“We are the Edi Gallery Society, a relatively new society at Edinburgh University that is centred around hosting Art Exhibitions, promoting student artists, and allowing students the opportunity to gain valuable experience in the Art world. Most recently we have hosted our second (and biggest yet) exhibition ‘RE-KNEW-ED’ which showed over 50 different artist works in The Dundas St Gallery. With an evening sponsored by Cold Town House beer, featuring live music by Edinburgh University musicians (Nat and Fraser) and nearly 100 visitors – it was a HUGE success. We are looking forward to organising several socials, artist talks, Gallery visits and, of course, our next exhibition this semester and would love for anyone to become a member. No matter if you’re new to art or are an art enthusiast please feel free to come along and join us!”
Holly, President of the Gallery Society.
Re-Knew-ed might be the first in-person exhibition organized by the Gallery Society, a relatively new art society founded last year by a group of students at the University of Edinburgh, but without knowing this prior to the opening night it wouldn’t be hard to believe that the event has been put together by a team of professionals.
The venue is a proper gallery, one of many that pop up along Dundas Street; there is live music, and the turnaround is impressive. The first instinctive observation upon entering is that the space is almost overflowing with art, as well as with people; every available nook and corner has been taken up by a painting, a sketch, a collage, a sculpture. The atmosphere is electric, the creative tension palpable. Exhibiting artists and visitors are meandering around, alone or in clusters, discussing the merits of this or that work or simply savouring the moment, appreciating the opportunity to be physically present after a turbulent year of restrictions, lockdowns, online lectures and ongoing uncertainty.
The room is full but doesn’t feel crowded; people ebb and flow as they tentatively reacquaint themselves with each other, with the space, with the art surrounding them. The artists have fully embraced the freedom allowed by the exhibition title and theme, which leaves ample room for interpretation. Re-knowing can indicate the act of discarding what was previously taken for granted, to embark on a process of re-discovery, of questioning established beliefs, of altering one’s practices and habits, or all of the above.
Selenay Tektunali’s photograph Past, Present and Future captures the difficulty of grappling with the passing of time and our body’s constant evolution in a time of lockdown, where life seemed to stop as the whole world was forced to a halt. Ffion Williams takes a completely different approach and invites the audience to join her in her journey to re-know forgotten or misrepresented elements of her culture. Her painting Y Morganiaid plunges the viewer into a fantastical landscape populated by a series of ethereal figures inspired by Welsh mythology, rendered in undulating brushstrokes that enhance the scene’s mysterious, alluring charm.
Rowena Hutchinson’s Loss, a series of three-dimensional curved works made of plaster with embedded holes, prompts a more intimate reflection on loss, death and transformation. The negative spaces in the centre of her pieces draw the viewer’s gaze, a reminiscence of how our resilient bodies and psyches can morph to accommodate the gaping holes created by sudden change, be it a personal loss or the collective trauma engendered by the pandemic. The room is full of art, and one needs asecond and third tour to fully take in all the pieces displayed.
Astrid Wigand’s Vidd blends different media to explore her upbringing across multiple countries, evoking the coastline of Scotland and of her Swedish hometown. The blue tinge of the hand-stitched canvas exudes a subtle melancholy made more tangible by its materiality, created through the layering of textiles that firmly anchor the piece in the space.
Laura Garrudo Carrasco’s collage The Wild Ones greets the viewers as they first enter the room, almost hidden behind a pillar, hinting at the endless creative possibilities that can bloom when we embrace the uncertainty inherent in every process of re-knowing ourselves or the world around us.
The Gallery Society has certainly set itself up for a challenge: the presence of so many artworks within a relatively small space could have created an overwhelming sense of confusion, dimming the value of the individual pieces. But the overall effects simply – for lack of a better word – works. There is comfort to be found in the fullness of the room, in the playfully chaotic coexistence of different media that reflect the diverse background and creative practices of the disparate group of exhibiting artists, encompassing undergraduate and postgraduate students, painters, sculptors and people who don’t study art and would probably even hesitate to call themselves artists.
By deliberately choosing to incorporate such a wide selection of works, the Gallery Society has invited all visitors to engage in a process of re-knowing: of acknowledging that studying art is not a prerequisite for being creative, of getting to know new people, of encountering different ways in which people have channelled their creativity to cope with the challenges and uncertainty of the past year. This might have been the Gallery Society’s first in-person exhibition, but it has certainly established an ambitious standard against which to measure any of its future events. Until then, the Society can be proud of their hard work: Re-Knew-ed has been a perfect inauguration of the new semester and the new year.
Images courtesy of Edinburgh Gallery Society @edigallerysociety