Galleries: The Scottish Endarkenment

‘The Scottish Endarkenment’ arrives at the Dovecote Gallery as an exhibition created (rather than curated) by Bill Hare and Andrew Patrizio of the University of Edinburgh.

In featuring the work of Scottish artists active between the Second World War and the present day, the exhibition seeks to pose questions relating to issues of social inequality, communal and international violence, gender and sexuality.

The works themselves reflect or raise these and other departure points for the consideration of the viewer. Form and content are necessitously diverse and sometimes divergent.

As with anthologies of poetry or collections of essays, it’s sometimes as interesting to note who has been left out as to discover who is included, but ‘The Scottish Endarkenment’ offers a very wide selection of the work of Scottish artists across the latter half of the twentieth century and into our own.

Thus Robert Colquhoun’s ‘Figures in a Farmyard’ rubs shoulders with Jack Bellany’s ‘The Ettrick Shepherd’ and Douglas Gordon’s ‘Monster’, the three of them forming a partial snapshot of Scottish artistic production and altering sensibility across the exhibition’s self-imposed time frame.

Unavoidably, what one viewer finds intriguing and arresting may not produce such reaction in others, but the range and depth of work on show here offers an amplitude of experience both visual and emotional.

The sculptures of Eduardo Paolozzi and William Turnbull provide contrast with the canvases of Joan Eardley and Alison Watts, and the photography of Wendy McMurdo and David Shrigley, while in Peter Thomson’s ‘The Little Foxes’ a figure is pursued across Calton Hill by a band of presumably post-Knoxian determinists, the painting juxtaposed with Jock McFadyen’s ‘Calton Hill’ in which a very prominent full moon soars above the minute buildings of Regent Road.

Inclusiveness is strength, and here perhaps also the abiding theme and impression of this sometimes seemingly eclectic coming together of a representative surgical section through recent and contemporary Scottish art.

Whether as a sampler of the nation’s modern art, a demonstration of some of its concerns or simply as an introduction to a number of our best practitioners, ‘The Scottish Endarkenment’ may prove to be a revelation.

The Scottish Endarkenment, Art and Unreason, 1945 to the present - Dovecote Gallery, 10 Infirmary Street 13 May to 29 August 2016, part of Edinburgh Art Festival