Up, up and away
Scotland's artists have long made their mark on the international art scene. Now they are becoming a force to be reckoned with on the art prize circuit. Words: Susanna Beaumont
The ICA press office was quick off the mark. The shortlist for Beck’s Futures, a new art prize collaboration between London’s ICA and Beck’s Bier, had just been announced. Yet more importantly, the press office enthused, it included six Scotland- based artists. Surely The List would be interested, delighted even?
Of course. Here’s further evidence of what has been dubbed the ‘Scottish phenomenon’ or the ‘tartan renaissance’, as it is sometimes rather tweely called. Scotland’s contemporary artists are a force to be reckoned with, and clearly Roderick Buchanan, Chad McCail, Lucy McKenzie, David Shrigley, Cathy Wilkes and Martin Boyce, the six artists on the ten-long Beck’s Futures shortlist are part of the country’s vibrant art scene.
One of the shortlisted artists, the Glasgow-based Martin Boyce, cuts the hype and shows little surprise at the strong Scottish element. ‘The shortlist is just representative of the high proportion of really interesting artists working in Scotland,’ he says making no mention of a ‘renaissance’ or an indigenous plaid. Boyce, however, admits that the Scotland-strong shortlist may cause ripples in London. ‘I don’t think there was an attempt to select works on a geographical basis but it is quite a fresh line-up instead of the usual line-up of artists,’
78 THE LIST 16—30 Mar 2000
‘The shortlist is just representative of the high proportion of really interesting artists working in Scotland.’
Looking to the beyond: Martin Boyce contemplates the future
he says. After the London~centric 90$, typified by the rise of the predominately London-based, yBa or young British artist, the spotlight is finally broadening its focus.
Yet Boyce whose work explores issues surrounding design and aesthetics and who exhibited last autumn at Edinburgh’s Fruitmarket Gallery is no out-and-out supporter of the art award system. ‘It’s a hell of a way to make a living,’ he says. ‘A moment of glory maybe, but you are up against your peers and it’s not something you relish.’ Beck’s Futures, to be announced on 18 April, will award £20,000 to one artist and a further four prizes of £5,000.
When asked why Scotland is home to a strong contingent of contemporary artists, Boyce believes there is no simple explanation. Glasgow School of Art has long been hailed as a powerful force but Boyce believes it is people rather than places that make things happen. One significant event was Windfall in 1991, a group show held in Glasgow. Though it took place nearly a decade ago, Boyce feels it engendered a ‘can-do spirit’ in Glasgow. ‘The art scene here is not one big happy family but people are open to talking to each other,’ he says. ‘Wmdfall happened at a time when lots of artists were working in Glasgow, but who felt there was no one particularly interesting above us. Damien Hirst had done his Freeze exhibition and like that, it opened
doors.’ Boyce who, along with McCail, McKenzie and
Shrigley and another five Scotland-based artists, is showing at the forthcoming British Art Show in Edinburgh, believes that complacency should be avoided. It is time to celebrate Scotland’s artists but, as Boyce puts it, ‘we can’t loose the spirit.’
Beck’s Futures is at the ICA, London Fri 17 Mar-Mon 17 Apr. It tours to CCA, Glasgow in the autumn.
The British Art Show Sat 8 Apr-Sun 4 Jun is
at seven Edinburgh art galleries. An essential
guide to The British Art Show 5 will appear in
the next issue of The List.
News and views from the world of art
SARAH LUCAS is an honest sort of woman. In her solo show which has just opened at London’s Sadie Coles Gallery, Lucas is shown in a photograph wearing a T-shirt inscribed with the words 'Selfish in bed'. Clearly Lucas is not one to beat around the boudoir with her pillow talk. Moreover the T-shirt could equally be inscribed with ‘No smoking'. For Lucas had famously given up puffing and her show is filled with objects from Hoovers to life-jackets covered with Marlboro Light cigarettes. A novel variation of art therapy. Unfortunately Lucas’s self-help therapy has apparently failed. Word is that Lucas is back on the fags. Lucas, however, has a good line in T-shirts. She has also appeared in such a garment imprinted with two fried eggs. We wait to see what she'll be wearing in a series of self-portraits to be shown at Edinburgh's Talbot Rice Gallery as part of the British Art Show 5 which opens on 8 April.
SCOTLAND’S ARTISTS are certainly going places — witness the recent announcement of the Beck’s Futures shortlist (see panel, left). But are they considering the possibility of global domination? Next month sees the opening of If I Ruled The World at the CCA at the McLellan Galleries in Glasgow. Artists Claire Barclay. Martin Boyce, Roderick Buchanan, Ross Sinclair, Bryndis Snabjornsdottir, Simon Starling, Rose Thomas and Clara Ursitti are all showing new work united by a common interest in utopia. We look forward to the take-over.
A VARIATION perhaps on utopia is atopia. Founded in 1998 by Gavin Morrison in Edinburgh and Fraser Stables then based in Toronto, Atopia aims to create cultural links which engage in politics and metaphysics of place. And they have now released a second atopia journal themed 'place/non-place’. The brief to contributing artists was to respond to 'interstitial' places such as airports. Intrigued? Call atopia Scotland on 0131 555 6099 for further explanation.
But end: Sarah Lucas's Where Does It All End