Dreadlocked and naked save for a loincloth, McDermid's portraits of sadhus show


Glasgow: Street Level until Sat 10 Jun "haw-a:

Andrew McDermid makes no bones about it. When he first travelled to India back in 1992 he fell hook, line and sinker for the country: the colours, the landscape, the freneticism. And he is not unusual. We westerners have long been enthralled by the East and frequently return home with an ’ethnic' touch to our dress, filled with talk of the extraordinariness of it all. And McDermid was mindful of this. The Glasgow photographer was not out to exoticise what he photographed and this he admits was a challenge. For McDermid’s eye was caught by, in particular, the sadhus, the Hindu holy men of India.

Dreadlocked and naked save for a cotton loincloth, these men have renounced all worldly possessions and taken up a solitary life of meditation and yoga in order to obtain spiritual enlightenment. In short, they are a world away from us consumer-mongers who find enlightenment by reading the latest high-gloss style magazine.

Here in an exhibition of photographs titled Adesh meaning ’you have my permission' in Hindi, McDermid shows a series of portraits of sadhus. And to the western eye, these men epitomise the mysterious and mystical exoticism of the

an alternative way of life

east. Yet McDermid, who spent months with a number of sadhus getting to know them, has clearly managed to go beyond just snapping these men. He has revealed a sense of character. McDermid shows these men alone in the landscape. In one portrait, the sadhu, Om Paryad Giri sits on a rock in the midst of the River Ganges. The water rushes and gushes around him. His head is held high and his right hand is held up into the air. It is a portrait of both man and nature.

In another series of portraits, Aghori Nath is shown preparing for the ling kriah assan: one of the ultimate feats in yoga involving the lifting a block of stone by leashing it to the penis. Aghori Nath who has bright eyes and a somewhat cheeky grin, is clearly a man who knows his own strength but you can’t help but wince when you see the stone hanging from between his legs. It is a case of mind over member. Yet there is no sensationalism in McDermid’s photographs, more a deep reverence for these men.

One portrait shows Babaji in his garden. A sadhu who McDermid became particularly close to and to whom the exhibition is dedicated, he is shown peering from behind a flowering shrub. It’s a touching portrait of someone who exudes an extraordinary sense of being at ease with life. (Susanna Beaumont)

Leslie Somerville

Edinburgh: Mounted Gallery until Thu 18 May a a:

Lunar landscape or diseased organ? Somerville’s paintings disarm

A room upstairs at The Stand Comedy Club may seem an unlikely home for one of Edinburgh’s newest art spaces, but as the gallery stages its fourth exhibition, it is proving to be a worthy addition to the city’s art map. Set up by an artist-led collective of Edinburgh College Of Art graduates, the group transformed the former storage room into an art space, with the aim of providing a platform for

up-and-coming Scotland-based artists. The gallery's current exhibition showcases the work of Leslie Somerville. After completing a BA (Hons) at Edinburgh College Of Art, Somerville went on to study in Barcelona. In this, his second solo show in Edinburgh, he shows a series of black and white monochromatic oil on canvas paintings. Exploring surface and form, the paintings appear three-dimensional rather like magnified photographs found in a biology text book, but on closer inspection, the brushstrokes and flat surfaces are revealed. The images metamorphose, depending on your viewing position, into lunar landscapes, a close-up of the ’pimples' on a golf ball, tiny air sacks of the lung or a cross- section of a brain. And there is something quite unsettling about this. The grey, black and white tones are reminiscent of diseased organs. Somerville employs optical illusion to tease the viewer into feeling ill-at-ease. Are we looking at a diseased body or something less sinister? (Helen Monaghan)

reviews ART

Designs Of Desire

Edinburgh: National Gallery until Sun lBMn**** Trust the sensual-loving French. Back in the 18th century, they had the Menus Plaisirs, a state department devoted to the promotion of amusement and pleasure. Admittedly it was for the likes of Louis XV and his courtly mates, but nonetheless, it speaks volumes about the French and their belief in the pleasure principle. This interesting morsel of information accompanies an engraving depicting the elaborate celebrations to mark the birth in 1751 of the Duc de Bourgogne. It is one of hundreds of architectural and ornament prints and drawings dating from 1500 to 1850

brought together in this exhibition. And it's a feast. These were clearly the days

A fine des res: Design For The Palace Of A King 0r Great Man by Corvinus

way before it was decreed that form should follow function.

There is Giovanni Battista Lenardi’s design for the back of a papal coach: all curlicues and chubby cherubs. Or the engraving by the German artist, Corvinus, who was clearly keen to cast his net wide for a patron. It is titled Design For The Palace OfA King Or Great Man. Elsewhere hang designs for egg cups through to

firework displays.

But there are more reflective moments. There is a drawing by the great designer, the Kirkcaldy-born Robert Adam of his monument to the philosopher, David Hume. A sturdy, no-nonsense memorial which today stills stands in Edinburgh’s Old Calton Burial Ground, it has stood the test of time. One doubts if many of

the other wonderfully fancy designs ever came to fruition. (Susanna Beaumont)

The Royal Scottish Academy Annual Exhibition

Edinburgh: The Royal Scottish Academy until Sun 9 Jul at: a

The RSA’s I74th annual exhibition is a robust affair. Hundreds of paintings line the walls and the sculpture gallery is fairly heaving with installations. The trouble is visual indigestion. There are works by known names Paolozzi, Craigie Aitchison and Wilhelmina Barns-Graham - and numerous other works that give fawning nods to past artists.

Modigliani and de Chirico are a popular influence and a host of artists


Standing out from the crowd: Craigie Aitchison’s Crucifixion

have painted gentle views of Italian towns. There is also a fondness for desolate landscapes populated by lonely looking individuals. As is usually the way With these overload shows, you have to work hard at removing the chaff from the


A more consistent level of creative vigour is found in the gallery given over to ' architecture. Here Scotland's Sutherland Hussey, Richard Murphy, RMJM and others show drawings and models of recent projects. It is clear that the nation is confidently kicking its heels when it comes to architecture. (Susanna Beaumont)

Mask 33 - Victoria Halford

Glas ow: Bulkhead, 24-HourViewing Win ow until Sat 3 Jun ark

Bit of a creepy picture this one: a huge, blurred black and white print suspended in the empty white space of Bulkhead's shop window. It is an image of a head, possibly female, tossing from side to side. It could be someone asleep in the middle of a particularly bad nightmare. Or perhaps a still from a slightly dubious film involving occult practices, The Wicker Man perhaps or a movie about involuntary impregnation, The Demon Seed?

Or then it could be a still from a particularly dreary post-industrial video featuring an 805 Manchester band.

Tossing and turning: a bad dream at Bulkhead

The ideas this image implies torture, control or demonic possession —- seem a little passe or maybe just too depressing for spring. For cult miserabilists only.

(Moira Jeffrey)

11—25 May 2000 THE “ST 87