Thursday, 15 June 2017

'From Small Seeds Grow' by Penumbra Artists at Seventeen!

About this time last year I did a post about my good friend Steve's art groups show 'Life Is Your Very Own Canvas' which featured a varied selection of works from Penumbra service users. Steve combined his own experiences of art as a healing factor to overcome some of the challenges he faced in the everyday and as a result created what has come to be some of my favourite art works, a few of which proudly take pride of place in my home. Art as a therapeutic remedy has been tried and tested and can often lead to some interesting works and the second show from the Penumbra group is certainly proof of that.

Since last year the group has grown with Kane Jansen helping to co facilitate but they still face challenges like regular space for the group to meet and work on their art works. Taking each challenge as it comes, they've managed to carry on and produced a series of new works which were show for a few weeks at the Seventeen space. I popped down for the opening to see whats new and as before was blown away by the breadth of work on show. Steve himself is very much aligned with the outsider art movement, a group who often work outside the established norms of what many consider to be fine art, instead there's a focus on finding your own unique voice. The show as before is a perfect embodyment of this ethos with incredible water colour paintings next to glass ware, photography next to highly detailed oil paintings and fun sketchy drawings next to psychedelic mandala art. Its also great to see artists returning to show again like the fabulous work of Barbara Mason who was a favourite from last year.

But often the merit of these works doesn't come from the skill of the artist or the ability to translate an idea but from the simple fact they lifted pencil to paper. It was almost overwhelming to hear a few of the artists speak about their experiences with the group and to hear how it had directly impacted on their lives and mental health. One artist spoke of the support and inspiration she finds in the group and how it helps her keep going while another spoke of going to the first class after years of suffering with depression and anxiety, not making for so long but as she walked home after that class she finally felt like a weight had been lifted, she was coming out of the dark tunnel and could see light for the first time in a long time. These testimonies not only speak of the power of what Steve and Kane have achieved with the group but of the power and resilience of each of the artists. 

As with many of these shows they're up and then down in no time but the after effect is always strong and will hopefully inspire more people to find the power in their creative voice. Well done to all artists involved and thank you for sharing. To find out more about Penumbra and the support they provide check out

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

'Mark Wallinger Mark' by Mark Wallinger at The DCA!

I recently found myself in Dundee with a few hours to kill so I paid a visit to the DCA to check out whats new. Dundee itself looks like a city on the move with the new V&A Museum looking more complete every time I pass through to the social media buzz around the Dundee Design Festival (sad to say I missed it all). But as always the DCA had a load to offer the time constrained traveller as I rifled through the shop for 20 minutes before heading over to check out the show by Mark Wallinger

The first room contained a film screening which appeared to show a scaffold being erected on a beach. Having recently discovered how handy a scaffold can be I was mesmerised watching as each piece was locked into place. As I peeked round into the main gallery space I was confronted by a giant monolithic Tardis, like the one Doctor Who uses to travel through time, except this one appeared much bigger and to be made from silver. I can still remember seeing these old police phone boxes dotted around Glasgow etc but the size and material beauty of this one was quite something. I'm glad to report its smooth finish wasn't tarnished by greasy fingerprints either but the urge to touch this object was strong!

Another video installation piece featured 4 screens which appeared to be showing different angles from the same spot. The rather inoccuous views took on a different edge when seen in the gallery, almost transporting the viewer to some generic housing estate square, VR done on the cheap maybe. From here you begin to see the main works for the show, a series if giant, almost rorschach test style paintings, each measuring 3.6m high by 1.8m across. As with the police box piece its the size of these paintings which really caught me, I stood looking at each one with wonder. The gallery assistant kindly told me that the artist works on both sides of the canvas simultaneously, the left hand mimicking the motions on the right, stroke for stroke with incredibly accurate results. To tackle the huge height the canvases are rotated allowing the artist to work at a comfortable height and avoiding the need for a scaffold or ladder. 

The show served as a joint exhibition with a second show at The Fruitmarket Gallery which I sadly didn't make it to. But for a simple stop gap between St Andrews and getting home the DCA offered up something truly special. I often wonder what could have been had Peacock Visual Arts managed to beat the egocentrics and town planners who backed the raising of the gardens instead of helping them see their vision of a world class arts and education centre right in the heart of the city. Alas there's not much point in going over old wounds and if anything it gives me more reason to get down to Dundee to see whats new!   .

Saturday, 10 June 2017

'This Will Ruin Everything' by Recoat!

Recoat are a bit of a Glasgow institution, responsible for some the city's most iconic murals and bringing some of the biggest names in graffiti and street art to Scotland. Reaching the ripe old age of 10 the gang have decided to take a look back at the past decade of events, exhibitions and murals via a retrospective show at The Lighthouse in Glasgow. Also, they would like to produce a hardcover book to help catalogue and archive what must feel like a lifetimes work. But to do this they need your help. The exhibition is already set for July and the book layout and design is done but the cost of producing such a wonderous item doesn't come cheap so they've started a kickstarter page. With a huge range of rewards starting from £3 to £3000 there's something for all budgets. 

I first walked past the old Recoat gallery a good few years ago and was amazed to find artwork by SheOne and a few others who's designs I'd seen on the old Addict t shirts. The gallery was shut but I found them on social media and made an effort to check out as many of their shows as I could and the team were always super friendly and welcoming. Over the years they've helped support and nurture a huge number of Scottish talent from all over the country and have started some incredible mural initiatives like the annual Spring Fling festival and I'm sure everyone recognises the common wealth murals dotted around Glasgow. But there's so much more the team have done and the book is a chance to delve into these projects and to own a little piece of Recoat history. £30 will secure you a pre order of the book, a steal for whats sure to be a future classic and these guys have given so much and done so much its a small price to pay to help them achieve their goal. 

So you can check out the kickstarter page here and select a reward that suits you and hopefully by this time next week the project will be fully funded and the books will be ready for their big exhibition. And if not then I guess its just on to the next project! Good luck Recoat and thanks for some incredible shows!

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Look Again Festival Recap # 3!

As the weekend rolled on it brought the sun with it and a chance to laze in the graveyard where the the church bell chimes rang out a slightly different tune, one written by Janet McEwan. I finally got a chance to check out The Listener, up close and personal as people filled into the old gardens to see these strange gramophone structures, stopping to take a moment and perhaps see the Library from a new angle. Jason and Allan's pieces both utilised public park spaces and created a nice focal point for engagement with people stopping to chat with one another and interacting with these new art works.

Record Store continued at Seventeen with one of the volunteers, Vladas bringing down his decks for a real life record store feel with booming reggae tunes adding some much needed sounds to the former record shop space. Along with Vladas, Katie Guthrie hosted a special zine making workshop which gave locals the chance to find out about zine culture and to have a bash at making a few pages for a group 'D.Aye.Y' zine. 'Record Store' founder Janie Nichols also hosted an informal discussion with a few of the artists who created record covers at local vinyl haven and bar Spin.

Workshops and talks formed a large part of the weekends activities with the wonderful V.A.U. hosting a fantastic 'Pillow Talk' event where they invited some of the Look Again artists along with local artist Ade Adesina to talk about collaboration with in their own practices. The Anatomy Rooms played host to the SCAN Talk which focused on creative practioners with in the region, the challenges they face but also some of the positive work that's taken place to grow the creative community. These types of events are a great chance to meet some of the people behind organisations like Woodend Barn and Scottish Sculpture Workshop, places that are sometimes easy to over look or difficult to get to (especially on a skateboard).

Pester & Rossi brought their parade into town along with their wearable inflatables, forming a small procession which made its way from the hub on Belmont Street to each of the main sites, bringing a splash of colour wherever they went. City Moves really kicked off their new logo with a host of pop up dance events in the Bon Accord Centre and Belmont Street before the official re - launch event under new director Steve Slater at The Anatomy Rooms. The old dissection rooms played host to a rather special and somewhat mad dance piece called 'Cloud Mushroom' by Fritz Welch and Ultimate Dancer. The performance was the perfect release after a pretty hectic few weeks and capped off Saturday quite nicely!

Sunday provided a chance to catch up on myself a little and to also check out the newly launched 'Aberdeen Collection' at the Look Inside pop up. From the off Look Again has been as much about nurturing local talent as it has bringing fun and engaging work to the city and the 'Aberdeen Collection' is a real achievement. Created by local makers, Aubin Stewart, Mags Gray, Gabi Reith and Anne Marquiss, the collection explores the colours and architecture of Aberdeen (its quite beautiful when you actually take the time to look) and crafted a range of items from jewellery, ceramic wares, prints and clothing which celebrate the city in quite a fresh and positive way. With items to suit all price ranges the group gave everyone a chance to take a little piece home with them, I snagged some nice prints to add to the ever growing pile waiting to be framed.

You could say that in a very short space of time The Anatomy Rooms has become an essential part of many cultural events and has also fostered some great work from its resident studio artists. They are currently home to Stack Collective, a group made up from recent graduates and creatives who have thrown themselves into the numerous opportunities presented both by Spectra Festival and Look Again, adding a fresh voice to things. They handily capped off the festival with their fun 'Disco Graveyard' which featured life size anatomical skeletons, decorated and placed in different locations across the city centre, forming a slightly creepy trail which presented many an opportunity for a selfie, even I couldn't resist.

And as quickly as it came around it was done. Despite my best efforts there is loads I missed, the fashion student pop up shop in The Academy, some of the talks and workshop events, it was almost too much for two people to cover but hopefully it gave everyone a chance to try something new whether it was printing at peacocks or making a zine. All the different elements of the festival are important components and its great to see it growing year on year. As always a massive shout out to the team behind the festival, Sally, Claire, Hilary and Natalie along with all the volunteers, facilitators, participants and to Grant Anderson, photo and video wizard!