Jess Johnson @ Talbot Rice

Jess Johnson brings together scifi and high technology with aplomb for her Talbot Rice solo show.

Review by Holly Gavin | 26 Sep 2016
  • Jess Johnson @ Talbot Rice

Jess Johnson’s show Eclectrc Panoptic in the upstairs gallery at Talbot Rice is an amazing show. This awkward large hallway usually houses a display experienced in passing, an add-on to whatever is happening downstairs. However, in this pairing of shows, Eclectrc Panoptic and The Subject and Me (Alice Neel), the former successfully holds its own against a painting giant and triumphs as the main event.

The work on display includes ornate drawings framed behind glass in a grid hang, looking like rare original psychedelic band posters or album covers. These read like digital reproductions of flat graphic images rather than meticulous drawings made with paint, pens, and markers. Johnson’s work pictures a futuristic and fantastical world with a retro-appeal.  

Also on display is a video animation made from her drawings, a teaser for the tour de force: a central installation introduced with a custom floor and mural design completed with two Oculus Rift headsets. These gadgets are the next milestone for video gaming simulating total immersion in a digital reality. There is such a sense of novelty attached to this work that people are excited to experience it – there is at least a five to fifteen minute waiting time, a rarity in an art gallery. While queuing the mystery of what these headsets hold grows: what is it like wearing one of these things? What has Johnson succeeded in making?

Eclectrc Panoptic delivers the cool-factor, while breaking boundaries leaving visitors musing about exciting prospects of an effective pairing of art and technology. It is half of a double-female-artist agenda for Talbot Rice. The show is in association with Edinburgh Digital Entertainment Festival, a fitting cross-disciplinary collaboration in a gallery located in the University of Edinburgh’s Law School. Eclectrc Panoptic is a beautiful example of cutting-edge creation. Please go enter phantasmagoria, Johnson’s interpretation is awe-inspiring. [Holly Gavin]



Jess Johnson: Eclectrc Panoptic at Talbot Rice Gallery, 29 Jul-8 Oct