Art Culture

A first venture into the physical gallery space: Reviewing the NOW Series at the Modern One.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

After what seems like an eternity, art galleries and viewing spaces are in a tentative stage of reopening. How does this look in Scotland? The National Gallery of Modern Art is asking patrons to book an hour slot ahead of time and adhere to mandatory mask guidelines.

Interesting to note is the marked route through the gallery that is now prescribed to accommodate social distancing. What is usually a space that encourages meandering and reflective thought – essentially, total freedom of movement, now moves you through the space under a certain time limit and in a certain sequence. The impact of this on our perception of art remains to be seen.

The focus of this article centres around the NOW series, which runs until Sunday 10 January 2021 at the Modern One. The bevy of artists (Darren Almond, Shona Macnaughton, Lucy Raven) featured are led by the works of Katie Paterson, a Scottish-based artist (for whom this is her first showing of work in a national Scottish gallery) whose primary concern is the intersection between science, specifically astronomy, and art.

As you move through the gallery, it becomes immediately apparent that Paterson’s work is the result of extended periods of deep research and familiarity with the subject matter beyond what it typically expected from an artist. Paterson herself becomes a veritable scientist through her blindingly accurate projections of the colours and sounds of space across mixed media.

Perhaps most striking of the works on display is Paterson’s Totality (2016), coincidentally the featured image in this article. The work constitutes a oversized shimmering ball rotating in light reflected from the projections of every solar eclipse ever captured by man. Whilst the works themselves are vast, the scale of the ideas they represent are even vaster. One cannot help but feel a sense of insignificance when confronted with such an immense and veritable quantity of cosmological data, translated into a physical form so deftly by Paterson.

Space and time constitute the connecting themes that link Paterson’s works to those of her fellow artists in the series, and as a theme feels especially apt during our current climate of uncertainty and ever-more pronounced reflection. The installation as a composite is well-worth a visit should you wish to contemplate matter itself and potentially plunge further into any pre-existing covid-triggered existential crisis you may have experienced. Alternatively, it also presents a rather civilised way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Image: National Gallery of Modern Art, Scotland

By Erin Withey

Erin is an Edinburgh-based History student, freelance writer and current Art Editor for The Student. She contributes to a variety of Scottish, student-led publications and is in constant pursuit of hot takes.