Sixth Edinburgh Art Festival kicks off impressive month-long programme

By Culture24 Staff | 06 August 2009
A picture of a sheep in a box

Damien Hirst's Away From the Flock (above), at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, is one of the highlights of an eclectic Edinburgh Art Festival

Festival: Edinburgh Art Festival, various venues, Edinburgh, until September 5 2009

As Edinburgh buzzes with the hordes of actors, comedians and musicians who overwhelm the city for the annual Edinburgh Festival and Fringe, the traditionally vibrant visual art side of the Scottish capital might easily be overlooked.

But for the sixth year of the Edinburgh Art Festival, which opens today, organisers have announced an impressive programme to build upon the reputation it has steadily developed since 2004.

The diversity of the campaign is perhaps its most singular quality this time around – established Scottish favourites such as landscape painter James Morrison (The Scottish Gallery, Dundas Street, until September 5) and Jerwood Prize-winning abstract artist Callum Innes (Ingleby Gallery, Carlton Road, until September 19) are joined by experimental post-war works from German-American Eva Hesse (taking over The Fruitmarket Gallery, Market Street, until October 25).

There's film and photography by British Film Institute collaborators Jane and Louise Wilson (Talbot Rice Gallery, University of Edinburgh Old College, until September 26) and street art and graffiti at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery (until August 30), projecting a "remixed vision of Scottish history" onto the empty walls of the renovated space.

A picture of suitcases

Total Kunst is a series of one-week shows – visit theforest.org.uk for details. Walizka Mojego Taty, Daddy's Suitcase, mixed media with packaging from the Malinka delicatessan. Pic © Matthew Kolakowski (2009)

Of the big names, the artist known as Bob and Roberta Smith is lugging the 11-metre panel of nine paintings, This Artist is Deeply Dangerous, to the nomadic Grey Gallery, positioned in a five-storey Georgian house this year (Picardy Place, until September 5).

Current Turner Prize nominee Lucy Skaer and long-term co-conspirator Rosalind Nashashibi are presenting their first Scottish solo exhibition at Doggerfisher (Gayfield Square, until September 26), taking the form of a specially-commissioned 16mm film exploring the philosophy of early 20th century British landscape painter Paul Nash, whose use of surrealism and natural phenomena fascinates the pair.

Equally reverential is the career of Alan Davie, the 89-year-old illustrator and author celebrated here with examples of his sculpture, painting, tapestry, rug-making, jewellery design, printmaking, photography, poetry and jazz (Dovecot, Infirmary Street, until September 26).

A picture of coloured panels on walls

John McCracken's panels visit Inverleith House. Pic courtesy David Zwirner

Fellow old hand Peter Blake takes his Venice Suite to Edinburgh Printmakers (Union Street, until August 29), a set of 20 new screenprints inspired by his visit to the Venice Art Biennale in 2007. They set fairytale visions against collaged urban backdrops, designed to be toured around iconic cities.

There are various intriguing group shows dotted around the trail, from emerging artists (Art's Complex, London Road, until September 5) to responses from 22 creative reactionaries to the Obama theme of Change (Nekojuice, London Road, until September 5) and graduates of the Tapestry Department of Edinburgh College of Art (Patriothall Gallery, off Hamilton Place, until August 29).

A picture of a painted sign

Bob and Roberta Smith is at the nomadic Grey Gallery. Off Voice Fly Tip (2009). Pic courtesy the artist and Hales Gallery

At the National Gallery Complex, The Discovery of Spain has filled the upper level of the Royal Scottish Academy with Latino masters including El Greco and Picasso, as well as notable British artists who were influenced by them (The Mound, until October 11).

The National Gallery sites make the most of their settings – the sprawls through parkland, inviting a stroll through work by the likes of Henry Moore Rachel Whiteread and Tacita Dean (Belford Road, until September 27), while the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art opens a room dedicated to influential American abstract figure Agnes Martin alongside Artist Rooms collections containing extensive contributions from Francesca Woodman, Damien Hirst and more (Belford Road, until November 8).

A picture of a young woman standing in front of a door in a long black coat and hat

Jane and Louise Wilson have films at Talbot Rice Gallery. Pic courtesy BFI Southbank

Photographic displays feature an image-led retrospective of Joseph Beuys by Alexander Hamilton (Studio 11, William Street, until August 22, call 07779 223580), an emotional photojournal of the grieving process by American Kate Pollard (Atticsalt, Thistle Street, until August 29), a showcase of old-school photography techniques in We Love Lomo (Beyond Words, Cockburn Street until October 31) and camera work by young artists from Japan and Europe in Camera Infinita (Tent Gallery, Evolution House, until August 19).

Sculpture is strongly represented, most notably at Inverleith House in the Royal Botanic Garden (Inverleith Place, until October 11), where major sculptures from John McCracken's 45-year calling revolve around towering planks of painted plywood leant against walls.

A picture of artefacts on a wooden floor

Turner Prize nominee Lucy Skaer presents a new film at Doggerfisher. Solid Ground – Liquid to Solid in 85 years (2006), coloured plaster. Pic courtesy the artist and doggerfisher, Edinburgh, © Serge Hasenböhler

Andrew Ranville's large-scale forms from reclaimed materials will be in Gayfield Square Gardens throughout the Festival (also Corn Exchange Gallery, Constitution Street, until September 10) and 10 international sculptors carve new arcs into huge blocks of stone in the quadrangle at the Edinburgh College of Art (Lauriston Place, until August 30).

John Edgar uses stone collected from "various historic quarters" in Scotland in 2005 in sculptures based on the land and its flag, and the New Zealander explores a sense of voyage and arrival in new lands (National Museum of Scotland Level 3, Chambers Street, until November 8).

The sculptural highlight, though, is likely to come at Jupiter Artland (Bonnington House, until August 31), set in 90 acres of woodland 10 miles south of the city centre.

A picture of parkland

Jupiter Artland, 10 miles from the city centre, spreads site-specific works and sculptures across park and woodland. Pic courtesy Edinburgh Art Festival

Site-specific works by Andy Goldsworthy, a large-scale figure by Antony Gormley, a four-acre landform by Charles Jencks, a specially-crafted orchid by Marc Quinn, Anish Kapoor's Suck and pieces by Cornelia Parker, Alec Finlay, Peter Liversidge and more feature.

International exhibitors include photographs by early 20th century Belgian poet Paul Nouge (Institut Français d'Ecosse, Randolph Crescent, August 13 – September 26), contemporary Polish fine-art film (Royal Scottish Academy, The Mound, until September 13) and theatrical oil paintings by Russian Gennadii Gogoliuk (Scotland-Russia Institute, South College Street, until September 5).

Visit Culture24 this month for reactions and reviews from the Festival.

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