An Talla Solais at Eden Court Theatre

7 Mar 2012 in Highland, Showcase, Visual Arts & Crafts

Foyers, Eden Court Theatre, Inverness, until 31 March 2012

CURRENTLY on show on the first and second level theatre foyers at Eden Court Theatre, the 8th annual exhibition by members of An Talla Solais sees the group exhibiting outside their home base in Ullapool for the first time.

ATS are a valuable resource on the West Coast, running a community arts centre, holding workshops, classes, exhibitions and events for artists and makers of all abilities. This latest exhibition of 2D work reflects the diversity of the group, with established artists such as James Hawkins and Peter White exhibiting alongside emerging and recreational artists. It is great to see a trajectory of art practice both professional and recreational in the exhibition and to be able to see the group’s activities presented to a wider public audience. All over the Highlands and Islands such grass roots groups are an essential part of the cultural infrastructure and public exhibitions by organisations such as ATS are important in making this creative work in the community more visible.

James Lumsden - ATS Suite 9

James Lumsden - ATS Suite 9

Two works by James Lumsden, ATS Suite 8 & 9 in graphite powder and acrylic on card are an intriguing combination of formal composition, a vertical triptych of dark and light and the resistance of two media. This ambiguity between what at first glance feels like black and white photography and the process that reveals itself on closer inspection is extremely appealing. ATS Suite No.9 is like witnessing a chemical reaction; that magical moment in the darkroom as the image begins to emerge, part design, part accident depending on the variables involved. Like a suspended moment of exposure, the image invites the imagination into surreal contemplation of form.

Martin Howard’s black and white digital print Journey leads the viewer convincingly into the photograph in a gentle diagonal ascent from the foreground along a white stone path to a small shrine overshadowed by a cypress tree, traditionally a symbol of death and mourning. Tonal contrast in the image, the presence of light and a dead tree to the left of the image present the viewer with a narrative of the spirit; an inward journey of the eye and mind. Ian Sarjeant’s black and white photographic print Ripples also provides a welcome opportunity to pause in contemplation with its inky immersive circular rhythms.

Rachel Grant - Still Life with Seed Head

Rachel Grant - Still Life with Seed Head

Original printmaking is well represented by Rachel Grant’s Still Life With Seed Head (Printmaking and mixed media) in a palette of vintage green, pink and alizarin, a nicely layered composition of interior domestic design and organic elements. Emma Noble’s Relief Prints 2 & 3 create balance through finely tuned form, colour and pattern. The geometric abstraction of Under The Bridge (Relief Print 2 1/1) is perhaps the strongest example, in a subdued palette of yellows, greys and accents of orange, bold form and tonality creating a unified composition. Within simplified pictorial elements subtle variations of mark create a multi-layered surface which begs closer inspection. Phill James’s Man On A Ferry (Etching) provides a more immediate response to subject through direct mark on the etching plate, the profile of the figure drawn almost in caricature, with random marks of the surface containing an energy all of their own. This lone first impression begs an observational series.

Dorothy Francis’s In Dreams (Mixed Media) successfully draws the eye into its immersive interior of blue and purple, the pattern of the quilt and the grid of the window echoing each other as portals of dreaming. The sleeping figure visited by an apparition of self or kin feels illustrative in its origins and use of collage is effective, rendering the ghostly figure drawn in pencil opaque and ethereal, yet strangely tactile in the artist’s use of fragile, textured paper.

Martin Howard - Journey

Martin Howard - Journey

Celia Garbutt’s Warsaw (Acrylic) recalls De Chirico and Miro in the empty facades of buildings, surreal shadow and simplified forms. The acidic yellow light of the streetlamp and the silhouette of birds confined within the same eye-like form, create an eerily atmospheric image of composite ideas. Although these elements are intriguing, the composition as a whole leads the viewer quite literally into a corner perspective of a painted set, rather than into a more expansive reality – or Surreality – that the viewer’s mind can wander into. The dream-like quality of Garbutt’s acrylics is appealing and has potential; however, greater consideration could to be given to the crafting of the image and how the artist leads the viewer into the painting as a result in order to strengthen future work.

Rhiannon Van Muysen’s wonderful mixed media works are subtly evocative of landscape and thoroughly immersed in creative process. Two square composition works, Retreat ( pencil, frozen ink and iron melted into paper), present a symbiotic relationship between technique and ideas. The artist’s handling of materials evokes the fusion of ancient rock, while the pencil outline of mountains remains barely visible, each image suspended on fragile paper within the frame. The artist’s delicate alchemy of bled ink, in grey, black and umber accented with a fine streak of blue are exciting in their experimentation and associative range. A larger scale work like After The Melt is on one level an exploration of materials and surface textures but also reads like a vast aerial perspective of land seen from above. This shifting perspective lead by the artist’s experimentation with her chosen media is invigorating, and it will be interesting to see how Van Muysen’s work continues to develop.

This is a varied and interesting exhibition and although frustratingly the space restricts ATS members work to two dimensions, it is gratifying to see the group’s work reaching a wider audience in a central Highland location.

© Georgina Coburn, 2012