Beneath The Surface features the artists Sara Brennan, Micheal Craik, Eric Cruikshank, Kenneth Dingwall, Callum Innes, Alan Johnston, James Lumsden, Karlyn Sutherland, Andrea Walsh.
The show starts with Kenneth Dingwall’s piece ‘presence’ and presence it has. It uses basswood that resembles an opening cocoon, creating a sense of looming modernity and its clash with nature. The natural elements of the exhibition are only further highlighted by the work of Sara Brennan. Her series of tapestries mimic the planes of natural forms such as horizons, utilising the form of weaving. Not only does this give her work dimensional depth but the use of a Scottish craft highlights the importance of exploring Scottish abstract art as its own entity.
Clearly the Scottish landscape is an important point of inspiration for contemporary artists as can be seen in Callum Innes’s use of the natural colour tones and minerals in his ‘exposed painting’ with charcoal and red oxide. Innes carefully evokes the rusty reds and black of Scottish wildlife while retain the minimalism and ambiguous form associated with abstract art.
Traditional craft is also another point of inspiration from Scottish culture. Both by Brennan in her use of weaving, and also in Andrea Walsh’s work which uses traditional glassmaking and metal working techniques. These materials also interact with the natural light of the room, which is particularly noticeable as the curator decided to place one of Karlyn Sutherland’s glass pieces behind it. This decision exposes the trend in the exhibition of exploring light. Representations of window-like forms can be seen throughout as a means to explore perspective. Both Sutherland’s ‘light study, Toyama (4)’ and Craik’s ‘Vestige 44’ and ‘45’ manage to evoke the movement and light of a window with very little except aluminium and coloured paint.
Two more standout pieces also mimic the image of a window; Johnston’s ‘untitled’ wall drawing and his acrylic and graphite pencil on linen. These naturally question the nature of perspective, drawing the overarching theme of viewing into a nice ring.
Clearly the curation was carefully executed, and the works chosen carefully complement each other and the themes of the show. I found that although the exhibition brought interesting ideas to the foreground, some of the pieces became slightly repetitive. The show is enjoyable but not necessarily ground-breaking or shocking. It is refreshing however, to see an abstract show made up completely of Scottish-based artists working with Scottish materials and themes. Particularly because historically, abstract artists from Scotland relocated to either London or Europe. The exhibition exposes the contemporary Scottish abstract that until now, had been sitting beneath the surface.
'Beneath the Surface' runs at the City Art Centre until 1 March 2020.