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I'm an arts journalist & PR consultant living and working in Scotland. I've been a journalist for more than 25 years. I write a regular column for Scottish quality newspaper, The Herald. I deliver a PR service with an arty bent and work on a consultancy basis with arts organisations, including Scotland's leading creative industries festival, XpoNorth & broadcast support body, ScreenHI. I am currently co-writing a book about the celebrated Scots artist, George Wyllie, with his daughter Louise. Instrumental in making a celebration of his life's work happen in 2012. For more information, see www.georgewyllie.com When I'm not being a mum/working, I talk to my dog. He laps it up. Contact me on janpatience@me.com (All work © Jan Patience)

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Between the Late & The Early

One of two witches' branks on show at the RSA in Edinburgh


RSA 187th Annual Exhibition
Royal Scottish Academy,
The Mound, Edinburgh
0131 225 6671
Until July 2

Earlier this week, on my way into the elegant neoclassical building the Royal Scottish Academy (RSA) has inhabited in Edinburgh city centre since the early nineteenth century, I was met by a sight for sore eyes and ears; hundreds of people from eight to 80, dancing in the sunshine to The Proclaimers I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles).
This joyful 21st century sight and sound turned out to be part of a mass rehearsal for the film version of the musical based on their songs, Sunshine on Leith, currently filming in and around Edinburgh. 
With this feel-good factor at my back, I headed into the RSA, to take a look at the 187th RSA Annual Exhibition, which opens to the public today and includes paintings, sculpture, film, printmaking, photography and installation alongside work by some of the country's leading architects..
The sunshine followed me and streamed in through the large sky windows of this beautiful building shedding light over 300 assembled artworks, ranging from a set Neolithic stone balls to an ultra-contemporary neon and mirrored glass installation by Graham Fagen called Natural Anarchy.
As I wandered from room to room, looking at work spanning 4000 years, the title of the curated section of this exhibition, Between the Late and Early, started to made perfect sense.
As a species, we are all between the late and early, juggling the temporal world with the physical and the constant state of flux in-between.
Until three years ago, the RSA’s annual exhibition was based on open submission of work by all-comers, but today, it is part curated work by invited artists and part RSA members’ exhibition. Members are allowed to submit up to four artworks for the latter.
For this visitor, the change represents a more coherent viewing experience. The annual exhibition now covers both art and architecture in 13 different galleries and for this year’s show, it feels is as if there is a game of two halves going on, with some players moving effortlessly between the teams.
This year, covenor Edward Summerton has invited 34 artists from the RSA’s own membership, the broader Scottish arts community, and beyond to Europe and the US.
Summerton has also made a series of inspired selections from the RSA’s capacious archives as well as the forgotten corners of museum storerooms around Scotland. 
This provides a startling counterpoint to work by the likes of Dalziel & Scullion, ROGER&REID (winner of the RSA Morton Award), Madeline Mackay (RSA Barns Graham Travel Award) and Anne Murray (RSA William Littlejohn Award).
Invited artists also include BAFTA award-winner John Maclean, who has a film work called Beta Band – Inner Meet Me, on show, and Gabriela Fridriksdottir, who has collaborated extensively with the musician Bjork. She has created a series of strange creatures fashioned from a mix of plaster, hay, bones, hoof nails, sawdust, string and more, which will, I predict, scare the bejesus out of any passing children.  
Interspersed throughout, there is poetry from Kenneth White, on its own in a simple frame, and also as part of a wondrous collaboration with Will Maclean called The Island Road.
Objects Summerton has sourced include Neolithic stone balls from the collection of Perth Museum and Art Gallery, and a pair of horrific iron witches’ branks – used in medieval Scotland to punish women suspected of witchcraft, on loan from the collection of Dundee Art Galleries and Museums. There are also some exquisite illustrated paintings, prints and books from the RSA Collections by artists such as William Blake, Gustav Dore and John Martin.
The Blake illustrations of the Book of Job, graphically depict the biblical figure’s trials at the hand of Satan and set up a visionary, otherworldly template for the entire exhibition. 
Some of the invited artists in the curated section cross over into the members’ section of this exhibition deliberately, while others, like Willie Rodger, have work which simply is between the late and the early without even trying.
His beautifully spare and darkly comic linoprint, Vacancy, sets up a scene which shows an empty pulpit waiting to be filled. This issue is at the heart of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, taking place just a stone throw away further up The Mound during my visit.
Also on show are works by three RSA members who have died recently, Bill Scott PPRSA, George Wyllie RSA and Antoni Tapies HRSA.
Wyllie, of course, was much concerned with cosmic journeys and the preternatural energy which hums around the human race. His majestic spire, Studio, sits between two David Mach sculptures, one of a prowling big cat called Spike made from steel and coat hangers and a bust of Robert Burns fashioned from pins and foam.
Like much of the assembled work, it’s an odd fit. But it works.

Round up

The Sea Folios: Etchings by John Bellany, with poems by George Bruce
Watermill Gallery, Aberfeldy
From today until July 22
John Bellany's Woman of the Sea
Artists and writers return constantly to the sea as subject-matter, like flies to a jampot. As the late Edwin Morgan observed in his poem, Flood Tide, about the seascape of the same name by the great Scottish painter, Joan Eardley, ‘Lonely people are drawn to the sea.’
To be an artist is to live inside your head, and for artist John Bellany and poet George Bruce, who died in 2002 at the age of 93, the fishing communities in which they grew up are always in the background of their work.
In a new exhibition at The Watermill in Aberfeldy, etchings by Bellany (recently honoured with a major retrospective at the Scottish National Gallery) are on show with accompanying poems by Bruce.
The Sea Folios is a gently complimentary body of work from their collaborative ventures, with poems that respond to etchings and vice versa.
Although Bruce was old enough to be his father, the two men forged a firm friendship based on their common heritage of the North Sea and fishing.
Bruce was born and raised in Fraserburgh, where his father was the owner of a firm of herring curers and his forebears were all fisherfolk. He pursued a successful career as a producer with BBC Scotland, and formed many close friendships with artists through his work. In retirement, his passion for spare and beautifully observed poetry led to a late flowering career.
As his retrospective revealed, Bellany’s work has been informed by his upbringing in the fishing town of Port Seton in East Lothian, from the very outset of his career as an artist at Edinburgh College of Art.
Bellany and Bruce portrayed people and sea. In 2001, Bellany and Bruce devised Woman of the North Sea, a folio consisting of six of Bruce’s poems in response to six etchings by Bellany. 
In 2007, Bellany made seven more etchings in response to six poems by Bruce. As in Woman of the North Sea, The Sacred Sea includes some of Bellany’s most characteristic images. Bruce’s poems include A Birthday Gift from John Bellany and Death Mask of a Fisherman.

For this exhibition, the two sets of connected etchings and poems have been framed and mounted. 
The Jolomo Bank of Scotland Awards finalists’ exhibition
Bank of Scotland HQ, The Mound, Edinburgh
0131 243 5414
Today (11am-4pm) and tomorrow (12pm-4pm)

Ruth Nicol's Leith in Winter
Every two years since 2006, Scottish landscape artists of all ages have been invited to enter their work for the Jolomo Bank of Scotland Awards, which offers up a total prize fund of £35k to the chosen few.
In an economic climate which makes it increasingly difficult for artists to make a living, prizes such as this one, initiated by Argyll-based painter, John Lowrie Morrison (Jolomo) and supported by the Bank of Scotland, are a lifeline.
With a main award of £25,000 and a further £10,000 to be divided among the runners up, these awards are the largest in Scotland, and the largest privately funded art awards in the UK.
In March, nine artists ranging in age from 26 to 62, were shortlisted and this weekend, their work will go on show to the public in Edinburgh prior to a Gala Dinner at Kelvingrove Art Gallery in Glasgow on June 19, at which the winning artists will be announced. 
The nine artists are, Catharine Davison (42) from Edinburgh; Amy Dennis (35) from Edinburgh; Hyojun Hyun (29) from Glasgow; Philip MacEachan (62) from Ross-shire; Dawnne McGeachy (43) from Glasgow; David McGill (26) from Glasgow; Ruth Nicol (46) from Edinburgh; Anne Rae (53) from Jedburgh; Jonathan Shearer (42) from Ross-shire.
There is some fine – and very different – work on show this weekend, which illustrates the broad reach of talent which exists in Scotland in the field of the noble art of landscape painting.
Their stories are all different too. There is Ruth Nicol, who at the age of 40, and a single mother, gave up a safe job in the financial services sector to go to art school and Philip MacEachan, who at the age of 62 is finishing a degree in fine art at Moray College, having worked previously as a retail design manager for HSBC in Sheffield.
Hyojun Hyun, originally from Korea, paints forgotten corners of Glasgow, while Dawnne McGeachy finds herself returning to her Kintyre roots and her father’s life at sea as inspiration for her large spumey seascapes.

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