Edinburgh Art Festival – Own Art
Hooray! Just what everyone’s been looking for. After a long period of glorious summer comes a festival of unrelenting culture to tide us through to autumn. To imagine anyone prematurely taking to the spirit of the colder months and choosing to sit out August in a frenzy of mashed potatoes and other such autumnal delights is absurd. We’re all still tucking into the salad leaves we embarked on some time in early April, waiting to take on Edinburgh Art Festival with all the joie de vivre that comes of such an ethereal diet – and all this lovely weather!
Full of beans (or lamb’s lettuce, as the case may be), you’ll not go far wrong visiting the Ingleby Gallery during the festival this year. They’re hosting an exhibition by Ian Hamilton Finlay, one of the most influential Scottish artists of the 20th century. Poet, conceptual artist and gardener, Finlay is simultaneously the most satisfying and most cryptic artist you’re likely to come across in the capital this summer. Drawing on past events as disparate as the French Revolution and the Second World War, his often playful and humorous art is a complex mesh of historical references, puns and the traditions of modern art. And despite its complexity, encountering Finlay’s work is always gratifying, equivalent to reading a dense history book, the breadth of which leaves you feeling pleasantly vertiginous.
Another consummate joker in the pack of this year’s festival playing cards is American artist Philip Guston. Showing at Inverleith House, Guston was a largely self taught painter with a uniquely cartoon-like style, taking the principles of abstract expressionism and applying them to his Pop Art sensibilities. Expect to encounter large, grotesque figures, big, meaty hands, and tab ends galore at this rare and exciting exhibition.
More cartoonery comes from John Brown at Superclub. In a hope to combine the experiences of shopping with art, Brown has produced representations of everyday consumer items you might find in shops. He’s packaged them and displayed them to sell as one-off objects in the style of mass-produced consumables. Why not supplement your leafy diet with a half-eaten biscuit made from Fimo?
At Edinburgh Printmakers they’re celebrating the Earth’s imminent demise in the ironically titled Cheer Up! It’s Not the End of the World. With the 21 December 2012 the day the world supposedly ceases to be – according to the ancient Mayan calendar – it’s timely to look at some artworks that relish the inevitable end, whether it be a stray comet or a freak burst of the sun’s radiation. The impressive lineup includes Jake & Dinos Chapman, Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst, and Scottish artist David Faithfull.
Similarly fascinated by catastrophe is Harry Hill. Not primarily an artist at all and actually a comedian and television presenter, Hill will be familiar to us all – but unlikely as a painter. He has in fact made several illustrated books, including Tim the Tiny Horse, and the Further Adventures of the Queen Mum, and paints as well as any Scottish art school graduate. He employs a surreal and satirical style to his witty paintings of celebrities, familiar to fans of his telly programmes. If the art world accepts him as a true artist is irrelevant – the show, in White Stuff, will be a fun antidote to the festival's other, more cerebral offerings.
Whether you’re looking for a life-changing experience, an opportunity to have a laugh, or you’re simply looking to dwell on the end of the world, Edinburgh Art Festival has it all this summer. It’s a veritable salad of tasty delights – so, get stuck in!