Generation

July 2014

Publication: The Times

Generation 
National Galleries of Scotland
Edinburgh
 
The aptly named Generation ¾ an ambitious series of exhibitions at sixty venues from Stromness to Kirkcudbright ¾celebrates the work of over 100 artists in Scotland who have come to prominence in the past 25 years.
 
Among the artists to be found at this ‘flagship’ group show are host of international names including winners and nominees of the Turner Prize such as Martin Boyce, Christine Borland, David Shrigley, Douglas Gordon and Ross Sinclair. 
 
Here, if you wish, it’s possible to watch Gordon’s ‘24 Hour Psycho’ in its entirety. The work won Gordon the Turner in 1996 and consists of Hitchcock’s 1960 film slowed down to around 2 frames per second. The work introduced Gordon to an international audience as well as establishing many of the themes for which he became known in his later work, such as repetition, appropriation, time and memory.
 
Gordon trained at Glasgow School of Art and was the first in a string of graduates from the Environmental Art course who went on to establish highly successful careers. The course was devised and taught by David Harding and Sam Ainsley and stemmed from Harding’s highly successful career as the first Town Artist in Glenrothes in the late 60s and early 70s. One of the central tenets of this progressive teaching was that the lives of artists ¾ their family, town and culture ¾ were all valid material for art.
 
Roddy Buchanan’s work is directly linked to his own community. His large scale photographic installations explore the religious and cultural links with football.  He has also looked at the cultural values of flute bands on either side of the religious divide in west central Scotland. Buchanan’s technique is patient and meticulous. By gaining trust and respect, through dialogue, rather than relying solely on observation, he has been able to make a large group portrait of Greengairs Thistle Flute Band, near Airdrie.  There’s no irony here and no metaphor, which is why the art work is so successful.
 
Painting is particularly well represented by Julie Roberts, Callum Innes, Alison Watt, Victoria Morton, Toby Paterson, Richard Wright and the late Steven Campbell. Campbell’s large ensemble of acrylic paintings, ink drawings, music and bench seating, On Form and Fiction, was first show at Glasgow’s Third Eye Centre in 1990, where it’s impact was significant, confirming Campbell’s justified international reputation. Campbell’s dreamlike, figurative narratives derive as much from the history of performance art as they do from painting, although these are often set in what is a recognisably Scottish landscape.
David Shrigley’s suite of woodcut prints and installation of over-scaled ceramic boots will please followers of this quirky, whimsical artist. 
 
Christine Borland’s work  has had a long-held fascination with medical science. Borland invited a number of sculptors to make traditional clay busts of  Josef Mengele, the physician notorious for his experiments on the inmates of Aucshwitz. Borland supplied the artists with the same blurred photographic images and descriptive texts of Mengele, from which they fashioned their likenesses.  The results, although disparate, have some chilling similarities. Chief among these is Mengele’s rather handsome open features, apparently at odds with his heinous crimes.
 
 
Taken together, this grouping, rich in ideas across diverse media, shows how the Scottish art world presented a significant challenge to the hegemony of larger centres in Berlin and London.