If you’re in Edinburgh and you’re exhausted from seeing fringe shows, or need a break from having 5 flyers handed to you a minute, or even just looking for somewhere to escape the rain that doesn’t feature a questionable comedian, this run down of the best art exhibitions in town might just help.
Now in its 11th year, the Edinburgh Art Festival has exhibitions across the city, so you’re never more than 4 or 5 minutes walk away from one. These are just a few highlights:
Any review of the Ingleby Gallery has to start with the fact that the quality of its curation is phenomenal; works are given enough space to breathe without ever looking small, and its exhibitions flow rather than simply being depositories of separate unlinked pieces. This quality works to enhance the already thought provoking pieces of Scottish artist Katie Paterson, whose cross-medium, multi-disciplinary work is conceptually driven towards investigating ideas of nature and the cosmos. There are meteorites, moon fragments and a fossil necklaces amongst other works which expand your horizons, literally and metaphorically. Also, if you can, go before 1pm to find out where the daily performance of Paterson’s piece ‘100 Billion Suns’, a confetti gun which mimics an explosion of stars, will be, because it’s really something.
Set in what was potentially going to be the seat of the Scottish Assembly before the last referendum, Amar Kanwar’s ever changing work ‘Sovereign Forest’ fittingly raises questions about community, representation, and democracy. Staged as a court case, the work is in three parts: a video which acts as a witness statement, a library which represents documented evidence, and then an archive of primary source material; all of which comes together to produce a powerful case against the destruction of land in rural India.
If you find yourself on Easter Road, you’ll likely end up walking past a bright blue police box. That police box is actually an installation by artist and musician Yann Senzec called ‘Currents’. Constructed from discarded computer fans, ‘Currents’ uses real-time weather information to move air around visitors. You can go from standing in the tail end of an Edinburgh hurricane to a gentle breeze in Sai Mai with just one step.
Alice Finbow is attempting to exhaust a place. Inspired by Georges Perec’s 1974 novel ‘An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris’, Finbow spent a week documenting the goings-on in Easter Road’s Manna House Bakery on a single roll of paper the exact length of the cafe’s display wall. You can now see the fruits of her labour and enjoy some of the fruits, or rather cakes, that inspired it.
I’ve left this one until last as it’s the only EAF exhibition I’m recommending that has an entrance fee (£4.50 for students). But, for those of you wanting a more adventurous art excursion, take the bus out to Jupiter Artland. On a nice day, or just a passable day (let’s not be too hopeful), you can walk around their famed landscaped gardens and take in some art along the way. If it’s not quite so sunny, they have a lovely cafe you can dry off in whilst enjoying a well-deserved slice of cake. Inside there’s also a fascinating piece by Katie Paterson called Earth-Moon-Earth, some slightly unsettling decapitated figurines by Jessica Harrison, and cement popcorn courtesy of Mick Peter. To get to Jupiter Artland, you need to take the number 27 FirstGroup bus from Regent Road in the city centre or from Dalry Road, Haymarket to Coxydene/Jupiter Artland, which takes about 35 minutes. Alternatively, Edinburgh Art Festival are periodically running a bus from Charlotte Square directly to Jupiter Artland, the cost of which includes your entrance fee.
This self-admittedly “ambitious” project attempts to document 25 years of contemporary art in Scotland. Although its timing may make Generation a political as well as artistic statement, its guide subtly includes a foreword by an MSP, there is no denying that contemporary art is an internationally heralded part of Scotland’s national identity. Due to the sheer volume of great Scottish art, the exhibition is being held in over 60 venues across the country. The best bits of Generation in Edinburgh, for me, can be found in three sites across the city. The Scottish National Gallery (the smaller one at the front) has a small but high quality selection of work, including a piece by Christine Borland that adeptly deals with image, identity, and interpretation. The Fruitmarket Gallery has a showing of colourful and conceptual work by Jim Lambie such as ‘Zobop’, a piece which attempts to both fill and empty the space by covering the floor. Then finally, Modern One where the bulk of the work in Edinburgh can be found.
Currently showing at Modern Two, handily opposite Modern One, is American Impressionism: A New Vision, a show which traces the development of Impressionism in America in the 19th century. The show is divided into two main narrative strands. The first follows the American Impressionists who worked with and befriended Monet and Degas when working alongside them in France. This strand includes works by Cassatt, Singer Sargent and Whistler. The second narrative remains in America with ‘The Ten’, who were a group who focused on American subjects and then gradually adopted the colours and stroke quality of impressionism. The selection of paintings from both make for an exhibition which is culturally and historically fascinating as well as difficult not to find aesthetically pleasing.