Monday, 25 March 2013

Something is still not quite right

'Below the surface' at the SSA
(bottom row, third from right)
Photo © 2013 Megan Chapman
Today I picked up my painting from this year's Scottish Society of Artists Annual Open Exhibition. Days like this are often ones of mixed emotion. There is an understandable sadness in taking work down and returning it to storage or the studio. We make our art to be seen and so taking it away from the eyes of the public is never a happy event. Added to this is the inference that the work has not sold, which has attendant to it worries about worth, as well as worries about paying the bills.

On the other hand, something precious we made is being returned to us. This may not seem like much consolation, however it is better than simply being depressed about all of the above.

The SSA show, which I was finally able to visit last week, was an excellent exhibition. With a wide range of painting, sculpture, drawing, printing and photography, it showcased what has clearly been a strong year in Scotland's creative arts. I truly felt honoured to be part of such a fantastic show. I was particularly pleased to note that conceptual art was at a minimum, with more of a concentration on objects that had actually been made by artists (which pleases me greatly). I believe this exhibition is one of the best I've seen in the RSA building for some years.

Sadly, not everything about the exhibition was great – lack of space was a glaring problem. The walls were crammed full, with many pieces so high up that it became very hard to see them. This was especially exasperating, because the calibre of work this year was so high.

Then there was the number of works on show. The SSA had again to team up with Visual Arts Scotland and the Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolour, in order to be able to meet the costs of holding their annual exhibitions in the RSA. This meant that between the three exhibitions, there must have been around a thousand works on show. There was no way to take them all in on one visit – although with the exhibitions running to only three weeks, one visit was likely to be all that most could manage.

Clearly there is a problem here. The expense of hosting an exhibition of new Scottish art in the very building that was built to showcase Scottish art has become so prohibitively expensive, that no one of the three main organisations that represent Scottish artists are able to show on their own. It is a very sad state of affairs.

Being an outsider to the organisation-level part of the art community, it appears that the RSA is being difficult in this instance, although there is every possibility that I am making an incorrect assumption. However, what is clear to see is that the building is not used all year round, with it often standing empty for a month or more at a time. 

Is three exhibitions in three short weeks really the best that can be done to represent our thriving and vibrant artistic community in our capital city? The City Art Centre also stands partially-empty for months on end. It is quite dispiriting.

On which subject, let me briefly mention the current exhibition at the Fruitmarket Gallery. Whatever is in there just now, is of the usual Fruitmarket standards: insipid, uninspired, meaning-free dross, spread thinly around what is a lovely space. I left, as usual, feeling dispirited and wondering what the hell is going on with art.

I'm glad this combination only happens once a year. To see such great work over-crammed into one gallery, mere minutes from another that is empty in pretty much every sense is not something that I'd care to experience more often.

Friday, 15 March 2013

That sleep after flying thing

It's actually longer than this
After flying one fifth of the way around the planet to arrive back in Edinburgh yesterday morning, there was something of an interruption to my sleep pattern. When I finally got my head on a pillow, I saw with my eyes that the time was around nine o'clock in the morning, while my body told me that it was actually four o'clock and that it had been awake for twenty-one hours. Body confusion followed and sleep became a bit tricksy.

This is why from around three o'clock this morning, I began thinking about ways of making glass negatives and cyanotypes and browntypes and building my own pinhole camera and making large negatives and creating art based on my Elegy paintings on tracing paper to turn into cyanotype prints (which are sometimes called blueprints) and building a medium-format enlarger and maybe a new project with Dr Craig and studio spaces and houses and traffic and a new painting and the cupboard and the time and the light coming around the window and then it was time to get up and then inexplicably eat three cheese rolls for breakfast.

So. I might have some vague plans to do something at some point, however until the jet lag is gone, I'm going to aim low and not expect much to get done.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Philadelphia, Little Rock, Edinburgh

Don't let them rob you of the only thing you know
and You know your problems ain't exactly new
at 110 Church Gallery in Philadelphia
 © 2013 Heavy Bubble
This week, I have seen photos from the two exhibitions my work is currently featured in. On the west side of the Atlantic, the lovely people from Philadelphia's 110 Church Gallery are very good at documenting their shows. I've borrowed one of their photos from their current show Natural Selection for this post. It is really nice to see my paintings in their space, as well as the people attending the exhibition opening. You can see more here – including my name on the window!

Below the surface at
SSA Annual Open
© 2013 Pat Bremner
On the east side of the Atlantic, my mum visited the Society of Scottish Artists Annual Open Exhibition 2013 – apparently their 116th such exhibition – and sneakily grabbed a couple of photos of my piece, 'Below the surface' on the wall there (thanks mum!). Quite why the SSA and the RSA before them both think that my work looks best next to the floor is a something of a mystery to me. Not that this strange coincidence matters, because I'm thrilled to have been selected from among what I believe have been record high numbers of entrants, to be shown in two such prestigious exhibitions. I can't wait to soon see this one with my own eyes!

We took the quiet roads
Mixed media on canvas, 76x101cm
© 2013 Megan Chapman & Stewart Bremner
Also this week, Megan Chapman and went on a two hundred mile journey to deliver all of our remaining joint paintings (and three more of Megan's) to Boswell Mourot Fine Art, a lovely gallery in an upmarket area of Arkansas' state capital, Little Rock. There are only eight of our joint paintings remaining for sale in the world and, as hard as this is to believe, this will be their first time in a commercial gallery! We've got high hopes for their future! (I think, possibly, this also means that I am maybe, sort of, kind of, represented by a gallery in the US – however I might be over egging the pudding now!)

East Davidson
Cyanotype on paper, 6x6cm
I've been in Arkansas for two months on this trip, two months that have flown by. When I arrived here, I intended to take it easy, after a very full and busy year and I absolutely managed to do this: not only have I not so much as lifted a paint brush, I hardly even posted here. I did, however, manage to fit in some analogue photography experiments, shooting on film every day of my visit, hoping to document the typical American town that I once again found myself in. I even tried making some tintypes and a series of cyanotype prints, including the one here.

In the middle of next week, I will be returning to Edinburgh and, once I do, I suspect that I had better knuckle down. It may well be time to get serious (again)!

Friday, 1 March 2013

Two more new shows!

Below the surface
Mixed media on panel, 2012
Today, two new exhibitions that include my work open, on two different continents!

In Edinburgh, Scotland, the Society of Scottish Artists Annual Open Exhibition 2013 contains my painting, 'Below the surface', from my current series Elegy for the end of an empire. The opening reception for the show was last night, which I was unable to attend due to currently being in Arkansas! I'm very much looking forward to heading along to the exhibition when I return to Edinburgh in a few weeks. I hope all of my friends and family at home will take a moment to pop into the show and check it all out – if it is anything like last year's, it should be great.  

You know your problems ain't exactly new
Mixed media on paper, 2011
Meanwhile, on the same side of the Atlantic as I, two paintings from my paper series Post Process are featured in Natural Selection, a five-person group show at the 110 Church gallery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 110 Church's space looks amazing and I only wish that my budget (and time) in the States would extend to a visit. Sadly, it won't. If by any chance you are in the Philadelphia area, please do stop by and tell me how the exhibition looks (or even grab a few snaps of it, if you're allowed!).

Society of Scottish Artists Annual Open Exhibition 2013
March 1-26, RSA Upper Galleries, The Mound, Edinburgh, Scotland

Natural Selection
March 1-29, 110 Church gallery, 110 Church Street, Philadelphia, PA.