Review: A Trip to Edinburgh with the Art History Society
By Claire Robertson
The Art History Society’s trip to Edinburgh on Friday 17th November was an engaging way to learn about two contemporary Scottish artists, Robin Gillanders (b. 1952) and Jacqueline Donachie (b. 1969). In the morning, we had a guided tour of Robin Gillanders (a retrospective) at Stills before moving on to the Fruitmarket Gallery for a tour of Right Here Among Them.
Stills consists of an exhibition space and photographic production facilities. The venue is celebrating its 40th birthday this year. Robin Gillanders (a Retrospective) presents the work of the influential Edinburgh-based photographer. His work Ten Men (2010) consists of ten monochrome photographs of the artist’s friends. Our tour guide (who knows the photographer personally) explained that Gillanders’ intention here is not for the works to be viewed as portraits: rather, they are facial studies. His work Three Women Artists (2017) is displayed opposite Ten Men. Unlike Ten Men, these photographs are portraits of three female artists who Gillanders does not know well. All three women are either Scottish or live in Scotland. The portraits contain single objects that reflect the subjects’ personalities. For example, one artist’s portrait features a flower because it shows her love of nature. Although these photographs contain some colour, the palette is muted because Gillanders feels that colour can distract from the meaning of a photograph. The exhibition also displays collaborations with the late Scottish artist, Ian Hamilton Finlay (1925-2006). Stills is the first exhibition space to show the series Little Sparta; these works consist of photographs taken at Hamilton Finlay’s home in the Pentlands.
The Fruitmarket Gallery showcases innovative contemporary art. The space has been transformed by Jacqueline Donachie, who has worked in close collaboration with the gallery’s curators. The Glasgow-based artist is a Glasgow School of Art Graduate who also has a PhD in Visual and Material Cultures from Northumbria University. Her work highlights themes including movement through urban spaces, and she draws on a variety of media including sculpture, performance and film. Advice Bar (2017) is particularly notable for its interactive quality. The work consists of a concrete bar that pushes itself through the wall into the next room. On Fridays and Saturdays from 1-3pm, visitors can get a drink and advice from a young person who acts as the bartender. They are encouraged to share a problem and learn from the bartender’s wisdom. Donachie’s work also allows us to reflect on how different bodies move through spaces. Pose Work for Sisters (2016) is a video that shows the artist and her sister striking a series of poses together, side by side. Donachie’s sister has myotonic dystrophy: consequently, while the sisters may look extremely similar, the artist shows that the way that they move through the space can vary significantly. Right Here Among Them also features sculpture such as In the End Times (2017) and An Era of Small Pleasures (2017).
Stills and the Fruitmarket Gallery successfully bring contemporary Scottish art to the fore, and are an integral part of the Edinburgh art scene. Both exhibitions show that Scotland has a thriving art world, showcasing this in the centre of the city.
Robin Gillanders (a retrospective) can be seen at Stills Gallery until 14 January 2018.
Right Here Among Them can be seen at the Fruitmarket Gallery until 11 February 2018.
“Robin Gillanders (a retrospective).” Stills Centre for Photography. Accessed 15th November 2017. http://www.stills.org/exhibition/current-exhibition/robin-gillanders-a-retrospective
“Current.” The Fruitmarket Gallery. Accessed 15th November 2017. http://www.fruitmarket.co.uk/events/current/