76 The List its May 1905
Wired and inspired
The Scottish Academy was founded in 1826 to unite artists and promote Scottish art. This year’s show will be number 169. Robin Baillie reviews the work and considers how representative of the Scottish art scene it really is.
The Salon lives on! The Doric temple of the Royal Scottish Academy on the Mound in Edinburgh is enacting its yearly ritual of celebrating accomplishment in the line arts. The visitor is invited to enter iii the spirit of duty and responsibility more trsually associated with the democratic procedures of the ballot box. Art in the context ofthese open exhibitions is framed as both sacred rite and civic duty. We are invited to cast our eyes over a rich crop of rtearly 400 works — a mix of works submitted by Academicians and those chosen by selection panel from over l00 submitted works. Most pieces are for sale artd prices range front £85 to £47000. Contemporary Scottish art stands before tts. Let the people (and their wallets) decide.
The first exhibit captures this mood perfectly. David Mach's commanding Likeness Guaranteed is a wire coat-hanger portrait bust of Richard Jobson (ex-Skids frontman and media personality). and carries a hefty price tag. This gargantuan head stands 8ft high on its classical pedestal: it has just the right mix of hollow bombast and mock heroism to match its sitter's 'personality and its crafty choice of material. Sadly Mach. as this year's invited artist. sweeps the ﬂoor with nearly all that follows. llis obvious assurance
This gargantuan head stands 8ft high on its classical pedestal and has just the right mix of hollow bombast and mock heroism.
and bravado speaks volumes amid much work that does not transcend its stylistic boundaries.
Despite this caveat. in such a huge show there are obviously many works — most by mature and respected artists r— that are of such vigorous quality as to redeem the quantity all around. The show is organised into eight rooms — painting. sculpture and architecture. The sculpture section holds most interest with its sparky combination of age and youth. George Wyllie of cotrrse. has both. llis As Good as (lo/d piece features a pair of football boots sprayed gold. their laces erect in allusion to the god Mercury. Whether this is a comment on the commercialisation of football or the divine status of footballing heroes like Cantona. it still adds tip to typical Wyllie surrealism. As does his Blake '3' Bike. an aluminium bicycle frame tailed with another pair of wings attached to a large rock. It stands on grocers‘ lawn and is surrounded by a tiny
.uooru1 I m
Yours for £47,000. David Mach’s coathanger bust of Richard Jobson wrought-iron fence. It represents a whimsical montrment to the Utopian artist and poet. delivered in typical Wyllie style. Two young prizewinners in the sculpture section. Marion Smith and Anne Bevan. both show works
entitled Stack. Bevan contruets an architectural form
with ceramic brick layers. whereas Smith's is in the Rachel Whiter'ead mould — a pile of sacks cast in plaster. Both works stress gravity and balanced form in their construction. as does the Tatlin-esque tower of Babel — Palace Of Dreams — by Craig Ellis.
Jake Harvey and Bill Scott provide the weight in
‘ this section. Harvey's planished steel reliefs adorn
the wall like blackened breastplates cast from the features of the earth they represent. Bill Scott's Five Small Monuments are wooden totems with a grace and concentrated intensity reminiscent of (iiacomctti‘s spindly figures. Their distressed trunks end in complex peaks of rewarding intricacy.
A tidal wave of paint heralds the main body of the exhibition artd the rooms that follow heave with the crash of its wave. Room l is dominated by the newest Fellow of the R.S.A — Adrian Wiszniewski — with a strong. ﬂowing and pared-down work. One Man Between Two 'I'rees and l-‘our Bra/relies. The decorative swirls of his earlier work have been replaced by a folky directness that produces real dramatic tension in place of self-conscious display.
' With this work. Wiszniewski enters the halls ofthe
elect in style.
In the same room John Houston's incandescent blue field. Summer Sea. Evening. reveals brushwork used expressively to build a huge vault of sea and sky which transcends and remains true to place at the same time.
Elizabeth Blackadder‘s experience ofJapan has obviously been inspirational. ln Still Life. (,‘lzerrv Burk. a mustard table-top lies against a slate grey/purple background and presents chopsticks. a butterﬂy and scenic miniatures among other delights. These items deploy tts in a cultural landscape as enticing as that experienced by Blackadder herself.
This is a deﬁnitive work in a show laden with still
As expected. Frances Convery. Jack Knox and William Baillie all provide strong work. Bill the mass tends to outweigh the inspired among the less well- known contributors. The themes of landscape. fantasy and abstraction are all well represented. as are portraits and the art of boxes. The overriding
j impression is of vivid colour (verging on the garish
as a result of works being htrng very closely together). What emerges is a bias towards the stylistic innovation of previous generations and a
. distinct absence of anything new and conceptual
from Glasgow. ()ne concession to the post-modern may be Chris Kelly‘s prizewinning painting Bride and Groom.
i incorporating mass-produced bathroom marbling.
superimposed by ‘male' artd ‘female' cast plastic
fittings. Very Marcel Duchamp. but nevertheless a
welcome departure from the drawing-room sensibilities which predominate in this vast show. Like all open exhibitions. it is all a matter ol'give
r and take: first-class work hangs next to mediocre. ironic beside iconic. and success ladles otrt failure to
much that surrounds it. Above all the presence of a distinctly Scottish community of artists is keenly felt and with that comes the recognition of both the limitations and the benefits of such homogeneity. The Royal Seotlis/t Aeadenrv Annual Show. lidinlmrg/i until 8 July. Admission £1.50 (75/) r'otu'essirms).
Craig Ellis’s Iatlin-esque tower of Babel: Palace 0' "Rams