|Self-Portrait Study with Plague Mask 1 by Frank To|
The Human Condition: New Works by Frank To
The Leith Gallery
65 The Shore
0131 553 5255
Until April 30
You may have seen or even heard Frank To recently. At the end of last week, he was featured in several news outlets, on air, in print and online, dressed as a medieval plague doctor as he made his way from his home city of Glasgow to Edinburgh, where his latest exhibition in Leith was about to open.
For the uninitiated, a plague doctor was an untrained physician who tended to people with the bubonic plague in the 1600s and 1700s. The beak they wore was a filter which was supposed to protect them from bad, infected air.
In the last couple of years, To has become fascinated by the idea of a plague doctor and has taken the notion into his painting to work as a metaphor in a number of different ways.
To’s latest body of work, The Human Condition, consists of 22 paintings which examine the psychology of what it is like to be on the margins, mentally and physically. With titles such as I Don't Believe In Psychology, I Believe In Good Moves and Messiah Complex, these are challenging works which will strike a chord with To’s growing fan-base.
Unafraid to put himself out there alongside his work, To’s approach to marketing himself as an artist is refreshing. As serious about the business of being an artist as he is about getting his work seen by as many people as possible, he could give masterclasses to other emerging artists about how it should be done.
This new body of work shows him to be an artist who is maturing into his subject matter and medium. There is some lovely mark-making and textures in these paintings, which have a freshness and energy about them I haven’t seen before. A couple of Self Portraits of To wearing the plague doctor’s beak are particularly affecting.
Perception: Artists Working with RhueArt, Ullapool
Infirmary Street, Edinburgh
0131 550 3660
Until April 16
RhueArt in Ullapool, run by artist James Hawkins and his wife Flick, is a little arty gem in the Scotland’s northern reaches. Occasionally, they make forays to the central belt to show the rest of Scotland what they’re missing, and this is one such exercise.
Perception is all about how a group of eight artists based in the Highlands, including Hawkins and the sculptor Helen Denerley (whose giraffes on Leith Walk are an Edinburgh landmark) perceive the landscape, culture, environment, wildlife and the changing seasons.
The aim of the exhibition is to reflect RhueArt’s determination to bring their work to a wider audience, and challenges the common perception of art from the north.
The other artists exhibiting in Edinburgh are Katy Spong, Mhairi Killin, James Lumsden, Peter White, Mary Bourne and Tobias Hodson.
The work takes on a variety of guises, from painting to film, textiles and sculpture in metal and in stone.
One of the highlights of this show is James and Flick Hawkins's films about Denerley’s Dreaming Spires on Leith Walk and Rahoy Stag. Their micro landform videos will also be screened continuously throughout the exhibition.
More recent additions to the RhueArt group include Katy Spong (shortlisted Wildlife Artist of the Year, 2010), James Lumsden (exhibited at RSA New Works, 2010), textile artist Mhairi Killin (SAC Creative Development award, 2007) and sculptor Mary Bourne (numerous public commissions include Carpet of Leaves, Scottish Poetry Library, Edinburgh).
F I G M E N T S: Omar Zingaro Bhatia
Wasps’ Artists’ Studios
The Briggait, 141 Bridgegate, Glasgow
The Briggait, 141 Bridgegate, Glasgow
Until April 28
A couple of years ago, I saw Omar Zingaro Bhatia’s extraordinary degree show at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art in Dundee. The Fine Art graduate had plundered the stuff of his relatively short life (1986-) and presented a Spuriosity Shop that laid this life bare.
All the graduating students had the same space allocated to them in the Vision Building, which served as a degree show gallery for one year only, but Bhatia’s has been turned into a room set filled with paintings, drawings, objet d’arts and more artefacts than you could shake a stick at.
Apparently Bhatia’s obliging parents had made three car journeys to bring the 2000+ objects to the installation point.
I remember chatting to the young graduate about the work and he seemed a touch downhearted. The reason, he told me, was that he hadn’t been given the class of degree he expected. I remember telling him that no-one had never asked me what my degree was (a 2:2 since you ask) and that in the overall scheme of things it didn’t matter. If people remembered his work and it touched a nerve then that was the main thing.
Fast forward almost two years and Bhatia, is presenting a new body of work at The Briggait in Glasgow’s Merchant City.
Work includes a new film work following ‘an artist’s escape into the wilderness to confront his creative angst’ as well as photography, painting and a bespoke Harris tweed suit – a collaboration with fashion designer Marina Maclean.
Arts and entertainment listings magazine, The Skinny, has organised the exhibition as part of an award presented to the young artist at the 2010 RSA New Contemporaries. Its editor, Rosamund West, who chose him for the award said: “It’s fantastic to be able to use our resources to offer this opportunity to an early career artist, to give him the chance to have a solo exhibition and benefit from all the promotion we’re able to offer as a publication.”