Society of Scottish Artists 119th Annual Exhibition

Publication: The Times. 
November 2016

Society of Scottish Artists 119th Annual Exhibition


AFTER one hundred-and-nineteen years, the SSA shows no sign of straying from is founding principle – to represent the more ‘adventurous spirits’ in contemporary art. Indeed, the society seems to go from strength to strength.

 Apart from the quality of the submissions, curation is what makes or breaks a large and diverse show, such as this. There’s no doubt that this year’s team have put together a pared-down selection, following the well-worn notion that ‘less is more’.  In all, around 140 artists and artists’ groups are represented. And although the society have less gallery space the show does not suffer. Indeed, it may have improved. Where possible, work in each of the five voluminous galleries here has been grouped thematically or by medium. The largest, gallery II, contains large wall-mounted works and interventions such as Juliana Capes’ installation, Diaspora Paradiso, made from scores of umbrella’s that burst from the wall and dangle from the light fittings.  Capes make sculpture from everyday objects; here she plays on the superstitions surrounding umbrellas being opened indoors. Nearby, a large wooden construction, suggestive of shelter and refuge, contains ambient sound recorded along the Crinan canal – the work is by artists Nicole Heidtke and Stefan Baumberger.   In the same gallery, two large monochrome works, Wild Awake and Miles, by Ade Adesina, currently artist-in-residence at Eton College, presents a dystopian vision of a future world – desiccated and dominated by menacing tree-like structures that serve as mini cities and oil platforms.  Adesina is Nigerian, and the link between fossil fuels and environmental destruction in his own country is not difficult to make. Another eye-catching work, by Korean Jihoon Son, is an installation made from printed watercolour drawing collages and cardboard cut outs. Son combines human and vegetal forms in lurid and disconcerting combination. There are quieter works, which nevertheless speak eloquently and with depth. Among these are Jana Emburey’s ink-on-paper studies, Summoned and Travellers, which, although abstracted, address concerns around over-population and environmental degradation. SSA Vice President, Sharon Quigley, has a trio of small, oil-based works, Dreaming of Sleeping (1-3) which fuse the microscopic, micro-biological world with the psychological. David Faithfull’s fecund imagination is given ample expression in an artist’s book, elaborate wall-paper and a series of images made directly on the walls, that celebrate his vision of an Alchemical Aviary. Circumventing some of the more clichéd approaches to time-based art, Su Grierson has collaborated with performer Brigid McCarthy, to create a video installation which celebrates the natural environment. Bettina Hutschek has created a film, based on dynamic audio and still photographs, which like, others explores a dystopic fantasy future. The chilling narrative involves a female inmate in secure facility who is dosed with radio-active substances to allow her access to the ‘life beyond’.  The society has continued with its laudable policy of encouraging the work of emerging artists by showing the work of graduates from Scotland’s five art colleges. This year’s selection, which includes Thomas Stephenson from Dundee, Kate Livingstone from Edinburgh and Rachel Horsburgh from Moray, demonstrates a healthy creativity. Diversity, clarity and energy are the key-words here. Long may they remain so.