Often times in art exhibitions, the combination of seemingly unrelated artists, under the theme of ‘individualism’ or ‘disunity’ feels like an excuse for poor curation. However, occasionally a truly brilliant juxtaposition of artists takes the clichéd theme of ‘individualism’ and brings it back to life. Summerhall’s latest exhibition, Archipelago, does just that.
Archipelago was inspired in part by curator Jon Blackwood’s reflections on the place of art in contemporary societies. Blackwood’s experience in the Western Balkans revealed a society where artists and art institutions have little to no public funding. Back in the United Kingdom, he considered the grim possibility of Scotland’s art scene heading in the direction of the Balkans, a direction where creativity suffers and is not supported financially governing institutions. In a discussion with David Blyth, Blackwood formed the idea of art as an archipelago. While societal barriers to the arts, such as in the Balkans, may continue to grow and spread, culture is becoming more reliant that ever on the inspired individual. Together, individual artists act as the islands in an archipelago, sustaining art despite an ocean of impending adversity. Thus, Archipelago takes three distinct artistic styles and manages to link them together.
In addition to the unifying concept of an archipelago, David Blyth, Derrick Guild and Alan Grieve share similar connections to humour and nature. Blyth’s work is a collection of prints that spans two rooms. His artwork is like a combination of old botanical drawings, maths figures, and gentle earthy colours arranged into poster format. They are delicate, thought provoking, and yet subtly comical.
Beside Blyth is Derrick Guild. Guild contrasts acrylic animal paintings with larger displays. His paintings are reminiscent stylistically of Albrecht Dürer. Guild’s paintings have a soft natural beauty contrasted with the inevitability of decay seen in the imperfections, cracks and tears in the composition. And yet, Guild’s displays are somewhat humorous, such as his placement of an enormous orange on top of a duck-shaped bowl, encased within glass.
Last is Alan Grieve. His work consists of a collection of doodles, drawings, cutouts and pictures that reflect primarily on everyday people and objects, as well as their interaction with their respective environments. His work is particularly relevant to his native town of Dunfermline and to Scotland as a whole. Much of Grieve’s art is simply hilarious. Anyone who visits his collection, called ‘Inchfuckery’, cannot escape without a laugh or two.
Jon Blackwood did an excellent job in curating Archipelago. He takes three unique artists and ties them together under the metaphor of an archipelago, linking them with undertones of humour and nature. Archipelago may contain three seemingly unrelated artists, but it is anything but poor and clichéd.
At Summerhall until 17th March 2017