The Skinny Scottish Art Diary 2017

Article by Adam Benmakhlouf | 06 Jan 2017

We've rounded up all of the Scottish art info so far for 2017 into this one place, and it's as exciting as it is huge. There are birthday milestones aplenty, confrontational artworks, ambitious group shows and historical surveys, and no doubt more to come!

The new year brings with it some milestones for Scottish mainstays Edinburgh Printmakers, Stills Gallery and The Common Guild, with a 50th, a 40th and a 10th birthday, respectively. Keep up to date throughout the year with the monthly column in print and the weekly column online ( for all openings, talks and news about Scottish art. 

Exciting Programmes from Artist Committee-Run Spaces

Transmission will follow up this month’s street-facing window project with a residency exhibition project by London-based artist and performer Travis Alabanza (opening 16 February), who will look to processes of “other’ing”. Crucially, Travis Alabanza will also turn attention to Transmission Gallery itself, the mainly white identity of its audience and respond with ‘an abundance of artists they have pretended did not exist.’ Later, for the Scottish Solo Show slot this April, Transmission have invited Edinburgh/London-based text, video and painting artist Irineu Destourelles, who scrutinises the legacies of colonial and imperialist thought within dominant discourses and social structures.

Also starting the year with a busy schedule, Market Gallery present their summer residents’ outcomes through January. Then in February artists Ross Little and Florrie James present an exhibition of footage shot in Cuba alongside a video from Cuban artist Lester Alvarez Meno. Market then host a two-person exhibition by Glasgow-based Canadian drawing, painting and installation artist Suzanne Dery and video artist, printmaker and sculptor Susannah Stark. Each of them experimentally employs certain symbolics and nods to a personal vocabulary of variously graphic signs across a range of different media.

More news from Scottish artist-committee run spaces, as Rhubaba plan a series of ‘hauntings’ with invited artists and a new monthly night event Soft Space. They’ll also be developing Rhubaba Radio as an experimental broadcast platform. First on their roster of projects is by Dundee-based artist, producer and singer Siôn Parkinson with the Rhubaba Choir. Together they’ll explore and test the depths and capabilities of collective voice and perform in Edinburgh during February, then Dundee in March – dates and venues tbc.

Embassy are also plotting some of their year ahead. First, they open a group show at the end of this month, then continue their annual open call Members Salon show in March. Moving to May, London-based artist Evan Ifekoya will make the solo presentation for Embassy this year. Previously, Ifekoya presented a radio play in progress in September in Transmission that “investigates archives of blackness, sociality and inheritance as they diffract through queer nightlife and trauma in the present moment.​“

Staying with May in Embassy, The White Pube – an art criticism website and research project by Zarina Muhammad and Gabrielle de la Puente – will tour their screening of moving image by 19 artists who don’t have a fine art degree. Next in June, there’s the Annuale festival, an open call festival of grassroots artists. The last confirmed event on the Embassy calendar so far is their graduate group show in September with artists selected from this 2017 BA degree show season.

RSA New Contemporaries

Looking back to the 2016 degree shows, the Royal Scottish Academy carefully curated 66 graduates for the ninth edition of its annual New Contemporaries. As always, they promise painting, film, sculpture, installation and performance over two floors and across all of the gallery spaces. This one might require a few visits, so take note of its short run from 18 February to 15 March.

Previous RSA New Contemporaries exhibitor and emerging artist Brodie Sim will exhibit in Generator Projects in Dundee this April, continuing her enquiries into the translation of intangible moods and feelings into the material and sculptural.

Brodie Sim's piece from RSA New Contemporaries 2014.

Birthday Celebrations

For Stills, to mark their landmark 40th birthday, a series of projects is coming up that will celebrate their unique work as Edinburgh’s only public photo gallery. Throughout the year, they’ll present a curated group show of new photographic work from Scotland, a display of material from the Stills archive, as well as a major touring exhibition. As for the Edinburgh Art Festival this summer, they’ve programmed 2016/17 Margaret Tait filmmaker award winner Kate Davis.

More birthdays in Edinburgh Printmakers, celebrating 50 years. They’ll be hosting a series of exhibitions at points during 2017 from their 10,000 strong print archive – the first opens 27 January. Following Sean Caulfield’s solo presentation, Dr Eric J Great-Rex will present a series of prints and ceramics inspired by chap-prints, ‘a medium of entertainment, information and often-unreliable historical narratives printed cheaply and accessible to most.’ After Great-Rex, on 28 July EP will preview New Editions, which presents artists born in the 70s and 80s who represent a new wave of artists working with print, and often collaboratively.

Starting their 10th year, The Common Guild begin a new series of events that will form a project by art writer Maria Fusco, examining the use of colloquial language within national and international contemporary art. April will also bring artist and inaugural Hepworth Prize for Sculpture nominee Steven Claydon for an ambitious solo show that will continue his philosophical and poetic enquiry into objects and Western art narratives.

Mentor Programmes in Edinburgh and Glasgow

Still in Edinburgh, but heading over to Collective Gallery, they'll be exhibiting the newest cohort of their mentorship programme Satellites through the year. This year's artists work across research-based practices, film, collaboration, sculpture and writing. The first slot is for curator and artist Grace Johnstone from 25 February.

16 Nicholson Street in Glasgow also begins its mentorship programme from 9 January to April, culminating in a group show with the mentees between April and May. Then for their summer show in July, London-based painter Rachel Jones and the oddly familiar Glasgow-based painter Adam Benmakhlouf will exhibit together between June and July, sharing interests in colour, style of figurative painting and treatment of celebrity/commodification image.

Into autumn, and in collaboration with Street Level Photoworks, 16 Nicholson Street will organise a show of three contemporary artists based in Prague, who reflect on the materials of photography and find poetic resonance in a lack of obviously poetic subject matter during late September. Taking them into 2018, from late November to early January they will mount an exhibition on the history, myth and imagery of the Titanic.

DCA and Fruitmarket Collaborate

For Dundee Contemporary Arts, their DCA Thomson show on the publisher of the Beano and Oor Wullie takes them into February this year. Next up, they’re showing, in parallel with Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh, the work of acclaimed contemporary conceptual artist Mark Wallinger. From 24 June-10 September, painter Clare Woods will take DCA through the summer with an exhibition of her oil on aluminium psychologically-charged and semi-abstract landscape works. Rounding off the programme as planned so far, DCA have invited UK-based Canadian digital landscape artist, Kelly Richardson.

Following their collaboration with DCA, Fruitmarket will then show the work of everyday found object sculptor Jac Leirner from 1 July-22 October. After Leirner, Scottish environmental artist and sculptor Jacqueline Donachie’s work will be on show from 11 November-11 February, showcasing her three-decade cross-media explorations of collective identity.

Glasgow: CCA, Street Level Photoworks and GSA Exhibitions

2017 in CCA will be an exploration of current international developments in socially engaged art with a group show on the topic from 28 January-12 March. A second group show from 1 April-14 May concerns representations of the most challenging cities in the world. Later, from 27 May-9 July, Glasgow-based artist Rob Churm’s solo show of new drawings, prints, comic books and digital elements looks at new ways of describing the world.

Another group show from 22 July-3 September explores the dynamic relationship between photographer, camera, subject and eventual audience. The last element of the CCA programme so far is the first Scottish solo show by Mumbai-based artist Sahej Rahal who generates installations, films and performances from an elaborate personal mythology.

After a short exhibit at the end of this month on photozines, Street Level Photoworks noise up February with a show by Syd Shelton who has produced the largest collection of images of Rock Against Racism. Also known as RAR, this was the ‘creative entanglement of black and white musicians, designers, writers, actors, performers and supporters who produced effective counter-narratives to whiteness as superior and blackness as alienated.’

DCA Thomson continues in Dundee as 2017 begins

In collaboration with Stills, from mid-April to June Street Level will then present an exhibit of contemporary Scottish photography, to ‘unveil some of [its] tendencies’ and make new connections with the visual arts. Come 24 June-27 August, the next show will open on Scotland’s Far North, with three bodies of work from the late 70s and early 80s, which provide a unique insight into Scotland’s remote landscape, islands and people. As their last show of the year (and first of 2018), Street Level present Steven Berkoff who fifty years ago was a keen young photographer who captured the East End of London as it was then, before documenting the Gorbals in the mid-60s in a unique series of captivating and equally desolate images of the neighbourhood.

Glasgow School of Art Exhibitions begin the year with a show of silversmith Simone ten Hompel from 14 January-23 February, before a show from 4 March-27 April of the work of photographer Franki Raffles (1955-94). Curated by their Director Jenny Brownrigg, the focus is on Raffles’ projects recording women workers in China and Russia. They then host the annual GSA MFA Interim show from 6-12 May, comprising an international student body working across all media. Summer comes with Against Landscape, a project curated by artist Daniel Sturgis, and which emphasises less straightforward attempts to represent landscape in painting.

Glasgow East – MANY Studios and Platform

Partner organisation MANY Studios have made plans for an ambitious year of residencies and exhibitions curated by African art researcher Natalia Palombo. Starting with Mass Movement through February and March 2017, workshops and events will be taking place across Bulawayo, Zimbabwe and Glasgow as part of a travelling music and dance workshop series around Scotland.

More events in May and June, this time in collaboration with the experimental music imprint Mushroom Hour Half Hour from Johannesburg, who curate locations specific recordings featuring musicians who would not usually play together, making for one-off collaborations. This imprint is brought to Glasgow musicians and artists, including poet Tawona Sitholé, writer and artist Zoé Schreiber, artist and writer Rayanne Bushell, writer and musician Cassie Ezeji, musician and composer Sura Susso, and musician Kayus Bankole. More artists will be confirmed in 2017.

From 12 June-18 July, MANY Studios will then present outcomes from their current residents, the visual artist and writer Zoé Schreiber and artist Aaron McCarthy who works from a background of continental philosophy. After this, there’s the last of their planned projects, with invited artists Unum Babar and Matt Kushan. Both based in Lahore, Pakistan, they will come to Glasgow to participate in a funded and supported four week on-site residency at MANY Studios in The Barras. The residency will culminate in the presentation of new work exploring the history of relationships and the heritage of collections between Glasgow and Lahore.

Heading east of Glasgow again, after celebrating its 10th anniversary last year, 2017 brings more of Platform's community-engaged artworks, workshops and exhibitions. From 24 February-26 March, East End illustrator Mitch Miller presents a huge drawing of the people who are based and meet regularly at Platform. Following Miller, in April the Easterhouse space will exhibit Pester and Rossi, a collaborative artist duo whose work includes sculpture, performance and multimedia installation.

In workshops with young people as part of the Nu Gen art group, they’ve made a host of different handmade props and costumes that reference pop culture with irony and humour. Also in Platform, artist Gordon Douglas will present events through the first half of the year based on a long engagement with the centre as part of his project Habits of the Coexistent.

Teasers from Telfer, Tramway, Queens Park Railway Club, Peacock Visual Arts

Some teasers have also come from Telfer Gallery, Tramway and Queens Park Railway Club. For Queens Park, they’ll be opening up again at some point this year with the work of Glasgow-based painter Conor Kelly who works across abstract and figurative painting and considers the different historical and psychological potentialities of paintings and exhibition-making.

Tramway present an exhibition by Berlin-based Oliver Laric this month. Next month, they unveil a new exhibition by Glasgow-based sculptor and installation artist Claire Barclay titled Yield Point. Looking to Tramway’s past as a transport depot, she will build an installation partly in situ in response to the relationship between the human body and industrial workplace.

Though Telfer will release details of each element of their upcoming programme throughout the year, they’re looking forward to the preview on 10 February (6-9pm) of the solo exhibition of their 2016 resident artist Kimberley O’Neill, who through a multimedia practice imagines a collective energy within media networks which draws upon the desire and attention of viewers.

Up to Aberdeen, there’s an exhibition curated by Peacock Visual Arts from their Print Studio, previewing 23 February (4-7pm) – and on until 8 April. They head off site to Woodend Barn, Banchory, and will display artworks from artists including sculptor Claire Barclay, painter and playwright John Byrne and opera-maker, radio playwright and artist Janice Kerbel.

Edinburgh: Dovecot, Arusha and Talbot Rice

Dovecot Gallery head into 2017 with a continuing exhibition on Colour & Light within weaving processes. Their first new exhibit of the year comes on 10 March, in which they survey their apprentice weavers since WWI.

In Edinburgh’s Arusha Gallery, March brings a group show titled EROTICA. A diverse group of contemporary women artists will be assembled with an exciting variety of works, some controversial and some more subtle, taking on the theme of female sexuality, the sex industry and the idea of eroticised body. Then for the rest of the year, the gallery will be showcasing a series of emerging and established painters with an exciting programme of month-to-month solo shows.

For Talbot Rice, they start the year in earnest from 11 February with a show of new acquisitions of the University of Edinburgh. At the same time in Gallery 3, photographer, video, audio and installation artist Kate V Robertson and environmental and performance artist Michael Barr present the results of their periods of residency. From July to October, across galleries 1 and 2, Stephen Sutcliffe will present a major solo show while in Gallery 3, there’s a parallel show of trippy, historically referential paintings and assemblages by Jacob Kerray. Next up is renowned filmmaker John Akomfrah in galleries 1 and 2 for his first Scottish solo show, including the internationally acclaimed video work Vertigo Sea.

Scottish National Galleries Rewrite History

In Edinburgh, across the different National Galleries, there’s a breathtaking programme of historical and thematic exhibitions planned for the year ahead. As well as beginning 2017 with a month-long show of Turner watercolours, there are continuing shows by renowned Scottish painter Joan Eardley, contemporary sculptor of cosmetics, soaps and ethereal found materials Karla Black and Kishio Suga – pioneering member of 60s and 70s Japanese movement Mono-ha – School of Things. Also now on until March 2017, there’s the annual exhibit of the BP Portrait Award shortlist and The Modern Portrait until October 2019 in the Scottish National Gallery.

Into April, one of the most significant artists working today Ed Ruscha will be showing a photographic series on his obsession with West Coast American Culture as part of the Artists’ Rooms programme in Modern One for a year from 29 April. Then from 13 May in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, there will be Heroes and Heroines, re-examining some of the key figures of history in Scotland, with appearances from suffragists, scientists and writers.

June brings a major show on radical and revolutionary 16th century painter Caravaggio and a survey show based on The Male Gaze to the Scottish National Gallery. For Modern One, July brings True to Life: British Realist Painting in the 1920s and 1930s. It will mark the first survey show of realist interwar painters in Britain, and showcase 50 artists that have been sidelined by the more dominant abstraction of Modernism. Zooming to December, the National Galleries open their last new show of the year which will propose an alternative narrative of the Scottish Avant-Garde Art 1900-1950.