Bobby Niven @ SWG3
Bobby Niven has made some art about the uninhabited island in the Firth of Forth called Inchgarvie. Once a holiday retreat for sufferers of syphilis in the late Middle Ages, and later a 20th-century military fortification, it is now a training camp for sea birds – a radical hotbed of gull extremism.
Utilising three rooms in the ever-changing SWG3 gallery in Glasgow, Niven has responded to the site in three distinct ways, including large-scale sculpture, found objects and video. There is a pleasing continuity between the different elements of the exhibition, largely due to the limited colour palette determined by the grey and desolate island itself.
In the largest of the three rooms are seven big sculptures. Most of them are made from concrete and seem imposing and heavy, while at the same time appearing fun and childish. One looks like a large rolled up piece of Plasticine precariously balancing on its curved surface, another resembles a wedge of melon, while another looks like a stack of three balls. Breaking the continuity is Untitled (guano), plaster, 2012. It is made from plaster and has a form that wholly references its own material qualities and achieves nothing beyond looking like a pile of plaster.
The video ISLAND is twelve and a half minutes of black and white footage of the Firth of Forth with audio. We get to see some sculptures Niven installed on the island, a masked man waving at a passing boat and some train tracks. It is meandering and unfocused, giving little impression of the spatial limits of what we’re looking at. We move from the island to the mainland and back again with no real sense of specificity of place (where are we now?). It is nonetheless intriguing to see the island close up and consider the aesthetic minimalism of the Firth of Forth. [Andrew Cattanach]