Galleries - August 2016

REMAIN CONNECTED Like most people, I have a fluctuating love/hate relationship with my home town. I was however, proud to see the Scottish capital lead the whole nation to remain in the recent EU referendum. The Edinburgh International Festival grew out of the aftermath of the last War when all the disastrous divisions in Europe had reduced much of it to a pile of bombed-out rubble. In response EIF was founded on the ideal that the arts can bring people together to create and celebrate the best things in artistic achievement. It has held to that mission ever since and has attracted thousands of performers, artists and millions of visitors from all over the globe. When the EIF began, modernism was widely regarded in Britain as an alien phenomenon – as witnessed for instance in 1949 by PRA Arthur Munnings’ notorious xenophobic attack on Picasso et al. Yet over the subsequent decades, through the mounting of numerous EIF exhibitions, the great modern masters and their achievements have become appreciated by vast numbers of art lovers. This mission continues with two of the Scottish National Galleries ’ exhibitions – ‘Inspiring Impressionism’ and ‘Surreal Encounters’. The first has over a 100 works by Daubigny – ‘The Father of Impressionism’, Monet – ‘The Most Famous Impressionist’ and van Gogh – ‘The Legendary Post-Impressionist’ telling the complex story of the first modern art movement through a combination of fascinating juxtapositions and mutual influences. By the time Surrealism emerged in the 1920s, modernism had become truly international. ‘Surreal Encounters ’ focuses on outstanding works by the likes of Magritte, Miro and Dali from four legendary private collections in order to present a fuller and richer picture of the surrealist movement as a whole. The Surrealists were fascinated by the psychology of self-identity. There is nothing new in that, as artists have always been obsessed by their own appearance as demonstrated by the Scottish National Portrait Gallery’s historical survey ‘Facing the World: Rembrandt to Ai Weiwei . From an international cast of artists this exhibition shows how self-portraiture, in a range of different mediums, has been used to create a wide variety of intriguing and compelling approaches to this particular artistic obsession. EIF internationalism has always been a two way affair with artists from abroad showing alongside their Scottish counterparts. This can be seen in the international/ national attractions at some of the other Edinburgh galleries. For instance there is the world renowned Mexican artist Damián Ortega at The Fruitmarket Gallery . There he is showing sculpture, mainly in unfired raw clay, in the form of everyday objects – both ‘primitive’ and ‘sophisticated’ – as though they had been excavated from an archaeological site. This sets up a rich visual and tactile material dialogue between the natural and the man-made. The Scottish artist Barbara Rae has certainly travelled the globe much more than most, and in her Open Eye Gallery semi- retrospective exhibition ‘Return Journey’ many of the works come from her extensive travels. Another great Scottish art ‘mistress’ Elizabeth Blackadder, is having her own semi- retrospective exhibition ‘Decades’ at The Scottish Gallery . On show are rarely seen European landscapes produced during the 1950/60s from continental travels, along with her more familiar botanical paintings which have such an absorbing oriental lyricism to them. There are, as always, several other excellent shows on here this month, notably Michael Lloyd's exquisite natural history inspired gold and silver pieces, Paul Scott's powerful, politically motivated 'takes' using Spode 18th century 'blue and white' china as his starting point and, of course, a great group of classic Scottish Colourist paintings – Cadell, Peploe et al. As this year’s EIF demonstrates yet again, art builds bridges not barriers. Bill Hare 8 GALLERIES SCOTLAND AUGUST 2016 rt Scotland