Police horses, burning bushes and a funny man feature in Absolut Open at lnverleith House. New art from Scotland is clearly no dull affair. Words: Susanna Beaumont
Three men stand motionless as they watch a small bush burn. As the fire spits on, the men continue frozen in their poses. The scene could be described as a modern 3“ day take on the burning bush of Old Testament fame. Here, ' however, the line-up of onlookers consists of po-faced artists rather than a trio of latter-day miracle watchers. And what’s more, the artists, in a nod to retro chic, are collectively titled The Cocktail Party. It sounds a touch bizarre, particularly when you hear that the collective were planning to ignite a bush for real in Edinburgh’s Botanic Garden while serving cheese and pineapple on sticks and a platter of cocktail sausages. This has understandably been disallowed and The Cocktail Party are now just showing their bush- burning video as part of Absolut Open at lnverleith House.
The exhibition features 28 artists selected from 364 submissions and is the first show open to all artists based in Scotland in nearly ten years. Selected by artist Callum Innes, art lecturer Jim Birrell and the visual arts director at the Scottish Arts Council, Susan Daniel-McElroy, Absolut Open is sure to be seen as providing a state-of-play reading of Scotland’s contemporary art scene.
Some of the 28 artists are established names in Scotland and beyond. Louise Hopkins is currently showing her painted furnishing fabrics in London, Henry Kondracki is represented by the London gallery Flowers East, and Ross Birrell has been in a number of shows over the last few years. But alongside these known names are so-called emerging artists. One is Stephen Sutcliffe, who is based in Dundee. A graduate of Duncan Of Jordanstone art college, Sutcliffe welcomes the chance to get his work out to a wider public.
‘We need more opportunities in Scotland,’ he believes. ‘lt is important that new and emerging artists get seen by a wider audience and the Open offers this opportunity.’ Sutcliffe - who is on the committee of the Dundee go-ahead arts organisation
92 'I'IIE LIST I8 Nov-2 Dec 1999
'I am interested in people who are obsessed with their appearances.’ Stephen Sutcliffe
Funny man: Kenneth Williams impersonated by actor David Benson in a work by
Generator — moved to Scotland from Yorkshire because of its reputation as a healthy environment for artists.
Sutcliffe’s work in the show is titled Think No Evil: My Life With Kenneth Williams. An homage to the man with a strangulated voice and ﬂuid face who spoke lines of bawdy innuendo in countless Carry On films, it consists of eight passport-size photographs of the actor David Benson impersonating Williams as part of his hit one-man stage show. ‘I am interested in people who are obsessed with their appearances. Williams, together with Peter Sellars, found it difficult to stop acting when they left the stage. It was hard for the real Williams to stand up,’ says Sutcliffe, who admits to being a touch obsessive about both actors.
Sutcliffe or one of the other artists could be the recipient of £4000 prize money and a commission to create a work for the Absolut International Art Collection, where the winning artist would join the likes of Andy Warhol, Keith Haring and Ed Ruscha. That could hardly count as bad company.
Absolut Open is at lnverleith House. Royal Botanic Gardens. Edinburgh, Sun 21 Nov-Sun 9 Jan.
News and views from the world of art
SO IS DESIGN having a funny turn and suffering end-of-millennium tedium like the rest of us? Not surprising, with all the current talk of an 805 revival and the return of the shoulder pad - it's enough to dent any decade’s confidence. But will the last major show of Glasgow 1999 at the Lighthouse ease the situation? Identity Crisis: The 905 Defined features such horrors as Tamagotchis and virtual girl Lara Croft. Perhaps we should move swiftly on.
WILL TRACEY EMIN finally get around to making her bed if she wins this year's Turner Prize? She might even splash out and put a wash on and clear out a few ashtrays. Emin’s installation My Bed has undoubtedly won the media- friendly prize this year. but the other shortlisted artists - Steve McQueen. Steven Pippin and Jane and Louise Wilson - could still sneak past her. Watch the announcement live on Tue 30 Nov on Channel 4 at 8pm.
A SERIES OF discussions are being held by Visual Arts Projects in Glasgow. On Wed 24 Nov, Christine Borland - who is showing new work at Dundee Contemporary Arts (see feature, page 18) - is joining Lisa Schwartz, lecturer in philosophy of medicine at the University of Glasgow and Sally Macintyre, director of the Medical Research Council to discuss Anonymity's Struggle In Art And Science. Further discussions are to be held with other speakers on 1 and 8 Dec. For details call Visual Arts Projects on 0141 552 6563.
NEW MEDIA SCOTLAND, an agency facilitating artists, filmmakers, musicians and writers to create new work using digital technology, invites proposals for a number of commissions. Ten digital art commissions will entail the selected artist working within an arts organisation in Scotland. They include Street Level in Glasgow, Inverness's art.tm and Stills in Edinburgh. Proposals are to submitted by 30 Nov. For further details contact New Media Scotland at PO Box 25065, Glasgow G1 5YP or on 0141 564 3010.
A pet just for the 905: Tamagotchis make an appearance in Identity Crisis