human hand still makes itself known — a lone electricity pylon, a JCB doing its best to control the waters of the Taff Estuary.
What is odd about these photographs, for all their interesting intentions and superb execution, is their datedness. It is not just the black and white, but the strong and past-it photo-documentary feel to them. One of the railway station at Cardiff, photographed in 1996, reminds you of pamphlets put about by city councils in the 19605 in the name of spreading the joys of town planning and tower blocks. Perhaps it’s the angular architecture and the strong lines of the railway track that take you back, or maybe the image was intended as a throw back to the past. It was obviously Davies' aim to capture the landscape 'for real', but there is something too consciously staged that prevents this happening.
Edinburgh: Institut Francais d'Ecosse until Fri 19 Jun in“:
In space, no one can hear you scream, let alone record an explosion. There is an aura of this in French photographer, and one-time philosophy student and dancer, Corinne Filippi's work. It moves from black and white to full-on, large- scale Technicolor, giving the impression that the apocalypse has just ripped
through the heavens.
Look a little closer, and by the cheeky presence of test tubes and the like, it’s clear that someone's been at the chemistry set. The result is a series of mini- marvels that, when seen close-up at certain angles, tricks us, like 3 Gerry Anderson puppet show, into believing things are bigger than they are. So rather than lighting up the sky with fireworks, what we're faced with is the illusion of chaos captured in freeze-frame. Having said that, there are times you haven't a clue what’s going on, no matter how deeply into matters you delve.
All this ties up with Filippi's intention of robbing things of memory, identity and purpose, which by implication must also include context and personality. There's a Zen purity at play here, and it wouldn’t be too tricky to loose oneself in the pool of light if the drugs or the imagination weren't up to par. Altogether now, Om. . .
RSA Annual Exhibition
Edinburgh: Royal Scottish Academy until Sun 5 Jul *ir
Adrian Wiszniewski's Blue And Black
Pick 'n' mixes are great. Lucky bags, however, are a shot in the dark. Drawing together 500 works, including oils, watercolours, sculpture and prints, the RSA present their 172nd annual exhibition with something for all the family.
The quality is as far ranging as the mediums, styles and influences evident, ranging from school art-class style paintings and traditional landscapes, to architects’ drawings of Pizza Express and highly innovative sculptures.
Thus we find Reinhard Behrens’ bold, poster-like painting of Tin Tin in The Black Island sitting alongside Simon Briggs’ childlike yet haunting Christmas Carp Sellers - Prague. Some of the paintings and photography — like AlanvM. Bennett’s Candle — look like they'd be better housed in a bumper box of Christmas cards.
If you’re prepared to look for them, the real gems are to be found among sculptures dotted about the gallery. George Wyllie’s Obedience, featuring a train carriage laden with shoes and covered in grey paint, is suggestive of an oppressed people, while Andrew Stenhouse explores similar themes in State Of The Art: Art Of The State. Ultimately there's too many coffee creams. (Claire Prentice)
Glasgow: CCA until Sat 6 Jun. ‘k** ix
Jason E. Bowman's show presents a convoluted narrative of production, documenting, in a 30-hour video, the epic journey of a lone tree to the gallery.
First felled, then sawn into planks, the tree's first stop on the production line is William Love, the cabinet maker. The video records the nine hours of labour required to produce a table. This table then becomes a prop for actors rehearsing Ibsen’s The Master Builder. After this, it is recycled and made into chipboard. This chipboard will eventually be used to produce a large object similar to a church spire, which will rise and penetrate the ceiling of the gallery.
There’s more than a hint of sly deflation in all this. While the video reference to The Master Builder may pass some pe0ple by, the juxtaposition with Bowman's unsightly chipboard erection in the gallery hints at a pointed undercutting of the
egotism of 'master' male architects. Questions pertaining to production have been central to artistic and political life in the 20th century. This trip along the conveyor belt is an interesting addition. (John Beagles)
STAR RATlNGS '- .f ***** Unm’iss'abl ,7 I. **** Very _ .3; '/ 5f it? . gv ,. .. * 60W, a, ’
28 May-11 Jun 1998 TIIEUS‘I’TI