Talbot Rice, Edinburgh, Sat 17 Jan-Sat 21 Feb
Closed spaces and isolation are recurring themes in Janice McNab’s work. In 1988 she began a series of photorealist style paintings which depicted victims of organo-phosphate poisoning. In 2002, the Greenock Factory Project, which was shown at the Tramway in Glasgow, brought to light the reproductive defects and deaths among workers exposed to the chemical used in the manufacture of microchips. In her new paintings, now devoid of people, McNab has taken a step back, exploring these themes from a greater distance.
‘l’ve taken a broader range of subject matter but I’m looking at the same issues which I believe are an interesting social anxiety,’ says McNab.
For her forthcoming show at Talbot Rice, the Amsterdam-based artist presents us with paintings of abandoned aeroplane chairs
developed from photographs she took in a film props warehouse. Some of the chairs are stacked up or shown singularly. Seeing them in isolation or out of context, it takes a couple of minutes for their meaning
to ﬁlter through.
‘The chairs are obviously motifs of modernity, freedom and travel,’ says McNab. ‘It’s the essential modern dream; you can go anywhere in the world in an aeroplane and modernity will be there to meet you at the other end but, post 9/11, that motif doesn’t work anymore.’
The exhibition also includes three stark paintings of ﬂotation tanks, each one titled after actual therapy rooms - river, mountain and meadow. These initially represent symbols of escape. Floating weightlessly and effortlesst in a confined space, so the therapists tell us, offers respite from the stresses of daily life and mental fatigue. But for McNab, her initial research
uncovered some interesting facts.
TRAVELS WITH EDWARD LEAR: WATERCOLOURS FROM THE RUNCIMAN COLLECTION
National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, Fri 9 Jan-Sun 21 Mar
‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves/ Did gyre and gimble in the wade/ All mimsy were the borogoves/ And the mome raths outgrabe.‘ Such genius nonsense is what Edward Lear is best known for. His jabberwocky with jaws that bite and claws that catch; the owl and the pussy cat out at sea in their beautiful pea green boat: the Jubjub bird and frumious Bandersnatch — surreal, crazy soundworlds. dreamed up with a mind free to wander into weird and wonderful lands.
His eye for painting couldn't be more different. Clear, calm. focused — 32 watercolour sketches made on trips to Greece and further east reveal a whole new aspect of Lear. The paintings on display at the National Gallery comprise a recent bequest from the Sir Stephen Runciman estate — donated last year in lieu of Inheritance Tax.
They represent depictions of travels Lear made in the 18405 and 50s to the eastern Mediterranean where it IS
74 THE LIST 8—22 Jan 2004
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believed he was most happy. The man who wrote with such fire and verve. and painted with such patience and sensitivity suffered all his life from manic depression.
'Art was to a certain extent an escape and a liberation from that.‘ says Christopher Baker, head of prints and drawings at the National Gallery. 'But he was passionate about writing and depicting subjects that were important to him.‘
Most of the paintings would have been
Art editor Helen Monaghan predicts exciting times for Edinburgh’s art 39909 W? rear-
When I first met up with founding members Mary Trodden and Kirsty Whiten of the newly formed Edinburgh artists' co-operative Total Kunst, they had no funding. Yet. through sheer determination and hard work, they had managed to bring together a group of like- minded artists. secure a permanent gallery space housed in the new premises of the volunteer-run Forest Cafe and programme a series of
‘The tanks are interesting historically because as they were being developed as relaxation therapies in the 505, there was parallel research going on in which they were being used as ultimate torture weapons. If you put someone into those tanks while they are unconscious, they wake up thinking they have been buried alive. They can’t see, hear or feel anything, which causes the mind to completely break down in 36 to 48 hours.’
For McNab, this points to the implicit contract of trust between the user and the person outside, making them feel safe is an integral part of the experience. But what also concerns McNab is how we have to accept being sold a story. The tanks are housed in rooms named after nature, but they couldn’t be less natural.
‘There’s something about our complicity with things we know are not working or are not the case. That’s something that is an overriding interest for me.’
exhibitions for the fonhcoming months. Similar to existing artist-run organisations such as Glasgow's Emerged and Switchspace and Generator in Dundee. they emerged out of a desire to provide a much- needed support network for up- and-coming artists who are so frequently bypassed by the established galleries.
The inaugural exhibition at Total Kunst featured the work of Angus Hood and Jenny Stephens. which was followed up with a well- considered group show introducing members of the co-op to the public. Along with the exhibition programme. Total Kunst provides regular discussions and workshops. and other artists' groups are encouraged to propose ideas for the space.
And 2004 looks set to be a great year for Total Kunst. They recently received a grant of $8090 from the RIAS Millennium Awards scheme to fund a multifarious project. From February. the co-op will be presenting a new season of exhibitions and there are plans for a poster project in which 12 artists' poster designs will be distributed around Edinburgh. The Kunst Book is due for publication in March and will survey emergent an in the city. They are also compiling a slide/press archive of work by Scottish artists which will be based at the Forest Cafe for anyone to use. These are exciting times for Total Kunst and indeed for Edinburgh.
For more information abet/t Total Kunst see www. tota/kunst. com
Tank 1, river, 2003
Total Kunst at Forest
Suli by Edward Lear (1812-1888)
preparatory sketches for oils which Lear w0uld then produce back at home with many containing scribbled notes. They are. then. immediate and fresh impressions of an eccentric Englishman. travelling under Mediterranean light and warmth. battling with depression and for all anyone can see from the OUlSlde. winning. Scotland is lucky to receive this collection of paintings in possibly the best and most publicly beneficial tax- dodge invented yet. Bless the rich and their tax-evading ways. (Ruth Hedges)