Diane Arbus and RSA New Contemporaries, or Seeing Putin in Jesus

RSA New Contemporaries – a mixed bag (of treats)

Omar Zingaro Bhatia

As mentioned here earlier this month, the Royal Scottish Academy brought together highlights from fine art and architecture degree shows across Scotland at this exhibition, which is running until Wednesday 21st April. (That’s this Wednesday, so hurry hurry hurry if you want to catch it!)

We thought it was good overall, a mixed experience in places, but then it promised art and architectural projects from those at early stages in their careers, so we should be understanding, especially at £2 per person!

It’s interesting in some ways to see how architects present and propose projects, and we could all learn a lot from some of the impeccable work here in terms of design and presentation, but I do tire of purely theoretical architecture after a point, and find that despite the artistry of it all and the possible brilliance of the proposed building or urban space, it just doesn’t deliver the profound reflection and unbridled aesthetic pleasure we get from art.

But criticisms aside, at the upper end of the ‘mixed’ is, of course, the ‘great’!  And there was a lot of great.  I was accused of deciding that I liked Omar Zingaro Bhatia‘s work before I ever saw it properly, and that’s partly true, as evidenced by this blog.  However, while his painting may not be as accomplished as some of the other artists’ works here, I felt that he emerged strongest in terms of overall concept (the ‘junkshop’) and he distinguishes himself by integrating his own real-time persona and life into that concept.  His junkshop is not as random as it first appears and a closer look reveals that the assemblage of bits and bobs is actually carefully considered so as to reflect relationships, places, thoughts and memories from his life to the present.

Only until Wednesday, so quick!

Diane Arbus, Dean Gallery Artist Rooms

This exhibition of the photography of Diane Arbus runs until 13th June so feel free to indulge your procrastination glands.  It’s a little self-indulgent of me to blog about this because a) it seems as though most people I know in Edinburgh have already seen it and made their own mind up about it; and b) you can do an image-search for Diane Arbus (give it a go) and lots and lots of her photography will appear before your eyes in an instant so that YOU TOO can make up your own mind without my whimsical intervention.

So I’ll limit myself to a couple of brief observations.  We had the pleasure of my parents’ company on this particular outing and we all agreed that the photography is great.  And there is a lot of it, giving you a fantastic, broad idea of the photographer’s interests.  These tend to focus on strange, unique and just bizarre individuals, often on the edge of society – epitomised by her Eccentrics series – or unique perspectives on ordinary people.  But here’s my perspective (thanks to Arbus) on a world leader: did you know that Vladimir Putin occasionally masquerades as Jesus?  Have a look at Arbus’s Christ in a Lobby!

Do you remember what other interesting character, not so popular with religious leaders, looks like Putin?  Find out here.

Art in Edinburgh this April: The Printmaker’s Art

Beer is for winners: Beer Street (left) and Gin Lane.

Art is good in Edinburgh this April.  At the top of my list is the Royal Scottish Academy’s New Contemporaries exhibition, showcasing the work of recent graduates from across Scotland and hand-picked directly from degree shows.  I’ve been told that one to look out for is Omar Zingaro Bhatia’s unique brand of ‘junkshop’ madness, as well as Jamie Fitzpatrick’s avant-garde taxidermy or whatever you want to call it.  More on that and on Diane Arbus in the Dean Gallery later this month.

On Saturday the Comely Banking Crisis took in The Printmaker’s Art in the National Gallery on the mound.  If you’re willing to brave the soporific, sweaty 1970s dungeon that lies beneath the gallery, you’ll find this exhibition amidst the Scottish Collection. 

Let’s be honest: prints aren’t everyone’s thing.  While the media of wood and copper plate printing have been used to produce colour or in combination with other technniques by contemporary artists and in asian printing traditions such as Japanese Ukiyo-e, the National Gallery’s exhibition is generally limited to the shadowy, black-and-white European style, epitomised by Albrecht Dürer’s engravings.

Don’t let this put you off.  This exhibition is free and well worth a visit.  There’s a great diversity of work here despite the medium and the relatively small number of pieces.  Besides, I think less is definitely more when you’re dealing with intense and detailed works such as Dürer’s The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

Needless to say there are works by plenty of other great artists here too.  Highlights for me were Rembrandt’s Christ Crucified between the Two Thieves, the impression here being an especially dark rendering which works excellently with the contrasting light and darkness of the picture, and Goya’s A woman and a horse, let someone else master them. (Lovely!)

However, our favourite experience by far was William Hogarth’s pair of prints Beer Street and Gin Lane (pictured), extolling the virtues of beer (yes please!) against the total disaster of gin culture in 18th-century London.  Maybe they hadn’t discovered tonic at that stage, but Hogarth really has it in for gin, which is foreign, slutty and disease-ridden, but apparently great for the pawn-shop industry.  Beer, though, is thankfully very English.  Have a closer look and enjoy.

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