September 2000

Publication: The Times

In the first part of a reciprocal exchange involving the visual arts, a group of Edinburgh-based artists are currently exhibiting in the Polish city of Wroclaw.  The aptly name 'Dialogue' brings together the work of eight sculptors and painters - seven of them currently teachers at Edinburgh College of Art.  Selected from around thirty artists by the  director of the 'Awangarda' gallery, Wojciech Stefanik, the show aims to give a flavour of some of the diverse currents in Scottish art.

A number of the works have a strong and often unexpected relationship with the physical space they occupy.  Anne Bevan's installation is a case in point.  Combining elements from a previous show which explored the history of Edinburgh's water supply - in this case a video of the tunnels under the reservoirs which supply the city - Bevan has added a number of other aspects.  Located in Awangarda's wonderfully damp-smelling and atmospheric cellar, she has covered one of the floors with an uneven layer of salt sprinkled with metallic droplets.  Such a large expanse of pure white makes an immediate visual impact but also alludes to water and sea.  In time, the salt will absorb the damp from the walls and atmosphere, subtly changing the nature of the work as it does so.

Gordon Brennan sculptures bear a strong relationship to architectural and mechanical features, but they are not copies of these forms.  They are, rather, responses to disparate visual stimuli, often shapes seen on a building site or industrialised landscapes.  The cast concrete sculptures are formed from moulds and the processes of their manufacture are also a part of their appeal.  Set out underneath  the gallery's vaulted arches the consonance of form between sculpture and architecture is inescapable.

John Brown's drawings are busily full of eclectic elements and derive from an  enthusiastic engagement with the world.  Brown's energetic sketching captures the omniana of everyday life  (newspapers, bric-a-brac) and transforms is into something more permanent and poetic.  John Mooney's work is at once absorbing and humorous.  His painting refers to the act of depiction itself, calling attention to the nature of artifice and the pictorial conventions used and accepted by the artist.  He does this by representing various objects - heads, palettes, obelisks and other phallic forms - in a patterned grid.  These objects are then represented as if from behind and are revealed as no more than props (like the facades of wild west towns on a movie set). 

Mike Docherty and Colin Lawson share a common language in abstraction, but whereas Docherty's paintings are a response  to actual journeys, Lawson's concentrated works are essays in mood and feeling.  Donald Urquhart, who trained at ECA, has also absorbed a degree of the painterly ethos shared by  some of the artists here.  His work, which refers in part to the natural history and landscape of 'peripheral' places such as Iceland and the Hebrides, is very much about the business of painting.  He will take, for example, an existing ornithological text and by painting the words themselves give them a permanence and status which transforms their meaning.



BWA Awangarda

ul. Wita Stwosza 32


00 48 71 3441056

Until Oct 15

A touring exhibition of photographs by Robin Gillanders of  Ian Hamilton Finlay's garden, 'Little Sparta,' opens at BWA Awangarda, Wroclaw on Sept 28


Published in The Times, Around the Galleries, 02-09-00