Edinburgh Art Festival

Each year, from mid-summer to early fall, the arts converge in Scotland’s capital city.  The Edinburgh International Festival and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe are well-known venues for the performing arts.  The Edinburgh Festivals have expanded to include art forms such as film, jazz and blues, storytelling, and books.  The visual arts is no exception in having its own festival platform.  Taking place throughout August and the first week of September, the Edinburgh Art Festival is Scotland’s largest annual festival of visual art.  Daily Serving brings our readers some of its highlights.

The Edinburgh Art Festival annually commissions new works of art and partners with the local art community to provide a strong exhibitions program throughout the city.  The 2010 EAF presents commissions of new work by artists Martin Creed, Richard Wright and collaborative partners Kim Coleman and Jenny Hogarth.  Coleman and Hogarth’s Staged, which concluded August 15th, was produced by the Collective Gallery and situated at the City Observatory on Carlton Hill.  The artists turned the space into a multi-channel video installation described by the EAF Guide as both a ‘digital camera obscura’ and ‘a mise-en-scène’ for the city.  Capitalizing upon the theatrical emphasis of the Edinburgh Festivals, the artists included visitors in their work by projecting live CCTV footage along with pre-recorded filmic images of Edinburgh.

The 2010 EAF also commissioned intervention and performance works to take place throughout its run.  Among them is Ross Christie’s Mobile Art Market.  His environmentally friendly cycle-powered market stall travels around Edinburgh, offering up affordable prints, multiples, books and fanzines created by local artists.

Martin Creed: Down Over Up

The Fruitmarket Gallery presents new and recent work by 2001 Turner Prize winning British artist Martin Creed in Down Over UpDown Over Up – an evocative title – is inspired by the artist’s commission to refurbish the Scotsman Steps.  Creed notes the strong use of repetition in his work, which is for him a comfortable means of approaching our chaotic world and creating some semblance of regularity.  The exhibition’s strong thematic emphasis upon repetitive, incremental changes allows one to see differences where things might have otherwise appeared to be the same.

Down Over Up is centered upon the concept of ‘stacking and progression in size, height and tone’.  The exhibition features work where Creed has stacked or piled planks, chairs, tables, boxes, or legos.  The artist also uses paint and ink to explore the theme.  Creed’s new commission within the gallery transforms the central staircase into a synthesizer and is one of the conceptual highlights of the exhibition.  Ascending and descending the staircase causes notes on a scale to sound – making visitors’ movements through the gallery take on heightened participatory purpose as they both enact and complete the work

The Scotsman Steps Commission. Artist's impression of EAF commission for the Scotsman Steps, curated by the Fruitmarket Gallery and supported by the Scottish Government's Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund. Photo: Courtesy the Artist.

Down Over Up aptly references Creed’s permanent public work commission to refurbish Edinburgh’s Scotsman Steps.  The Steps, which take their name from the newspaper whose headquarters they were built to serve in 1904, are located by the Fruitmarket Gallery, connecting East Market Street and North Bridge in Edinburgh’s uniquely elevated Old Town.  The city seeks to give the Steps new life through the commission, as they have fallen out of favor due to disrepair and association with crime.  While the work has not been completed, Creed plans to resurface each step with contrasting marbles sourced from around the world.  The materials will not only infuse the Scotsman Steps with visual interest and a sense of permanence, but will also inject it with global character.

Martin Creed: Down Over Up will be on view at the Fruitmarket Gallery through 31 October 2010.

Richard Wright: The Stairwell Project

Richard Wright, The Stairwells Project, An EAF Commission in the Dean Gallery, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. Supported by the Scottish Government's Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund. Photo: Angela Catlin.

2009 Turner Prize winner Richard Wright presents Stairwell Project, a new permanent work at the Dean Gallery.  The Dean Gallery, a part of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art since the 1990s, was designed by Thomas Hamilton as the Dean Orphan Hospital in 1831.  The Gallery’s staircases are among the building’s most prominent features and provide an expansive, architecturally unique background for Wright’s work.  Known for his ephemeral, wall-based painting, Wright brings this character to the Dean Gallery’s western staircase – placing the tradition of stairwell painting within the modern art gallery and presenting it in a new way.

Wright hand-painted The Stairwell Project in a physically and mentally demanding process that took four weeks to complete.  Inspired by the honeysuckle design of the original ceiling moldings in the stairwell, Wright designed an organic, abstracted flower shape.  He chose to paint solely in black – a color which points to the building’s melancholic history.  The flower motif is repeated in varying ways several thousand times throughout the stairwell.  The organic nature of the shape notably has the effect of introducing curved lines to a space that is solidly geometric.  Yet, the shape’s simplicity and its neutral color do not overpower.  Instead, the carefully varied size, orientation and placement of each flower subtly emphasizes the stairwell’s architecture and the abundance of light let in by the large windows.

Hito Steyerl:  In Free Fall

Hito Steyerl, still from In Free Fall. Photo: Courtesy the Artist.

The Collective Gallery presents In Free Fall, featuring new and recent work by artist and theorist Hito Steyerl.  Berlin-based Steyerl works in visual essay or film essay similar to artists such as Ursula Biemann.  This nascent documentary-influenced approach features a montage of appropriated and new footage, interviews and voice-over narrative.  Unlike traditional media, film essays facilitate the analysis of global complexities.  Through the shared language of images and information, Steyerl closely examines the economic networks which define our existence.

In Free Fall – Steyerl’s first solo exhibition in Scotland – presents Journal No. 1 in addition to three related works that include After the Crash, Before the Crash and Crash (a new commission).   The Crash works address the global economic downturn by focusing on an airplane junkyard located in the visually bare California desert - revealing cycles of capitalism as seen through the evolution of commodity.  The airplane, which facilitates global mobility, is a recognizable symbol of globalization and reveals a larger story.  As the Collective asserts, these works present ‘an anatomy of crashes both fictional and real’, revealing ‘unexpected connections between economy, violence and spectacle’.

In Free Fall concludes at the Collective Gallery on 19 September.

Julie Roberts: Child

Julie Roberts, Staying Together (2010), oil on linen. Collection of Mr. Pontus Bonnier, Sweden. Courtesy of Andrehn-Schiptjenko, Stockholm.

University of Edinburgh’s Talbot Rice Gallery presents Julie Roberts: Child – featuring new work by the artist.  Julie Roberts, a painter based in England, is concerned with the means through which ‘our social experience is given shape’.  In the past, Roberts has often chosen to paint the overtly sinister, drawing her to crime scenes and medical instruments.  Child – a thematic departure – focuses on gender roles, domestic environments, familial portraiture, school rooms and domestic labor situated in mid-twentieth century Britain.  As with past work, her new subject matter is underpinned by extensive research.  This allows Roberts to accurately present an entirely different, decidedly austere approach to childhood in a time period complicated by a great displacement of children into orphanages and foster homes.

While Roberts focuses on historic approaches to childhood and the family network, there is no sentimentality involved.  In works such as Staying Together or Meat and Two Veg, Roberts makes once familiar family scenes and portraiture both strange and unrecognizable.  Carefully constructed, unnatural stiffness is tempered by realism.  At the same time, historic subject matter is stylized and set against characteristic patterned backgrounds and wallpaper.  Roberts’ both stylized and informed approach to her subject matter combine to highlight ways in which society has changed over time.

Julie Roberts: Child remains at the Talbot Rice Gallery through 25 September.


life.turns. Uploaded submission.

life.turns. a film made by thousands of people, one frame at a time, is part of the 2010 Edinburgh Art Festival.  Blipfoto, an online photo journal and social networking community, was commissioned by New Media Scotland‘s Alt-w Fund to create an animated film using thousands of photos uploaded by participants. People were invited to submit photographs posed in any of 8 specified stances that represent the progressive movements of walking.  Blipfoto then presented these still images in a rapid succession giving the illusion of thousands of people walking – working together to complete one another’s gait.  The resulting animated film revives the Victorian zoetrope in a new way for the digital world and presents a celebration of everyday life in all its diversity.

life.turns. was completed and presented at Inspace in Edinburgh on 26 August.  The film can be viewed online at Blipfoto.