Publication: The Times
The Society of Scottish Artists operates what is, in effect, the essence of true democracy. As an exhibiting society, with a show-case annual open exhibition, the society invites contributions from professional and non-professional members alike. Office bearers and council are by no means guaranteed selection, while the work of students and recent graduates is placed alongside that of long-standing professional members - as well as invited international artists.
So its comes as no surprise this year to find the work of students in Scottish art schools - Libby Amphlet, Daniela Justiniano, Anna Geerdes, Pia Mannikkö, James Kail, Lyndsay Gauld and Paul MacDonald - alongside that of stalwarts Lys Hansen, David Faithfull, Reinhard Behrens, Philip Reeves, Miriam Vickers, Diana Zwibach and June Carey.
The work of invited Québécoiseprintmaker Marianne Chevalier is especially welcome. Chevalier’s bold and disconcerting silkscreen prints contain imagery that depicts a strange netherworld of zoomorphic forms garnered both from reality and the deeper recesses of the imagination.
Katy Thomson, from Edinburgh College of Art, has also created an elaborate internalised environment which assumes physical form in her installation, The Battle. Here toy soldiers go to war against a nightmarish assembly of plants and objets trouvés; it’s good to see that the spirit of Fluxus, Joseph Beuys and Arte Povera still permeates the teaching in the capital’s art school.
Not all works are impressive because of their large scale or complexity - as in Thomson’s case. There are smaller, quieter, more delicate pieces, easy to miss in the visually complex and demanding environment of a group show of this scale – for the SSA this year shares the RSA galleries with the The Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolour (RSW)and Visual Arts Scotland (VAS).
Susie Wilson’s miniature book of prints, ‘Hidden Inside’ is full of fragile and subtle imaginings whereas Jennifer Bruce’s ‘Chennai’, in the same medium, presents the ‘diary’ of an imaginary ‘lapdancer’: “Tonight the club was packed…about midnight a group of seven guys…they were the usual lot….I knew what to expect…”. Bruce’s work is all the more effective because of the dissonance between the medium and its content.
Christopher Wood has acted as an effective and affable SSA President for the past year; his work as a visual artist here is also impressive as he combines materials such as plywood, canvas and paint in abstracted compositions which hint at narrative.
It would be possible to write in complementary and constructive terms about the vast majority of work in this show. If there’s any forum which can be said to represent the current state of the visual arts in Scotland, it is here; on this basis, our artists continue to flourish and our institutio