Marta Sienkiewicz

Joanna Kessel: Aurum/Gold Le Roi Fou, Edinburgh

Visual Art: Giles Sutherland

Joanna Kessel: Aurum / Gold
Le Roi Fou
Forth Street


Le Roi Fou is no ordinary restaurant. The proprietor, Isolde Nash, is a multi-talented individual with a background in art and contemporary dance – the restaurant is one of many projects to which she has brought her considerable talents and experience. The décor here is tasteful, but minimal, with great attention given to wall colours, textures, seating and lighting. She talks of the ‘golden embrace’ on entering the space on a cold, foggy winter’s day.

Nash has instigated a number of partnerships with artists in the venue and the current collaboration involves Jo Kessel, an accomplished RCA-trained artist, based in Edinburgh, whose work has covered different media, including paper-works. Since 2010, when she received a Creative Development award from SAC, she has worked for some of the time in Venice and Ravenna in Emilia-Romagna, developing her experience in mosaic.

 Le Roi Fou seems an idea venue for Kessel’s complex, abstracted mosaic collage constructions. The entrance from the street is made of polished terrazzo (itself a modern interpretation of mosaic techniques) and so paves the way, literally, for what is to be found over the threshold.

Both Ravenna and Venice are well-renowned for their remarkable architectural legacy with Ravenna (a UNESCO world heritage city) boasting a number of historic buildings where the use of mosaic, in particular, is highly significant. Mosaic is a broad term but, at its most basic, it involves embedding coloured objects (usually cubic fragments of glass, or tesserae) into an amalgam, in order to create patterned or representational effects.  Because of the position of both cities on the western Adriatic, they became important points on the trade routes from the Byzantine empire, where the technique was widely practiced from the 5th to the 15th  centuries. Its use was widespread in early Christian basilicas, and was often defined by the integration of gold leaf in the tesserae.

Kessels’s preferred form of construction is a Jesmonite mould into which are embedded tesserae fragments. They hint at details and remembrances gleaned from walking the back streets, as well as some of the grander architecture, of these Italian cities. They are a form of anamnesis, and some are named in homage to the great recorder of walking and observing, Italo Calvino.

Kessel cites artists such as Antoni Gaudí and Eduardo Paolozzi as major influences – she was studying in London at the time Paolozzi’s Tottenham Court tube station mosaics were being installed. But these works, which scintillate, (not garishly, but quietly and seductively) in the quiet light of the northern winter, bring great comfort and nourishment to the soul.

Paul Neagu

James Morrison at The Scottish Gallery

Visual Art: Giles Sutherland

James Morrison

From Angus to the Artic

The Scottish Gallery

Until February 1


It difficult to fault the work of painter James Morrison, either aesthetically or technically.  Even on the evidence of the some of his earlier work, dating back to the mid-60s, there is an assuredness and a conviction that demonstrates an artist in full command of his considerable gifts, and with a clear idea of what he wants to say and do.

Morrison, who was born in 1932, taught for many years as Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art in Dundee and influenced generations of younger artists. He is clearly regarded with affection and great respect by one of them, Phillip Braham, himself a painter of some note, whose work is clearly indebted to the older artist.  Braham has contributed an insightful and moving essay to the exhibition catalogue, and in considering one of Morrison’s more atypical works, Gentle River (2000), Braham writes “…it reveals something of the man who painted it and for whom painting flowed like the very river depicted here, gently but emphatically.”

Morrison nearly always works en plein air, which means that he is in direct physical contact with what he paints – the weather, light and general sense of place, all play a part in the construction of the works. This is as true for work painted in various parts of the arctic, as for parts of Angus, such as Strathmore and around the Montrose basin. Morrison shares this approach with a number of artists, not least the Impressionists who made the practice popular, but others, nearer to home, such as Joan Eardley, with whom his work has some affinity.   It would be remiss not to mention the work of James McIntosh Patrick in this context, given that artist’s love of the same part of the country – as well as his meticulousness and technical skills – all of which he shares with Morrison.

Although many of Morrison’s landscapes are ‘edited’ by removing, say,  pylons or telephone poles the essential truth of the landscape, rooted in deep and contemplative observation, is always to the fore. Species of trees are recognisable, as are buildings, and of course, locations.

Morrison is also a Romantic painter, given the moods in which he finds the skies and clouds that tend to proportionately dominate many his works; but then he is just as capable of focussing on a hedgerow, or clumps of trees, or the ploughed earth right in front of him.

This is Morrison’s twenty-fifth show with the Scottish Gallery and it’s easy to see why his work finds such an appreciative audience.

Rose Frain

Robert McDowell

David Harding