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2 April 2012

Adventures in Edinburgh!

Greetings from Edinburgh! Well, sort of, I'm not actually writing this in Edinburgh, but its not been long since I got back to sunny Somerset. That's right, this time I've travelled all the way to Edinburgh to report back just some of the many cultural highlights on offer (lucky you!). From Wednesday 28th to Saturday 31st, I made it my mission to see as much art, hilltops, bagpipes and whisky as humanly possible. Now, without further ado and without trying to sound too much like I'm writing for a Scottish Tourism blog, here we go...

                                          (above) Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
Edinburgh's answer to the Tate Modern, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art of which the building itself couldn't be more different than the Tate's Bankside power station. However, the inside is equally and unsurprisingly as modern. It is a much smaller gallery than the Tate, but comparisons aside its quality not quantity that counts. Currently showing is until the 24th of June is 'The Sculpture Show', and whilst I'm stubbornly adamant that I am NOT a sculptor, I'm increasingly finding the work that is most influencing my predominantly 2D practise is sculptural. But what is sculpture anyway? That is one of the questions which this exhibition seems to challenge and if David Shrigley's sculpture of a sheet of paper (in the exhibition) is anything to go by, then it really is questioning the distinction and similarities between the 2D picture plane in art and the assumption that all sculpture has to be 3D. Although if, unlike me, you find it difficult to get excited about a sheet of paper that isn't really paper then maybe a giant super realist sculpture of a new born baby by Ron Mueck should definitely ignite your interest, if not a feeling of 'woah!'. What I particularly enjoyed was the amount of work by contemporary artists such as Jim Lambie and Karla Black instead of just the Jacob Epsteins, Picasso's and Henry Moores that are more familiar in sculpture exhibitions. Although the 'sculpture' that I will be taking away as being the most resonant for me personally, was ironically more 2D. On the second floor there were around six mirror paintings of mechanical car parts and engines (silk screened onto mirrors) by Michael Pistoletto. The Italian artist has been going since the 1960's, how could I have missed him until now?! Anyway, thought these particular works were amazing.         
Whilst this gallery only has two floors, just opposite a large green area (dotted with, you guessed it, more sculptures) is the sister gallery, making it Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art: One and Two.                         
(above) Julian Opie. One of the many sculptures inbetween the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art     one and two.
                                                     (above) The Collective Gallery
An artist run organisation established in 1984, The Collective Gallery! Currently featuring an exhibition of work from Sun Xun, Fiona Jardine and James Hutchinson.
"Sun Xun’s ephemeral wall paintings and hand-drawn animations are erased after the duration of an exhibition or in the filming process, questioning the value of drawing and the art object, while James Hutchinson’s crates consider the implications of globalisation of works and movement of ideas and finally Fiona Jardine’s research project looks at how we hold and share knowledge." -taken from
Firstly, this is a great space and location right in the centre of the city and not far from the tourist honey pot that is the 'Royal Mile' (see I told you this was going to sound 'touristy'). It is a very small space, and reminds me of the shop front 'pop-up' galleries that you see in cities and during the Liverpool Biennial, but for me this time the exhibition didn't get me particularly excited being of the conceptual kind where you have to read a page of writing to gain any understanding of the work. That is a bit harsh, and doesn't so much apply to Sun Xun's wall paintings but at the point in the day when I came to this gallery I think I was just about too arted-out to have to read anymore. It does, however, raise an interesting debate for me and I think one that many artists are aware of, which is, how much writing is too much or too little in contextualising a piece of work? Unless the work is writing..but that's a whole different thing altogether.
                                              (above) Scottish Parliament building
This post was never going to be all about art galleries. Not when you have remarkable and dare I say, 'odd' buildings like this one in amongst what had otherwise been very classical, spires and chimney topped buildings along with cobbled streets. This building is just so many shapes! You can tell the architect must have had fun designing it!

                                     (above) International Newsagents on The Royal Mile
What's black and white and red all over? This cool looking newsagents. I did warn you things might get a bit weird, but I feel it is my duty as a visual person to point out these wonderful looking places, that are art without even trying. Plus this could be a handy bit of info if you ever needed to buy a foreign newspaper whilst in Edinburgh.
                                         (above) The Fringe Shop on the Royal Mile
                                      A great looking shop front for what is also a great festival.
                                                  (above) The Camera Obscura Tower
This was my first experience of a camera obscura and was a fantastic way to get to know the city. Essentially, for those of you who may not know, a camera obscura is a bit like a bigger version of a periscope in which you can view a 360 degrees view projected upside down inside the top room of what is usually a tower. What is exciting from an art perspective (pun intended) is the possibilities and ways the camera obscura could be used to create art. Low and behold, when I arrive home from Edinburgh to find my A-N magazine waiting for me, what do I see? An artist using a camera obscura! Namely Zoe Leonard at the Camden Arts Centre. Had I previously not experienced a camera obscura this would have probably escaped my interest. If I'm in London before the 24th of June I'll check it out!

(above) Scottish National Gallery
And finally! This post began with an art gallery so it will end with one as well. Although actually not the Scottish Gallery as above, but the Royal Scottish Academy which is the building opposite the National pictured here. In particular, the New Contemporaries exhibition on at the moment, or also known as the RSA:NC. In the same way that the 'Bloomberg New Contemporaries', Liverpool features the work from new graduates and emerging artists the RSA:NC is the Scottish version with graduates in Fine Art and Architecture. This was without question the best exhibition I saw during my trip and it is unfortunate I couldn't take photos because I would want you to see the work. In a nutshell, 62 artists with a variety of art styles made up of installation, sculpture, photography, painting, mixed media, architecture, illustration and potatoes! It was just so refreshing, a few names of artists that I enjoyed if you want to take the time to search them up online; Claire McDonald, Manuela De Laborde, Claire Flatley, Andre Mason, Jonathon Cottrell, Eva Ullrich, Heather Pugh and Abigail Benouaich.

There really was so much to see in only three days, I haven't yet even mentioned the 'Fruit Market' gallery, but I'm thinking of saving that until next week when I can review the current exhibition by Anna Barriball more thoroughly. Or if you cannot wait until then please click on the link If you want to know about all the equally amazing but arguably more tourist-type stuff like Edinburgh Castle, zoo and views out over on Calton Hill then I'll have to start writing a travel blog!

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