Finding a way through the hype

One of the critical thinking tasks we were set at Art College was to write a review of an artwork that was the antithesis of what we liked.  It was a useful exercise because it forced us to look at the piece beyond personal taste and to focus instead on everything else: its context, the artist’s intent, the subject matter, the medium, the choice of materials, and so on.  

So it was in this frame of mind that I went to see the Keith Haring exhibition at Tate Liverpool, the first major UK showing of his work.  From the images I had seen, his work did not appeal to me in the slightest.  Something of my hesitancy on entering the exhibition must have shown; in an unsolicited comment, the gallery invigilator assured me that it wasn’t all to his taste but that the show had rightly received critical acclaim and he was sure I would come out the other end having found something positive.

UnknownUsually, I don’t read the Tate booklets until after I’ve seen an exhibition, wanting to experience the work without being influenced by someone else’s thinking.  But on this occasion it was more of a visual dictionary of the symbols that relentlessly appear in all Haring’s work, with quotes from him about why he uses them.  This was helpful because it gave some insight into their importance to him and why he used them so consistently throughout his short life.  

The Nuclear symbol, for example, came out of his experience of living through the 1962 Cuban Missile crisis and then in 1979 the USA’s worst nuclear reactor accident at Three Mile Island, which was not far from Haring’s hometown. Haring said: “Living under the threat of possible destruction in the form of nuclear war, etc., the most important thing to me is the present”.  

These notes went someway to contextualising the many facets of Haring’s activism, but it was the films of him working that finally gave me a way in to his art.  The performative element is what is missing in the paintings, which have been isolated from their context on the gallery walls.  In the films one sees the energy, the conviction and assuredness in all the mark-making, with the performance being an integral part of the outcome.  

In one film there is a superb dancer in the foreground, with Haring energetically painting away in the background, two performances almost choreographed but with Haring’s history of spontaneity, probably not.  In another film there is Grace Jones in 1987, on very high stilts wearing a ball-gown with a huge black and white skirt painted by Haring. Another film is typical of Jones’s bravado, showing Haring painting her near-naked body.

A lot of Haring’s output was shown in nightclubs and it is these that work best in this exhibition, where the Tate has recreated the context.  There is a prescient tribute to Gloria Vanderbilt, the American artist, author, actress, fashion designer, heiress, and socialite who died last month (June 2019).  It shows Haring dancing, laughing and kissing the lens until it is smeared with lipstick and his own image obscured.  In another club reconstruction, there is a room flooded with UV light and thumping 80’s soundtrack.  The UV effect took me back to my own disco days when the lights showed up every fleck of dust if you wore black and made your skin look tanned if you wore white.

At his peak, the streets and subways of New York were Haring’s canvases; his politically-charged art was everywhere, including in galleries.  I thought he would find it ironic for his work to be exhibited at somewhere as mainstream and prestigious as the Tate.  But it seems not.  Apparently he always wanted to make money and to be famous, very much enjoying being a gallery artist as well as being known on the street. 

But over and above all were the causes he sought to highlight through his art: equal rights, anti-racism, anti-nuclear and in his last years, against the prejudice surrounding HIV Aids, which led to his own death in 1990.   Sadly, these are all concerns that are relevant today and are still in need of such activism. 

The insistent sameness of Haring’s symbols was a stumbling block for me, seeming more like a brand or a logo than an artistic expression.  But in the end what came out of this exhibition was that the art itself couldn’t and shouldn’t be separated from the issues or its context. Coincidentally, this is one of the main aims of the Haring Foundation, which supports arts and educational institutions by funding exhibitions, educational programs, and publications that serve to contextualize and illuminate the artist’s work and philosophy.

 

Exploring the arts in Liverpool

Trying to keep up with all the cultural events in and around Merseyside is almost a full-time job; a dream of a job, one might say.  There are highs and lows culturally, as with anywhere, but the diversity and range of exhibitions and festivals means there is always something new to discover.  

One highlight was Liverpool’s free, one-night arts event, LightNight.  This is an international festival when over 100 venues and organisations all over the city collaborate to create a trail of events with talks, workshops, performance, live music and more that goes on well into the night.  Thankfully, the weather behaved itself and early on when the sun was out it was relaxing being able to amble about instead of hurrying along, head down, to get out of the cold.  One of my sisters was visiting and our first stop was the Bombed Out Church on Leece Street, where an array of food stalls had been set up.  The accompaniment to our snack was a heart-warming performance by the Liverpool Signing Choir, something we’d never seen before.  It was entrancing and such an affecting coming together of deaf and hearing children and adults, using two universal languages of signing and music.  

The Bombed Out Church appeals very much to my philosophy of allowing buildings and objects to reflect their history rather than “papering over the cracks”.  The website dedicated to this early 19th century church, St Luke’s, explains that it was gutted during WW2 bombing and the decision was taken not to restore it but to make it safe and keep it as a place for everyone, as it had always been.  Since 2007 it has been operating as a “managed ruin”, a multi-disciplinary arts venue with a programme of curated events, community engagement and creative learning projects.  

A request from a visiting friend to see the city’s Anglican cathedral meant that I finally stood in front of Tracey Emin’s pink neon light Emin in Cathedralinstallation, I Felt You And I Knew You Loved Me.  The location of the piece on the red sandstone wall above  the West doors gives it space and dignity and it makes an intriguing juxtaposition with the stained glass windows above.  It is an inspired response from the artist to the vast hall and an imaginative commission from the church.  Its appeal for me is that the wording is ambiguous, in that it could equally be referring to a human love as a god’s.

Antony Gormley’s, Another Place, continues to be a constant in my life with daily walks on Crosby Beach. And yet here too there is always something different to observe.  I don’t just mean the effects of the tide and weather on the figures but the way people interact with them.  This ranges from awe to irreverence to emulation.  A gallery in Crosby is selling small, cut-out rusty metal replicas of the figures and photographs of the casts are frequently used by local businesses in advertising.  One of the most amusing of these I saw recently was a removal company called “Another Place” … the slogan being “we’ll get you from one place to another”.

 

Beyoncé’s Library and Paddy’s Wigwam

Liverpool is proving to be an alluring destination for friends and family, so I’m pleased to say I’ve had a good number of visitors in the short time I’ve been here.  Sometimes they have specific things they want to see but usually they leave it up to me to give my newcomer’s tour.  This always takes in the city’s Central Library and the Metropolitan Cathedral, both of which are works of architectural art.  The response from my visitors is always the same as my own when I first walked into them – that of dumbstruck amazement, quickly followed by the words “colourful” and “joyful”.  

As the doors to the main 19th century Library building swish open, one is met with a vast, light-filled, oval central atrium extending several floors up to a roof terrace.  This spectacular design is the result of a makeover, only completed five years ago.  I love the quote from Frank Cottrell Boyce, which brilliantly sums up the transformation: “It’s like going to meet your Gran and finding she’s turned into Beyoncé”.  At a time when libraries all over the country are under threat, or have already closed, it is heart-warming to see such investment and vision of what a library can be.  On the first floor is the original 19th century Picton Reading Room, which was modelled on the British Museum’s.  This is also light-filled via an exquisite domed ceiling and there are wrought-iron spiral staircases around the room providing access to two more floors. It is the most inspiring and beautiful library I have ever been in.

Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral copy

Light from one of the stained glass windows floods the circular benches in the Metropolitan Cathedral (Click on image to enlarge)

Finding the Metropolitan Cathedral is not difficult but I did lose my bearings the other day and the man I asked for directions needed me to be specific given that, in the words of the late Pete McGovern’s song, Liverpool has a “Cathedral to spare” – one either end of the aptly-named Hope Street.  “Do you mean the wigwam?”  I did indeed; for this is the nickname locals have given the circular Cathedral with its external crown – Paddy’s Wigwam to give it the full, refreshingly irreverent title. It is adorned with the most extraordinary contemporary art, inside and out.  I was going to say ‘religious’ contemporary art but some of the works, especially the towering coloured glass columns outside the Cathedral, would easily transfer to a secular setting. They are by the late German artist, Raphael Seitz, who was recognised internationally as a master of colour and light.  So far I’ve only witnessed them come alive under the effect of Winter’s setting sun, so I’m looking forward to seeing them in the changing seasons.  Inside, the Cathedral manages to maintain a contemplative minimalism whilst also being embellished with a plethora of contemporary artefacts.  There’s so much art to talk about that I want to write more in the future – taking in the Anglican Cathedral’s collection at the same time; Tracey Emin’s neon installation, For You, being the latest piece.

 

Green Gormley

Gormley handLast October 2018, I relocated 250 miles South from Edinburgh to Crosby and so find myself with a sandy beach a 10-minute walk from my flat and Liverpool’s majestic city centre a short train ride away. My arrival here was just in time to catch the last weeks of the Biennial, which was an extraordinary introduction to the city’s arts venues.  Coming to a new place, it can be difficult to know how to begin to find what’s out there so the Biennial was akin to a crash-course, a master-class.  It’s almost embarrassing to admit that prior to my move here, I had never been to this part of England, but on the positive side that means I’m seeing everything with fresh eyes and loads of enthusiasm. The only thing I knew about Crosby was that it is the location of Antony Gormley’s installation “Another Place”.Gormley full figure  The 100 solid cast iron body-forms have been permanently located here since 2005, stretching several kilometres down the beach, all looking out to sea.  Originally all nearly identical – they are made from 17 body casts taken during a two-month period – each one has been transformed in a unique way by time and tide, with the green algae and barnacles playing a starring role.  Art that evolves in this way, that reflects transience, has been a long-held focus of my own art practice.  I’m interested in art that has a quality of impermanence, in which the passage of time is evident in the materials and Gormley’s installation exemplifies this.  One of my own examples is the ‘Prayer Flag’ I made and documented how the elements worked their magic on it.  (Images of this are in the Objects/Sculpture section of this website). The setting in which Gormley’s figures are located is of course also constantly changing – not just the ebb and flow of the tide but the light, the shifting sands, the huge container ships going in and out of Liverpool port, the ferries going to and from Ireland, all of these factors work visually on the sculptures so that, although secured on metre-deep concrete piles, their world is not static. And neither is their nakedness a constant – almost every day some have been dressed up so they are not exposed to the elements. Most recently their outfits were all to do with Christmas and prior to that quite a few of them were in yellow high-viz waistcoats, perhaps in support of the gilets jaunes movement, when it began in France.  Passing dogs also like to make their mark with the cock of a leg.  Well, Gormley did say he wanted the sculptures to engage with the daily life of the beach.  

 

 

Reflecting on an artwork

Solace & Sorrow | Muslin & PVA cast of found figure | Height 15 cm | 2018 | POA |

Click on image to enlarge

I don’t usually analyse my own work but the questions I’ve been asked about the symbolism of my muslin figures has prompted me to do so.  The original acrylic figure from which the muslin copies were made is in a protective pose, her arms wrapped around her knees, her head buried in her arms.  The acrylic is transparent and allows the light to pass through her.  I don’t know where the idea came from to make copies of her – probably it followed on from other things I’ve done with muslin.  But mostly it was a response to the ongoing distressing news of the violence done to girls and women all over the world.  Fabric is analogous to skin and none more so than delicate muslin.  I tore it into strips and glued these onto the acrylic figure with PVA.  In order to release this ‘mould’, I had to cut the muslin up the back.  Even then it was very difficult to prise off so that once I’d succeeded it hardly resembled a human shape at all.  But then I pressed it back onto the figure and removed it the next day when,  to my amazement, the muslin held its shape.  Quite intuitively I decided to stitch the back A Muslin Figure with Suturesopening the way a surgeon would repair a wound, with black sutures.  This I realise is clearly symbolic of the hurt done to women, of how many are broken and fractured by their situation.  And yet I don’t feel that I have made a victim.  At this stage I am now very connected to this fragile object I have made and my actions have moved from intuitive to intentional.  My intention is that the sutures are not shameful to her but to the people who inflict wounds on women and to a society that allows such things to happen.  I do not see her as burying her head in shame or despair but rather in a pose of self-contained sadness.  The muslin has quite ragged edges and is translucent in the light so one can see the criss-cross of the strips, like the fragments of a life lived.  She is small, fragile, hollow and light as a feather, as if she could float away to a less troubled place.  I have made ten of them so far, each one different to the last; each one unique, as in life.  They look stronger in a group, something I suppose we’ve always known, that there is strength in numbers.

 

 

 

Survivors of the Process – Exhibition

survivors_poster copyThe title for this exhibition comes from a quote I read years ago by the sculptor George Fullard – that there is no such thing as a finished artwork, only survivors of the process. This philosophy appeals to me and my co-exhibitors, who are two of my nephews – Jon Gould a designer/artist and Alex Gould a sculptor.  This will be the first time we have had such a family event and also my first show in Edinburgh. It is taking place at The Steel Shed, itself a survivor of the once thriving ship-building industry in Leith.  The work we will each be showing all has a figurative quality but we have approached the human form in very distinct ways.  My own process begins with the figure but then the materials take over, disrupting the surface so that the paintings appear provisional, as if entropy has begun.  This sense of impermanence is what interests me. Alex describes his work as an expression of masculinity that could be thought of as out-dated and unnecessary but which continues to grow in popularity, with its references to bodybuilding, turbos, engines, superheroes, decay and destruction.  Jon’s work ranges from interactive design to portraiture and animation, with a particular interest in personal identity in digital spaces.  The PV is from 18.00-20.00 on Friday 16th March 2018, with the exhibition then running from 17-19 March, 12.00-18.00 each day.  All welcome.

 

Conversations with Artists – “Food for the Soul in Russian”

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Russian artist, Gennadii Gogoliuk, reciting poetry in his Edinburgh studio. (Click on image to enlarge).

On meeting the artist, Gennadii Gogoliuk*, at his Edinburgh home, he hands me two of his sketchbooks before heading out the door to buy breakfast for us.  As he leaves, he calls out something in Russian and his wife, Rose**, translates: “He says that sketchbooks are where the heart of the artist lives”.  I know this; I recognise the privilege of being given them to look through. It’s nerve-wracking setting them down on the kitchen table, too close I think to my cup of tea – the more so when Rose tells me that these are books that Gena has re-worked over and over for the past ten years. They are extraordinary; the pages heavy with paint and history.  Spasmodically interrupting the painted pages is the added dimension of the, to me, unfamiliar calligraphy of the Russian language.  The books are palimpsests of Gena’s cultural heritage and of his continuous creative process.  One little painting has the look of a monotype but it turns out to be what has bled through from the other side of the page, the original now obliterated by other figures from Gena’s imagination. He comments that the beauty of this unintended image lies in the fact that it is “untouched by human hand, that it has made itself”.  This attributing of his art to something ‘other’ becomes a recurring thread in our conversation.  He talks about his process as taking place when he is not present, in the sense that when he paints, he disappears into some other part of himself.  He describes this loss of himself as “the joy of painting”, that it is a “magical profession”.  

The London gallery owner, John Martin, saw Gena’s work at a group show and  invited him to put on his first solo exhibition in 2001.  Rose recalls how important and fortuitous this was for Gena, especially when it came so soon after his move from Russia in 1998 to be with her in Edinburgh, her home city.  The show was well received and others at the gallery have followed. He has also exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy and the Society of Scottish Artists.  For Gena, there is the artist’s eternal dilemma between wanting/needing his work to sell and then being conflicted that gallery success might influence the type of work he makes.  He describes the instant a painting dies for him if the thought enters his head of how it will be viewed by others.  “That’s the moment of death”, he says, with a dramatic gesture of his hands. 

Later, when we go to his studio there is a painting on the easel of a fish on a plate.  In subject matter, it is quite unlike any others there, which are mostly of faces and figures. Gena isn’t sure about it, isn’t sure if it is finished or not.  The proverbial artist’s doubt is fully alive in him.  He describes how he used to know when a painting was finished, when it was ready to go out into the world, because he had a strange taste like blood in his mouth.  Now, he says, he doesn’t have any such tangible indication; to paraphrase Descartes, it is the doubt that keeps him seeking the truth of the painting.

The studio is small, the view from the window of the railway track to nearby Haymarket.  Stacked all around the room are paintings of varying sizes and in various stages of execution.  There is an undercurrent of things going on in his paintings; the faces in the portraits only revealing a fraction of their story – of his story … “because everything I have ever looked at or experienced is in my paintings”.

Girl Without An Address, 2014, Oil on Canvas (Image, John Martin Gallery)

Girl Without An Address, 2014, Oil on Canvas (Image, John Martin Gallery)

He has been trying out some different ideas, such as painting on photographs; others are on brick-size, gesso-covered canvases.  Our talk is more halting now because Rose, our translator, has left us to pick up the youngest of their three daughters from school.  The performer in him takes over to occupy the spaces in our conversation and he declaims one of his poems.  It seems irrelevant that I can’t understand the Russian and Gena is not really able to explain its meaning in English. The speaking of the poem is what is important.  (I should add that Gena does speak English but with Rose present the conversation clearly has more of a flow when he is expressing himself in Russian.  English is the main language in their family home).

In one corner of the studio there is a heart-breakingly simple shrine, where Gena has a ritual of lighting a candle in front of a battered Russian icon.  Before lighting the candle, he paints a tiny symbol on it.  He knows that the candle will burn for six hours and he keeps himself in the studio until the flame dies – not always painting, sometimes gazing unseeing at the canvas he has prepared with gesso, waiting for what wants to be painted to reveal itself.

I comment on the white “veil” he often paints over his subjects and ask if this is related to the spiritual aspect that is sometimes attributed to his art.  But he says not, that it is all to do with his desire to capture the essence of old and crumbling frescoes.  “I prepare the canvas with layers of gesso to make it like a wall, like plaster that will absorb the paint so that there is a beneath and an above”.  In this he recalls the legendary mediaeval Soviet icon painter, Andrei Rublev.  This in turn leads to his recommendation of the film by Soviet film-maker, Andrei Tarkovsky, which immortalised Rublev’s peripatetic life as a wandering artist and man of faith.

Our conversation turns to the contrast between Russia and Britain in the status the artist is accorded– or at least as it was in the former Soviet Union – that during his formative years, artists were an elite, needed for official (political) art, such as statues and monuments. Once the Soviet system began to fall apart in the 1990′s, artists became less important.  It was during this period of flux, particularly with the advent of perestroika and the lifting of censorship, that Gena became increasingly involved in conceptual and avant-garde art.  Prior to this he had been studying at the St Petersburg Academy of Art, where his early experimental work brought him into conflict with their neo-classical style and technique. Gena was thrown out of the Academy several times before he was eventually permitted to present a diploma painting that allowed him to graduate in 1990.

Although painting now largely dominates his art practice, evidence of performers pepper the canvases. He sees his paintings as inextricably linked to his work as a performance artist and not constrained by his Academic training.  He still finds an outlet for his theatrical talents, most recently in a film made in Germany through collaboration with a group of dancers who specialise in improvised movement.  It featured him dressed in a feathery Pan outfit – the mythological figure being one of his frequently revisited symbols. 

Gena’s art influences are wide-ranging, from the colourful cut-outs of Matisse to fellow Russian, Malevich and his world-famous, “game-changing” Black Square.  It was fascinating to hear from Gena, a compatriot of Malevich’s, just how important the painting has been to artists in Russia – that over the years its very existence gave them courage to go forward with new forms of expression.

As well as being represented by the prestigious John Martin Gallery in London, Gena also had the honour of being included in the collection of art connoisseurs, the late Professors Henry and Sula Walton.  Their patronage has led to Gena’s paintings “rubbing shoulders” with work by heavyweights such as Goya, Rembrandt, Cezanne and Picasso.  The couple, who had lived in Edinburgh for many years, bequeathed their collection to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. In a short film about Gena, Henry Walton, described how he felt that Gena “is embedded in his Russianness, to his personal detriment but to the great enrichment of his art”.  I ask what Professor Walton meant about the effect on him personally of his Russianness and both Gena and Rose allude to the unruly force of his Russian heritage and of the struggle to allow it expression without being dominated by its darker side. 

In one of her BBC Reith Lectures the author, Hilary Mantel, spoke of the “tension in every artist between the outer and inner lives.  You want to be at your desk or in your studio, mining your resources, but you also want to be out there in the world, listening and looking, to replenish your talent.  There’s no safe point, no stasis.  It produces anxiety, even a kind of shame”.   I feel Gena would relate to this description of the artist’s creative process.

We had sat for a couple of hours in Gena and Rose’s kitchen, drinking tea, eating croissants, the conversation meandering between art and philosophy and back again.  The flow of talk was facilitated by Rose’s impressive ability to translate Gena’s Russian, whilst also contributing her own insights .  Listening and talking to them was a rare and nourishing experience, like food for the soul.

 

* Gennadii Gogoliuk was born in Sholkhov, Rostov Oblast, Russia in 1960. He studied at the Lugansk art school in the Ukraine and later at the St Petersburg Academy of Art. He worked for several years with the Kirov Theatre (now the Mariinskii Theatre) in St Petersburg.  

**Rose France is a Teaching Fellow at the University of Edinburgh’s Russian Section of the Department of European Languages and Cultures, and the School of Literature, Languages and Cultures.

 

 

 

Edinburgh International Film Festival

There are still a few days left to enjoy the Edinburgh International Film Festival, where I’ve been volunteering this past week or so.  It has been terrific to be part of the team and of the buzz around town – and great to get out and see films as they were intended, i.e. at the cinema instead of on my 12″ laptop.  The Festival headquarters is at Filmhouse but it has spilled out into the Odeon, CineWorld and the Festival Theatre, where screenings are also taking place. I’ve managed to see quite a variety of films in several different languages – from contemporary US animation to a Polish bio-pic.  It has been a truly international experience, not only through the films but also through the people attending  - including amongst my volunteer colleagues, which has added greatly to the enjoyment.  

It is such a treat to immerse oneself in a particular art form and this Festival has without a doubt lived up to the definition of cinema being the “Seventh Art”.  At the turn of the 20th century, the Italian film theoretician, Ricciotto Canudo, categorised cinema as the 7th because he saw it as the coalescing of three rhythmic arts – music, dance and poetry – and of three plastic arts – architecture, sculpture and painting.  And at this Festival the films have encompassed all of those, through subject matter as well as through the medium of film itself.  

Looking back over the films I’ve seen, the one that has stayed with me, as if in accord with its title, is “Afterimage” (Powidoki) by the late Polish director, Andrzej Wajda, about his compatriot, the artist, Wladyslaw Strzemiński.  In my ignorance, I knew nothing about this painter but through the film, and some research later, I learn that he was, amongst other things, a pioneer of what was known as the Constructivist avant-garde of the 1920′s and 30′s.  The title of the film comes from a series of paintings he made, referred to as “afterimages of light.” These works record optical impressions caused by looking at the sun.  The film also highlighted that his estranged wife, Katarzyna Kobro, is one of the most esteemed sculptors of the inter-war years.  That’s one of the best aspects of a film like this – that it leads one to a part of history one might never have otherwise found.  Strzemiński’s life turned out to be terribly hard after he fell out of favour with the State in 1950 for failing to comply with the Socialist doctrine for Realist art.  The theme of independence of the artist against institutional pressures is clearly one that the Director, Wajda, held close to his heart.  It was the only one of the public film screenings I attended where there was a spontaneous round of applause at the end, i.e. it didn’t need the presence of anyone involved in the making of the film for the audience to show its pleasure.  

Group Poetry Reading

https-2F2Fcdn.evbuc_.com2Fimages2F303323502F37450622032F12ForiginalLast week, Edinburgh’s Fruitmarket Gallery hosted a collective poetry reading inspired by the artist, Mark Wallinger’s, Adam.  The poem forms part of his current exhibtion at the Gallery, now in its last few days.  Adam is a ‘found’ piece created from 33 first lines of poems beginning with ‘I’ from Palgrave’s Golden Treasury.  Visitors were invited to choose one of the poems to read, declaim or sing – or simply to join in as a listener.  Mark began the evening with a reading of Adam, followed by members of the audience and gallery staff.  A lot of the poems were rather sombre yet the tone of the evening was light and the event was touching for its bringing together of strangers and ages.  There was some excellent singing and a real sense of serendipity when it was agreed that each member of the audience should read a verse from the longest poem, Sydney Thompson Dobell’s The Orphan’s Song, and it turned out there were the exact number of verses as people.  Mark hadn’t conceived of such an event when he created the poem but it was clear that he was delighted with this evolution of his work.  It was an evening that not only took Duchamp’s philosophy of a work of art requiring the viewer to complete it, but one that also then added an entirely new layer to the piece.  A most enjoyable event and an idea that will hopefully be used again at future exhibitions.

 

Spain in Scotland

Edinburgh:Edimburgo by Hunter, at Custom Lane until 26 May 2017

Edinburgh:Edimburgo by Hunter, at Custom Lane until 26 May 2017

Had a wonderful fix of Ibero-American culture last week, which began at the opening of the Documentary Film Festival, Iberodocs, held at Filmhouse, and ended in Leith at Custom Lane with an exhibition by a young Spanish artist, Hunter – otherwise known as Félix Gordero.  As well as the type of  group scene shown here, there are also extraordinarily powerful drawings of faces he has encountered in Edinburgh.  The way he uses spray paint evokes the urban environment of the city and with the charcoal he achieves a beautiful delicacy of line.  I was reminded when I saw them of the British artist, Alison Lambert, whom I’ve long admired.  Both artists focus on the connection between people and their environment – in Hunter’s case, he literally incorporates the city into the figures.  The effect is that they are like mirrors reflecting back their surroundings.

Meanwhile, I’ve been discovering new parts of the city myself, as I wander about distributing posters and flyers for the forthcoming Hidden Door festival.  This is a non-profit and volunteer-run, multi arts festival, which this year takes place in the old Leith Theatre, an art deco gem that has been left derelict and decaying for nearly 30 years. It’s hoped this Festival will provide the initial spark to transform the theatre into a major Edinburgh arts venue.