Cheer Up! It's not the end of the World at Edinburgh Printmakers

By Rhiannon Starr | 10 August 2012
An image of a mythological cosmos in which black rocks obscure a neon skyline
Gordon Cheung, Floating Worlds (2006). Inkjet print© Gordon Cheung. Courtesy Alan Cristea Gallery, London
Exhibition: Cheer Up! It's not the end of the World..., Edinburgh Printmakers, Edinburgh, until September 8 2012

The cataclysmic events scheduled to befall us during December of this year - according to the ancient Maya calendar - inspired this irreverently-titled exhibition at Edinburgh Printmakers. Perceptive curation by Norman and Sarah-Manning Shaw has woven the threads of related concerns into a surprisingly profound display of contemporary work.

The strict Mayan notion of apocalypse is broadened within the exhibition to include all changes of dimension; the entering of an unknown state. This framework redirects thoughts to themes such as death, the end of the analogue era, the western financial crisis, and even the loss of innocence.

An image of a picture of a decaying tree against newsprint under a yellow blazing sun
Gordon Cheung, Tree
© Gordon Cheung. Courtesy Alan Cristea Gallery, London
The viewer is propelled into a close encounter with Damien Hirst’s Death or Glory while ascending the stairs to the stripped-back gallery space. Unlike the ostentatious brand of gruesome glitz at Hirst’s Tate Modern retrospective, this foil on paper work is disturbingly intimate: one’s own features are seen reflected in the gold skull.

London-based artist Gordon Cheung sources digital imagery to construct fantastical compositions in a contemporary reincarnation of bricolage. These are printed on reams of stock market listings from the Financial Times then layered with ink, acrylic and spray paint to build spatial depth and colour.

In relation to Cheung’s Floating Worlds, curator Dr Norman Shaw references the free-floating plateaus which structure A Thousand Plateaus by French philosopher Gilles Deleuze; a text which examines capitalism’s reliance on the abstract concepts of economy and finance.

These shaky foundations upon which our culture is built become physical manifestations in Cheung’s environment, as civilisations perch precariously on migratory fragments of rock.

An image of a print of a black and white fairytale-style man sitting under a tree in a forest
Konstantin Kalinovich, Bestiarius Apocalypsi. Aestas (Summer) (2007). Colour etching© Konstantin Kalinovich, Courtesy Zverev Gallery, Russia
Fragility is also illustrated by Lori Nix in Circulation Desk: a photographed image of a meticulously constructed - and destroyed - model library. Dr Shaw observes that, in terms of libraries being repositories of human knowledge, little is as apocalyptic as the annihilation of a library.

Libraries are also symbolic as the precursor to the internet, so the piece could equally be dealing with the death of the book - and old analogue cultures - in the face of new digital media. There is a seductively tactile quality to this image which incites nostalgia for the physical, tangible object.

Similarly recalled with nostalgia is childhood innocence, the loss of which Jake and Dinos Chapman tackle in a diptych entitled I do not Recall Exactly when it Began, but it was Months Ago. These small photogravures with chine-collé boast exquisitely fine detail and a beautiful spectrum of tonal greys.

Playful characters from children’s colouring books are undermined by predatory monsters lurking and leering in the darkness behind. These horrors stem from surrealist automatic drawing techniques: mutating and multiplying inkblots were drawn into with conté crayons.

The work’s title suggests an insidious apocalypse which the frolicking characters are oblivious to: akin, perhaps, to ignorance of the imprudent financial lending until the inescapable economic collapse. It also speaks of desensitisation - a theme explored by Warhol, whose work also features - and our loss of perspective amidst the 21st century whirlwind of so-called progress.

  • Open Tuesday-Saturday 10am-6pm (open Sundays during August). Admission free. For more on the Edinburgh Art Festival, see our Preview or look out for more reviews.

More pictures:

An image of a collage of various figures on a dilapidated city street including a Jesus figure
Etienne Clément, Second Coming (2012). Photograph on mounted diasec© Etienne Clément

A photo of a smooth gold skull with faded teeth and features against a white backdrop
Damien Hirst, Death of Glory: Sunset Gold / Blind Impression Glorious Skull (2011). Colour foil block on paper© Damien Hirst. Courtesy Paul Stolper Gallery, London
An image of an intricate black ink cartoon featuring a skull with cartoon eyes in a dense world
Jake and Dinos Chapman, I do not Recall Distinctly when it Began, but it was Months Ago (2010). Photogravure with Chine Colle© Jake and Dinos Chapman. Courtesy Counter Editions Gallery, London
An image of an illustration showing a man with a horse body smoking inside a chaotic forest
Martin Barrett, Retail Apocalypse Episode 1 (2011). Etching and Aquatint© Martin Barrett
An image of a collage of a rundown dimly-lit library under a glass ceiling showing an apocalyptic sky
Lori Nix, Circulation Desk (2012). Silkscreen print© Lori Nix

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