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Are we are a nation obsessed with home ownership? In a show of photographs at Portfolio Gallery, four artists look at the domestic state we are in. Words: Susanna Beaumont
Blame it on Thatcher who initiated the selling off of council houses in the 1980s. Blame it on mortgage sharks; blame it on materialism or blame it on a plethora of home improvement programmes. Wherever you point the finger of accusation, Britain does seem to be intent on being a nation of home owners. And the conse- quence: a drop in rented accommodation and millions caught up with mortgage payments.
In a show entitled Residual Property at Portfolio Gallery, four artists — Tom Hunter, Jason Oddy, Mary Maclean and Elisa Sighicelli — look at the issues surrounding property and domestic space. Curated by Lesley Young as part of her Internship in Exhibition Organisation and Publishing at the gallery, Residual Properly aims to get us thinking. Did the 191h century French socialist Proudhon not once declare that ‘property is theft?’
For artist Mary Maclean, Britain does have a somewhat fraught connection with property. ‘It is a very keyed up relationship,’ believes Maclean. ‘So many of us have a mortgage hanging around our
72 THE LIST 2—16 Mar 2000
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'So many of us have a mortgage hanging around our necks and newspapers devote lots of space to the property market and house prices. In Europe it is very different, the rented sector is so much stronger.’ Mary Maclean
. «ma—tr. o Off the wall: Mary Maclean’s Elapse l
necks and the newspapers devote large amounts of space to the property market and house prices. in Europe it is very different; the rented sector is so much stronger.’
Maclean has photographed l-lowden House near Livingston. A late 18th century mansion, this is a house that once knew an affluent way of life. Today it lies redundant, owned by West Lothian Council and patrolled by 24-hour security guards. ‘lt is in an atrophicd state,’ mourns Maclean. ‘Once it was fairly grand. There are still the carved balustrades. doorknobs and mantelpieces but it is in gradual decay?
To record this decay, Maclean has photographed wallpaper peeling away to reveal the plaster beneath. And as could be expected in what was once a well— appointed household, it is not a case of peeling anaglypta. Here we are talking elegant Regency stripe wallpaper overlaid with sprigs of flowers. "l‘he work is making a comment on property ownership, the way that life is removed from a house and it enters a kind of limbo land,‘ she insists. In a way, Maclean is like an archaeologist, seeking out then recording evidence of the building's history, a time when it was inhabited and alive.
Maclean's work also touches on another pertinent issue: the number of redundant properties in Britain. A recent report claimed that if all the thousands of boarded-up properties from mansions to terraced houses were renovated, there would be little need for the numerous housing developments on green field sites or for families to be put up in guest houses. As Maclean points out. these abandoned properties are just boarded-up and left to decline.
Residual Property is at Portfolio Gallery, Edinburgh, Sat 4 Mar—Sun 9 Apr.
News and views from the world of
THE BRITISH ART Show is just around a couple of corners. Billed as ’the
biggest and most significant
exhibition of current British art mounted in the UK’, it kicks off in Edinburgh on 8 April before going on to tour three other cities. Over 50
' artists will be showing work and news is that David Hockney is now in
, the line-up. Other artists include Tracey Emin, Sarah Lucas, Glen
Brown and Scotland's Jim Lambie, Simon Starling, Chad McCail and Carol Rhodes. To mark the event The
f List, in association with The Audience Business, is producing a special colour guide on 30 March
with all you need to know about the
A TRIP OUT beyond the Central Belt
; is definitely in order to View The
Blue Chamber at Duff House, in Banff, Aberdeenshire. Curated by Ian Irving, artists in this group show include Claire Barclay, Ross Sinclair
and the American artist Jessica Stockholder. Described as an exhibition about 'the human condition: the need for search and research', it runs until 30 April. For details call 01261 818181. GLASGOW'S FLY GALLERY, an artist- run space established in 1997, is expanding its horizons. The gallery aims to support and promote innovative work from both emerging and established international artists and show the work in the gallery. All proposals are welcome. For further details call 0141 5501185 or email@example.com|serve.co.uk 292 IS A new contemporary art and visual culture journal published in Scotland and edited by Andrew Patrizio of Edinburgh College Of Art.
The first issue includes essays on new Scottish cinema and the Sensation exhibition on tour in Mayor Guiliani’s New York. Artists Chad McCail, Ian Hamilton Finlay and Rachel Lowe have also made contributions. The first issue is free. For further details call 0131 221 6140. Snoopy on the inside: David Musgrave's
Animal, a cross section of the cartoon
character soon to be seen in the British Art Show