RSA 191st Annual Exhibition

Publication: The Times    
April 2017

Royal Scottish Academy
191st Annual Exhibition 

As part of a recently revised format the RSA invites one of its members to convene – or curate – aspects of its showcase annual exhibition. This year Marian Leven has taken on the task, so as well as assembling and choosing members’ work, invited artists, including Marie Foley, Catherine Ross, Mateusz Fahrenholz, Amy Gear, Chris Drury and Emma Stibbon, also take part.

Although there is no set theme for these curated shows, the character and nature of the convener usually manifests itself in the choice of artist. Leven is an accomplished painter whose character and sensibility is deeply attuned to the nuances of light and mood found on the Scottish coast. She has travelled the long road from representation to abstraction. A series of works here, ‘Lewis Suite’ and ‘Haars and Smirrs’ confirm her as an artist at the top of her game, constantly evolving and refining her response to atmosphere and place.

Julie Brook, who has, in the past, made work on the Scottish seaboard has travelled to the Libyan desert. Here she has manipulated the landforms and light to create bold yet nuanced work from volcanic geology, sand, rock and shadow which is shown via a series of large scale colour digital prints.

Glen Onwin, has worked previously on what he terms ‘the recovery of dissolved substances’. There’s a variation of this here in a series of large scale works, which are strangely undefinable. Their essence is dissolved pigment that has been left to evaporate. The results are a hybrid of natural processes and human intervention. A pair, viewed from a distance, echo the desert landscape of Brook’s work.

Keiko Mukaide works with glass and its myriad possibilities. Here Mukaide explores the way glass and light interconnect. Circle of Halo, and other works, use dichroic glass which is able to reflect and refract different colours simultaneously.

Geoff Uglow is a young artist who transforms oil paint into a sculptural medium. His thick shiny oils are quick, vibrant and hover at the edges of abstraction, but also retain some kind of foothold in reality.

This show is largely restrained and contemplative; although largely lacking in social or political comment (Paul Duke’s photography is a notable exception) it reflects well on some aspects of contemporary art practice in Scotland and the UK.