Publication: The Sunday Herald
Ruth Vollmer – Drawings and Sculpture
Inverleith House, Edinburgh
Paul Webster Thompson – Caithness and Other Places
Park Gallery, Falkirk
At the entrance to Inverleith House are a number of small three-dimensional wire forms based on triangles and pentagons. Dip these into an adjacent basin of water and soap solution and watch as the liquid film fills the spaces in the forms, creating exquisite shapes and patterns.
These ‘sculptures’ are deliberately enticing and create a way into the complex and paradoxically simple work of the artist Ruth Vollmer (they are copies of a number of sculptures found elsewhere in the building). Vollmer was born in Germany in 1903 and settled in New York in the mid-thirties with her Jewish husband, a victim of Nazi persecution. Her career was not that of the conventional artist; she had no formal training and did not have her first solo show until 1960, at the Betty Parsons Gallery in New York.
Fascinated by the natural sciences, mathematics, music and art, Vollmer’s intellectual eclecticism coalesced in an extraordinary body of sculpture and drawing. Her work can be described less as a sacred geometry and as more of an aesthetic exploration of mainly Euclidean principles. Vollmer was clearly influenced by the theories of D’Arcy Wentworth Thomson whose pioneering work ‘On Growth and Form’, published in 1917, explored the mathematics which underpinned natural form.
Vollmer adopts such theories and gives them a physical manifestation - as the artist Sol LeWitt commented: “The ideas are illustrations of geometric formulae; they are found ideas not invented and not changed.”
In works such as ‘Blue shell’ or ‘Screw’, both from 1973, Vollmer exults in the beauty of numbers and the mysterious, unfathomable processes which result in such forms in nature; their transparency and delicacy are a hymn to nature and a celebration of the miracle of mathematics.
Paul Webster Thompson is undoubtedly an artist of some depth and talent and this show of sculpture, video, computer-based multimedia art, painting and photography demonstrates both the range and depth of his practice.
Thompson is drawn to peripheral places such as Caithness, Lewis and the western seaboard of Scotland which he then transforms into the centre of his artistic exploration. Although diverse, these works are for the most part interlinked. A work such as ‘Gazette’ finds its way into a multimedia sequence and a number other paintings demonstrate their genesis as photographs and drawings. Some of the most interesting works, such as ‘Rockpool’, combine digital imagery with paint to create an intriguing cross-over of media.