Get Eclectic: Converge, by Visual Arts Scotland

Visual Arts Scotland put on their annual exhibition, and look to bring together artists and designers in meaningful and challenging ways

Preview by Adam Benmakhlouf | 04 Feb 2016

Converge in its scale and brief is a large and ambitious show that seeks to showcase both artists and designers beyond a face value sharing of the Royal Scottish Academy Building. Though disciplinary specificity is encouraged and readily acknowledged throughout the presented work, there is a subtle conversation between the two. Generally, there’s an interest in design that emphasises concept and experimentation, while invited contemporary artists demonstrate a concern with the possibilities of making and craft.

Taking seriously the connection of art and design comes from the constitution of the VAS itself. Originally starting as a society for women artists, in 80s it made the transition to an open association that promoted crafts and design work, and now too sees these on a continuum with contemporary art.

So it is that VAS set the stage for jewellery graduate Natalie Jane Adams to share pride of place with war-inspired sculpture graduate James Ritchie and fine art printmaker Euphrosyne Andrews. That’s just mentioning a small number of exhibitors in one part of the VAS show, the Graduate Showcase.

These graduates exhibit with three contemporary artists and designers specifically invited by VAS to take part. One of them is Steven MacIver, an artist who works between painting and large scale installations. In some work MacIver builds richly linear forms and compositions often on etched gold leaf on canvas, which might then be transposed into three dimensions via thousands of gold and silver threads. For Converge, MacIver presents one of these large installations, originally shown in New York.

Alongside MacIver will be large scale drawings by artist Andrew Mackenzie, produced during a residency in the Edinburgh Academy. The third of the invitees, designer Sam Johnson presents smooth stools that come from the Ailsa Craig quarry, whose stone is considered uniquely strong enough to withstand championship curling.

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Joining these artists will be a diverse range of work coming from the Open Submission. Somehow carving out a selection of 150 pieces from 1300 works by around 600 artists, VAS made its primary concern to find artists, designers, craft makers and applied arts practitioners who explored the boundaries of function, form, materials and making.

Providing artists with the space to exhibit in the RSA is already an important opportunity generated by the work of the VAS. They will also be hosting The Cordis prize, the largest competition and award in the world for large scale woven tapestry. Between the nominees, they represent the most up-to-date talent in tapestry from around the world.

Included in the shortlist is Elke Hülse. In her detailed textile work, she makes compositions from her archive of personal photography, which she collages together and changes using photo software. Their large scale and elegant execution jars with the references to screen-based and fast editing effects.

With a host of attractive work on display, VAS are fully prepared for audience participation on Sunday 14 February, aka Hands On Day. On this day, the makers will be taking over the gallery with tools in hand to chat about and demonstrate their techniques. Visitors will be invited too to have a shot at loom weaving, silver chasing and repousse, mosaic, to name a few.

Closing their run, VAS will got out in style with Movers and Makers Wrap party on Thursday 18 February. From 6.30-9pm it’ll be the last chance to see the work on display, as well as to have a drink and enjoy some music – dancing optional. 

Converge, by Visual Arts Scotland, 29 Jan-18 Feb
Closing party tickets £6, available through Eventbrite