ShowCASe - The Contemporary Art Society Goes North

By Kate Day | 10 February 2005
Shows a photograph of a cast glass cube whose edges are uneven, creating a mottled effect and casting an unusual shadow.

Cast glass cube R1158, 2003 by Colin Reid. Cast glass.

Kate Day made an afternoon of it and took in the jointly hosted ShowCASe exhibition at the City Art Centre and Talbot Rice Gallery in Edinburgh until March 12.

ShowCASe is the resulting exhibition of four years of collecting by registered charity the Contemporary Art Society (CAS). Founded in 1910, CAS has since been responsible for presenting David Hockney, Francis Bacon and Bridget Riley as well as many others.

The way that CAS functions is to gather together emerging artists and craft makers and to present their work to museums and galleries nationwide.

This has the benefit to the museums and galleries of reinforcing their collections with new and interesting work. In return for this gift the museums and galleries pay an annual membership fee to CAS and these funds are plumped up by means of grants and private consultancy work.

Shows a print of a scene at a party. Images of the same man in the same suit and party hat, but in different poses are assembled as if there are many people in the image.

The Party, 1999 by Shezad Dawood. Billboard, encapsulated Durst Lamda print and wooden frame.

A visit to this show means an opportunity to catch a glimpse of the possible big names of the future. They are the artists and makers who will shape the way we look at the art of this time and whose work will be preserved as such for years to come.

A walk around the three floors at the City Art Centre and the two floors of the Talbot Rice provided a veritable pick-and-mix of some fantastic art works and objects.

There are paintings, sculptures, video projections, photography, print, textiles, glassware, ceramics and anything from a larger than life monkey sculpture to a functional fruit-bowl.

Shows a photograph of a sculpture of a monkey, apparently wearing on its lower half a spacesuit connected to a cardboard on which it is standing.

Return of Enos, 2000 by Brian Griffiths. Mixed media, carpet, cardboard, tape.

Some special pieces to look out for include the video piece by Adam Chodzko, Plan for a Spell, which is a cross between a jumbled up documentary, a wartime educational film and some amazing text and sound script. And, as an explicit display of someone who shows an outstanding understanding of his craft, the etchings of Frank Auerbach are stunning.

There are also some standout craft pieces, such as the bun-like sculpture in raw willow by Christine Joy, which exploits a traditional material to its maximum. And Junko Mori’s Organism made of an unlikely combination of forged steel and dried plants takes those materials far beyond their expected use and appearance.

While this dolly-mixture would give any audience the playful glow of a small child in a sweetshop, veering from one piece to the next not knowing which way to head first, this feeling is a rather overwhelming one. Unfortunately the purpose of the exhibition, which is to show the gathered works before they are all divided up to their allocated destinations, is in some ways its downfall.

Shows a photograph of an artwork in a poster style. It bears the words, We want responsibility to be shared by all.

We want responsibility to be shared by all, 2004 by Mark Titchner. Oil based inkjet on aluminium.

By showing the vastly unrelated works altogether in some ways takes off a little of their sheen.

The show has been likened in aim to that of Charles Saatchi in its bid to find the big name artists of the future. But with Saatchi’s shows a definite narrative is always provided making it easy for the viewer to understand the work’s role in the contemporary art debate.

Saatchi’s current show Triumph of Painting could be said to do exactly what it says on the tin, showing its audience exactly why painting continues to be triumphant, in a concise, consistent way. It is this confluence, which ShowCASe lacks through its bid to be inclusive.

But while there may be the odd piece in ShowCASe that does not make the grade and while time will tell for others, there are some absolutely fantastic pieces displayed here. I look forward to seeing many of them shown in their full unmitigated glory across the UK and beyond for years to come.

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