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.

No comments:

Post a Comment