Galleries - July 2018

With a geographical location not at all unlike St Ives – surrounded by the sea on three sides – the luminous sea light of the East Fife fishing village of Pittenweem has long proved a haven for artists. Nothing on the scale of St Ives perhaps but significant nonetheless and, over the last 35 years or more, a resident core of some 30 or so practising professional artists and associated galleries have steadily built the annual Pittenweem Arts Festival (in August) into a major celebration of the visual arts out of all proportion to location size, and quite unlike anything else I have encountered. That 30 has grown now to some 120 artists and makers who come from all over Britain to exhibit in houses, studios, galleries and public spaces throughout the town. But in recent years it has expanded its remit way beyond an, albeit hugely expanded, open studios scheme into something altogether more ambitious with an invitation to three major Scottish artists to exhibit within it, together with a bursary award to a young Scottish graduate. To give a measure of the level they are working at, this year’s invited artists are the senior figure and environmental artist Glen Onwin, a professor at Edinburgh College of Art, with his drawn explorations of a salt marsh near Dunbar and the basic substance of salt; the remarkable wildlife artist Derek Robertson, who now draws parallels between his studies of birds’ migratory patterns and that of human migration and climate change; and the distinguished ceramicist Lucy Dunce whose current work explores the “elemental and transformative powers of light and fire.” Add to that bursary winner Sophia Pauley’s stunning 3D paintings exploring the natural and urban environment – space and place – on her doorstep, and you have a superbly thoughtful and imaginative piece of curation. The great quantum physicist Niels Bohr signalled the huge metaphysical shift that has occurred in contemporary thinking about the world we live in when he observed that we are, in truth, part of the nature that we seek to describe. And that goes for artists (of all kinds) quite as much as scientists – they/we can, no longer, stand god-like, observing nature from the outside when our very ways of knowing and being in the world are ethically bound up in the way we act and interact within it. All this by way of drawing attention to a really strikingly well conceived exhibition, entitled 'Seen/Unseen' at Long & Ryle, in which artist Melanie Miller, as well as herself has brought together four other really excellent women landscape painters – Louise McClary, Juliette Losq, Anna Gardiner, Sue Williams A’Court and distinguished ‘nature’ poet Alice Oswald. All would perhaps resist the words ‘nature’ and ‘landscape’ – but as the work is variously about the sensory, the poetic, a sense of loss, the relation of man made to nature, these words inevitably become touchstones for the contemporary human condition, in short the state we are in. By way of a nicely pointed contrast, an art born out of a time – essentially the early 1960s – and a modernist way of thinking that runs completely counter to all of the above, is the computer generated art that emerged from the early adoption by a small group of artists of the punched card or paper tape by which algorithms would then be fed into a computer. These would produce lines which could be made visible on an oscilloscope or screen which could, in turn, send output to a plotter and then transcribed on to paper. 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the legendary ICA show ‘Cybernetic Serendipity’ and Mayor Gallery, astutely, are celebrating it with a show of three of its major exponents, Brazilian Waldemar Cordeiro, American Robert Mallary and Hungarian Vera Molnar (the last two were in the ICA show). Coming out of the same modernist, constructivist project R OUND-UP 14 GALLERIES JULY 2018 S ea light Seeing nature Cyber art