Edinburgh: City Art Centre, until Sat 2 0a**** First week of a new parliament, dawn of a new Scotland, blah, blah, blah, and that eternal bloody chestnut of defining a nation's culture is up for grabs. And what a grab bag this is. Moving across four floors (begin at the top and go forwards through time; begin at the bottom and look back) this whopper of an exhibition, culled from more than 50 galleries, highlights Scottish painting from the 17th century to the present day. Skimming over the toppermost galleries (except to say there‘s no tartan, thank God), the two lower floors are noticeable for the increasing size of the works. Now, whether size matters depends on who you talk to, and whether this reflects an increasing cultural confidence or a muscle-flexing insecurity is neither here nor there. What is there is a poptastic array of Scottish art stars, with Robert MacBryde and Robert Colquhoun showing off their house-painter roots, Paolozzi being Paolozzi, Joan Eardley, lain Hamilton Finlay, Anne Redpath, Uncle Tom Cobley and all. Of the 1980s Glasgow boys, the social-realism of Ken Currie's Two Trade Unionists came at a time when unions were being systematically smashed, and contrasts wildly with the playful
Cornucopia (1960) by Alan Davie
tweedy surrealism of Steven Campbell’s Young Man Surrendering To The Landscape and Adrian Wisniewski's Kafkaesque My Jewish Brother. Peter Howson's Smile And Wave possesses such a shadowy presence it could've stepped straight out of ZOOOAD (the comic, not the millennium that'll force the comic to change its name).
While the long-faced girls of Alison Watt's Marat And The Fishes nods to James Cowie's Two Schoolgirls a few generations previous, there are references too to Scotland's great and the good beyond the art world. Sandy Moffat’s Sorley MacLean 1979 captures the veteran poet in repose, whilst the title of William Johnstone’s Fragments Of Experience looks to R.D. Laing, its spectral rush a gust perhaps of energies to
come. Stephen Conroy’s John Logie Baird looks bizarrely the spitting image of latter-day arbiter of TV times, tube boob Jerry Springer. A bust of MacDiarmid sneers down his nose at it all, while Victoria Crane’s Portrait Of Tam Dalyell MP offers some kind of vindication to a voice of reason during a very special week.
One minor gripe is that there's no installation work, but, hey, next time, eh? The entire caboodle is summed up in John Bellany's Obsession - Whence Do We Come? What Are We? Whither Do We 60?, as five gnarled (legless?) figures line up before a pile of rotting fish on the shore. A snapshot of grotesques straight out of Ivor Cutler-land via Sam Beckett, they stand still and stiff as anything lest they be skelped by Father. Now that's Scotland. (Neil Cooper)
W. Eugene Smith: Photographs
Dundee Contemporary Arts until 29 Aug sir wit “it
Steelworker with goggles, 1955
W. Eugene Smith was the quintessential method photographer, immersing himself in his subjects’ Iii/Es until he felt he belonged, but it sometimes bordered on madness. In 1955, he set out to create a visual epic of industrial Pittsburgh. For the first month, he didn’t take a single frame as he was too busy getting to know the place. Then he stayed more than a year and took 11,000 negatives. Ultimately only about 40 were reproduced - in a poor quality magazine to which he'd been forced to compromise.
That project, one of many highlighted in this excellent retrospective, epitomises Smith — uniquely haunting pictures and a costly struggle to get his own way at a time when the mighty Life magazine and others gave him space but never, it seems, quite enough freedom.
Smith, whose father killed himself in Depression-era Kansas when Smith was seventeen, believed photography could be a catalyst for social change, and many of the 180 prints on display
here yell their conviction. From the old and utteriy sinister Ku Klux Klan woman to some harrowing World War II South Pacific images, it’s always clear where Smith's sympathies lie. His famous Life feature on a remote Spanish village shows an almost medieval bleakness, and his backlit steel workers are dehumanised - creatures with goggles. .
As with many of the great photo- journalists like Robert Capa and Henri Cartier-Bresson, Smith's best work goes beyond the documentary to transcend time and place. Often this seems to be in the printing, with exaggerated dark tones that wipe out surrounding detail, leaving us to concentrate on a person's features.
One of Smith's last big projects before he died in 1978 was to spend four years in a Japanese fishing village campaigning for the survivors of a mercury pollution disaster. Some of the resulting photos', intimate but not intrusive, are a fitting testimony to his whole career. (Sam Phipps)
Jessie M. King Anniversary
Glasgow & Kirkcudbright: various venues
It is now 50 years since the death of Jessie M. King, artist, illustrator and quintessential Glasgow Girl. To celebrate her achievements, her work is being shown over the summer months at a number of venues.
King — who worked in illustration but also produced batiks, silverware and decorated ceramics — trained at Glasgow School of Art, where she illuminated a history of the institution. After a spell teaching in Paris, she settled in the artist's colony of Kirkcudbright, which has now planned a whole summer of festivities, including tours and pageants With a major exhibition at the Tolbooth Art Centre until 18 Jul.
King’s champion and collector in Glasgow, Barclay Lennie, IS showing a selection of work until 31 Aug, while Glasgow School of Art hosts a comprehensive collection between 27 Jul-3 Sep. Each venue will show some different works, with the Tolbooth exhibiting some previously unknown ceramics. King completists should ensure they make the journey south. (Moira Jeffrey)
on by Jessie M. King
3 Edinburgh Projects
Edinburgh: Collective Gallery until Sat 24 Jul start
The bland title of this three-tier exhibition suggests the unveiling of annual reports rather than aesthetic interventions. As indeed does Studies by the six-strong Virus group, who — via graphology, surveillance video and text — attempt to re-invent systems of meastJrement and space.
Nebula, another six-strong group, appear to have come from — or are at least intent on exploring — outer space. Rhona Wilson's Cluster places tiny Airfix figures either side of a papier- mache globe. Steven Duval’s Ai puts three white-painted ghetto-blasters side by side: static oozes from one, as if awaiting a Signal from unchartered lands. Karen Loughrige's Countdown is a pen and ink, happy families depiction of technology as commerce that seems to suggest the future starts there.
Lyn Lowenstein's The Hairpin Drop-In Centre is a fabulous mock-up of civic- minded advice centres-cum- classrooms. Here one can learn the Homophobic Alphabet: C is for Carpet- Muncher, K is for Kit-Kat Shuffler, and so on. A wry polemic is set up that both challenges Section 28 and attempts to re-appropriate anti- homosexual 'offensive' language back into the fold, thus rendering its intent as impotent. (Neil Cooper)
8-22 Jul 1999 "IS “31'65