Where do we go from here? New Work Scotland Programme 2007

A major initiative that affirms the wealth of talent Scotland is yielding

Feature by Jenny Richards | 07 Nov 2007
When finding your feet post-degree show, away from student electro nights and the daily rush home for lunchtime Neighbours, the number one most loathed question must undoubtedly be: "So what exactly are you going to do now?" However, these words, loaded with far too much expectation, need not be so disheartening.

The New Work Scotland Programme (NWSP), run by The Collective Gallery, is a major initiative that invests time in sculpting a terrain that can help support Scotland's emerging artists.

The idea centres itself around an open submission application for recent graduates, and those successful are given the opportunity to showcase new work in their first solo show. This year NWSP has broadened its scope, concentrating on a series of promising events and talks. Each is dedicated to offering guidance and information to the many ambitious and industrious artists who reside north of the border.

The highlight within this 'tag-team' of events is a panel discussion with critic and writer Moira Jeffrey. This occasion acts as a follow up to her role in the New Work Writing project (the younger sibling of NWSP for incipient arts writers). The initiative is to encourage dialogue around the visual arts. As usual the gallery has an open doors policy and readily welcomes any enthusiasts, often free of charge.

Another get-together to note is Collective's 'Hey Student' evening, which combines an informal talk with drinks and live music. It exemplifies the gallery's eagerness to touch a wider audience. Any opportunity to glimpse new faces in Edinburgh's network of art institutions is a welcome endeavour, as anyone familiar with the 'village capital's' traits will testify.

The choice this year to include five artists affirms the wealth of talent that Scotland is yielding. Three of the selected artists' - Herbert, Lynch and Wakes - practice is predominately performance-based and each has been given a week where they have free reign to experiment and develop their initial concepts.

If you are sufficiently well-connected you will already have received an exclusive VIP invitation to Oliver Herbert's elitist gala prize-giving. In contrast, Tessa Lynch embraces a wider audience as a key component to her interactive installations, while Holly McCulloch and Jason Nelson's static shows offer a motivating opening and closing to the rigorous calendar.

Looking more closely at the current exhibition of Glasgow graduate Holly McCulloch, it is pleasing to see the ambition that has been applied to the space. The world McCulloch has created on Cockburn Street isn't a finished project; it is an extending deluge of information. The diligent display is sure to leave even the mathematicians amongst us baffled.

The solar system she explores is governed by colour. Black is the authority. The first gallery is dressed as a waiting room; neurotically controlled colour chart drawings punctuate the walls. They are the bureaucratic documents of this totalitarian institution.

The video piece 'Display Presentation' attempts to explain the hierarchical system of the six-colour universe the audience has stepped into. Beefeater-esque characters comically march onto camera earnestly performing the choreographed ritual McCulloch has appended to each colour. As the performance progresses it is clear/unclear that there is no explanation, no reason, no logic here. Everything is cryptic, arbitrary and rule abiding.

Walking into the second space the dimmed light suggests a further intense investigation. The familiar drone of a 'science-high-school-teacher' specifies the vital equations obligatory to understand the relationship from one shape and colour to the next.

This is an exclusive installation. It is like looking into a telescope whose lens cap has not been removed. Nothing makes sense. Even if you persist to industriously converge symbols and colours you will be confronted by the same answer: it is meaningless.

Enduring the repetition of the data projector, the undecipherable planetarium feels less oppressive. The incomprehension is comfortable. McCulloch expects nothing from the viewer. No questions to answer, no objectives to justify. All I expect? That she will be wearing black to the next Collective gathering.
Oliver Herbert Award: until 3 Nov
Tessa Lynch 6 - 10 Nov
Andy Wake 13 - 17 Nov
Jason Nelson 24 Nov - 22 Dec
Collective Gallery, Cockburn St, Edinburgh