REVIEW PHOTOGRAPHY, ILLUSTRATION & MEMORABILIA PAUL & NUSCH ELUARD & SURREALISM Dean Gallery, Edinburgh, until Sun 27 Sep ●●●●●
All the boys loved Nusch, the hypnotist’s assistant whose skinny frame and fiery demeanour mesmerised every art star in town. It was poet and painter Paul Eluard, though, who made Maria Benz – muse to the sex-obsessed surrealists – his wife in 1934. This small, but packed to overflowing, one-room exhibition of publications, photographs and other detritus culled from the Roland Penrose collection charts the affair between these lovers and other friends such as Picasso, Max Ernst and Man Ray. Over ten display cases, we whizz through the early
years in cluttered disarray, through masterly collaborations, the Spanish Civil War, and above all the poetry, all laid bare in assorted editions and publications, themselves evocative of such an experimental age. At the centrepiece of all this activity and all this unfettered outpouring of work, though, is Nusch. Look, there’s Nusch, all string-bean limbs, captured lean and naked. And look, there she is again, smiling
and devoted as she gazes back at her betrothed in a Man Ray snap. And see, there’s Nusch some more, looking blissful and radiant. There’s a postcard of a portrait of Nusch by Picasso, a photograph of a portrait of Nusch by Picasso, and so on.
With that randy old bull around, it’s a wonder Eluard
even got a look in. When he does, though, there’s a near sentimental and somewhat surprising sweetness to such affection that makes the entire archive seem like one big box of mementoes and memories tripping over each other in a confined space. Seen like this too, each intimate little moment fuses with the work in a way that’s energised by its compressed, selected state, an unruly tumble of art and life. Best of all, there’s a book of Eluard’s open at an English translation of his poem, ‘Lady Love’. In its hopelessly devoted simplicity, in retrospect it becomes a slow-burning elegy to a woman who died unexpectedly aged only 40. Nusch was Eluard’s inspiration. The flights of fancy stopped after she’d gone. In this little room, though, Eluard, Nusch and all the rest are still tangled up in each other’s mess. Which is how it should be. (Neil Cooper)
REVIEW ETCHINGS & PRINTS FIONA WATSON: THE SPACE BETWEEN Glasgow Print Studio, until Sat 1 Aug ●●●●●
The printing workshop and gallery at Glasgow Print Studio (GPS) is currently closed due to relocation to Trongate 103. Every month its retail outlet across the road, Gallery III, invites a workshop member to show a selection of work. This month Fiona Watson exhibits a small selection of monochromatic etchings and colourful digital prints. With a background in biological
sciences, Watson studied printmaking at GPS and the technique of etching copper and steel plates with acids turned out to be the perfect blend between science and art. Watson recognises studying biology as the main visual influence on her work, describing it as ‘an invaluable system of observation and interpretation’. Today she works full time as a printmaker; working in small scale, her style is delicate and her everyday subject matter meticulously rendered. A particularly beautiful set is
‘Travelling Light’ and ‘Glasgow Flight’, two blue tinted etchings of birds in flight. Reminiscent of old photographs, they portray flocks of birds circling a brooding Glasgow sky. ‘Menagerie’ is a colourful digital work and its edition of 40 prints is being sold to raise funds for GPS’s new home. Trongate 103 will be a cluster of artists’ facilities, education opportunities, and exhibition spaces, which will be housed over six stories occupying almost an entire city block between Trongate, King Street and Parnie Street. The new complex opens to the public in September this year. (Talitha Kotzé)
REVIEW PAINTINGS THE CONVERSATION PIECE: SCENES OF FASHIONABLE LIFE The Queen’s Gallery, Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh, until Sun 20 Sep ●●●●●
‘One or two paintings in this exhibition may be satirical; the majority . . . celebrate the prosperity, elegance and pleasure of fashionable life in Holland and England.’
Leaving aside the £5.50 entrance fee to cop a glimpse of a des-res infrequently occupied by a pensioner who costs the taxpayer even more than a Westminster MP’s expenses claims, one can’t help but wonder whose conversation this fetishisation of high-rollers who moved and shook between the reigns of Charles 1 and Queen Victoria actually is. With so many pictures side-by-side, this understandably well-turned-out affair
becomes a period equivalent of a society spread in ghastly toffs rag, Tatler. In the best of these, such as ‘The Tribune of the Office’ and ‘The Academicians of the Royal Academy’, both by Dutch lick-spittle Johan Zoffany, a rogue’s gallery of fops, dandies, royalty major and minor, the finest minds of their generation, periwigged preeners, coteries of courtesans, debs, celebs and assorted hangers-on, are all caught either in repose or striking a pose, hanging-out, gassing, schmoozing, ligging and no doubt trying in vain to get the well-heeled leg over as one was wont to do.
Best of all is the way in which other paintings hang on the walls above the gathered saloneers like must-have pin-up status symbols to impress the guests. As a document of high living, it all looks like a terribly marvellous party, but I guess, as is the way of these things, you had to be there. (Neil Cooper)
88 THE LIST 23 Jul–6 Aug 2009