Issue Number: 111
Some of the art world’s brightest stars head for Scotland this summer, with four RAs mounting solo shows and a major museum reopening. Philippa Stockley reports.
KAPOOR LOOKS BACK
Anish Kapoor RA is on a global roll. Immense works such as the 115m-high tower, ArcelorMittal Orbit, currently bolting its way upwards in east London for the 2012 Olympics, demonstrates the gigantic versatility that Kapoor is famous for. His RA solo show in 2009 attracted huge numbers, but how will the Arts Council’s touring show fare in Edinburgh? Anish Kapoor: Flashback at the Edinburgh College of Art Sculpture Court (0131 221 6000, www.eca.ac.uk, 4 Aug–9 Oct) is more of a snapshot of the artist’s achievement, setting an early pigment work bought by the Arts Council, White Sand, Red Millet, Many Flowers (1982) against recent large work chosen by Kapoor himself. See the seeds that blossomed into monumentalism.
Anish Kapoor RA, 'White Sand, Red Millet, Many Flowers' 1982 © Anish Kapoor 2011. Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
Elizabeth Blackadder RA, 'Flowers on an Indian Cloth' 1965 © Elizabeth Blackadder FLOWER POWER
Dame Elizabeth Blackadder RA’s retrospective at Edinburgh’s National Gallery Complex (www.nationalgalleries.org, 0131 624 6200, 2 July–2 Jan, 2012) shakes up our ideas about this 80-year-old master of botanical painting. Among the 100 or so works on display, paintings two metres across are unexpected. There is also a self-portrait of the notoriously shy dame in a kimono. Her fascination with Japan is the focus for an entire room in the exhibition. But it is her ability to capture the evanescent quality and colour of the finest of petals that remains so decorously explosive. Flowers on an Indian Cloth (1965) with its nod to Matisse, is magical. Meanwhile, the Scottish Gallery (www.scottish-gallery.co.uk, 5 Aug–3 Sep) shows Blackadder’s new paintings to coincide with the Edinburgh Festival.
Tony Cragg RA has a visual language that is disturbing, off-centre, almost alarming, one which perhaps has roots in the work of earlier artists Eduardo Paolozzi or Jacob Epstein. The Berlin-based British artist’s retrospective takes up the entire ground floor of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (0131 624 6200, www.nationalgalleries.org, 30 July–6 Nov). He is known for his sensuous, coiling, bulging, colluding forms, such as McCormack (2007). And the range of media he uses is unparalleled – I’m Alive (2003), in carbon and Kevlar, is a case in point. ‘When I make sculpture, I’m looking for a system of belief in the material,’ he says. ‘I want that material to have a dynamic, to push and grow.’ The show also reveals his unsettling ability to breathe life into found objects. Cragg’s universe of strong, strange stuff, so popular in Europe, gets a proper outing at last.
Redeveloping the National Museum of Scotland (www.nms.ac.uk, 0300 123 6789), which reopens on 29 July, has cost almost £50 million – and it shows. The 16 new galleries will display around 8,000 objects. The collections, which began in 1780, include magnificent national treasures such as Mary Queen of Scots’ jewels, the rare Celtic Hunterston brooch, from c.700CE, and an 18th-century Chinese ivory lantern given to a Director of the East India Company. In the Enlightenment spirit of collecting, the new ‘Window on the World’ installation displays 800 items soaring up through four storeys of the building.
David Mach RA, 'Die Harder' 2011 © David Mach RA. Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London FIRE AWAY
Hugely popular Scottish artist David Mach RA will set Edinburgh tongues alight when he sets fire to either one or both scaled-up heads of the Devil and Christ, sculpted using his trademark match heads, in his biggest show yet. ‘Precious Light’ at the City Art Centre (0131 529 3993, www.edinburghmuseums. org.uk, 30 July–16 Oct) fills all five floors of the building and takes as its starting point the King James Bible, whose 400th anniversary is this year. Mach and his team will work on site to make a découpage collage of the Last Supper. Sculptures include the painfully moving 10ft-high Crucifixion Die Harder (2011) made using 10,000 coat-hangers. One floor displays priceless editions of the Bible alongside excerpts chosen by Mach. This show is set to be a hot, if controversial, ticket.