What Next! 2016 in Scottish Contemporary Art

Christen your new diary with all the latest plans for the year ahead in Scottish contemporary art. It's a blockbuster year with exceptional festivals Glasgow International and British Art Show 8 of particular note

Article by Adam Benmakhlouf | 11 Jan 2016

Contemporary art programmes for 2016 have already started taking shape in both established and recently-opened spaces across the country. Here's a shortlist of the big events and exhibitions already in the diary for the year ahead in Scotland in contemporary art. Keep an eye on our monthly column and online weekly round-up of art events, published Tuesdays on theskinny.co.uk/art, for updates as more events are announced throughout the year.

Let’s start with the two most anticipated and largest events, the biannual Glasgow International and the quinquennial British Art Show.

For the British Art Show 8 (last seen as BAS 7 in Glasgow in 2010), Edinburgh will host a suite of exhibitions across the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Inverleith House and Talbot Rice Gallery. There’s a split approach to the concept of the contemporary. In the first instance, some artists are making reference to the conditions of digital existence – see for example Alexandre de Cunha and Nicolas Deshayes, whose sculptural practices import mass-produced consumer items without much effacement, as well as industrial materials and processes. Or Charlotte Prodger, who combines videos taken from YouTube with spoken text taken from internet forums and personal emails, and for whom the AV equipment is a vital part of the work.

Also showcased in BAS 8 is Caroline Achaintre. Her exhibited work includes wall-hangings and ceramics. Drawing on traditions of carnival or tribal masks, Achaintre’s work will often have a bare suggestion of two eyes, nostrils or a frowning mouth. There is an intended conversation between the more craft and material-based work of artists like Achaintre, then the digital media work of other exhibitors. As for important dates, British Art Show 8 will take place between 13 February and 8 May 2016.

For 2016’s Glasgow International (GI), there's a huge list of artists taking part in the style of the now biannual Open House Festival. This makes for an innovative mixing of huge publicly-funded venues like Tramway with – most likely – a few front room galleries around the city. Add to that recent info on Simon Starling’s restaging of WB Yeats’ 1916 play At The Hawk's Well, inspired by traditional Japanese Noh theatre, with an exhibition of associated material in The Common Guild.

Helen Johnson to exhibit in Glasgow's Mary Mary gallery

Glasgow gallery Mary Mary will be collaborating with the GI Director’s Programme in Kelvinhall (which is being specially reopened for the occasion) with works by painter Helen Johnson. Some interesting plans for this show have already been shared. In Kelvinhall, Johnson will take her cue from the space’s recognisably 20th century features. From this, she extrapolates ideas of contemporary reading of cultural signifiers. In response, she will hang a series of large-scale paintings on unstretched canvas from the ceiling in the foyer of the Kelvin Hall. In this way, a relationship is made to the various tiled floors, mirrors and chandeliers from the late 1920s. With both sides visible, one shows compositions with mythical and landscape scenes. On the reverse are displayed sketches and notes about her work's production.

In Mary Mary’s gallery space during GI, and until May 28, they will exhibit the work of New York-based Emily Mae Smith. In her new paintings which will be on show, she constructs a network of references to variously recognisable imagery. This includes Fantasia, and the Art Nouveau magazine The Studio. Across the different visual quotations, there is in her work a clever humour, with refinement rubbing against the cartoonish.

Also confirmed in the Mary Mary calendar is their September show, by Milano Chow. Recently, Chow took part in a group show in the space, showing drawings that are influenced by the kind of stagey advertisement spaces of, for example, 1950s Tiffany window dresser Gene Moore. They make as much reference to this kind of 'good taste' as they do trompe-l'oeil painting and home magazines.

Sharing the same Dixon Street address in Glasgow, early next month Koppe Astner are planning a show by Glasgow-based multidisciplinary artist Corin Sworn, in a group exhibition with fictitious artist Vern Blosum. While Sworn considers the circulation of histories and narratives, the fictional Blosum brings an art-historical obscurity into the mix. In 1961, a MoMA show featured Blosum, whose work was made as a cynical response to the proliferation of pop art by a painter more interested in Clement Greenberg and Jackson Pollock. Simplified imagery with deadpan descriptive text on white backgrounds managed to fetch some buyers and interest from critics.

Following this show in February, London-based contemporary artist Matthew Smith will present a solo show in the space. Smith’s practice take concern with political issues surrounding natural spaces, while questioning the kind of authentic experience that is thought of when speaking of this kind of ‘nature’.

Duncan Marquiss (Distressed Inventory, 2011), exhibiting at DCA from May

Kope Astner will also be presenting, over three nights, a performance by Leila Hekmat. In previous works, Hekmat has responded to the contemporary associations and manifestations of melancholy. For GI, Hekmat will preview a new work, The French Mistake, with performers coming from around the city.

With GI still in mind, CCA’s programme includes an exhibition from artist/infiltrator Pilvi Takala from 9 April-15 May. For this show, Takala presents ten years’ worth of blending into “communities of poker players in Bangkok, a marketing office in Helsinki, a shopping mall in Ultrecht, or a boarding school in the US.” Using disguise and altering her behaviour, she becomes a part of these different institutions. As a new commission she is working within Glasgow now, and will revisit a performance she did in Garnethill in 2004.

From 28 May-10 July, CCA will then present the third edition of the Jerwood /FVU Awards exhibition, Borrowed Time. This will include two moving-image works from Karen Kramer and Alice May Williams. As the title may suggest, both artists consider the current precarity and obscurity of the global economy of borrowing, whether loans and mortgages or on a larger international scale.

Still in Glasgow, and looking to February, Transmission mount the Scottish Solo Show with new work by Jamie Crewe. For this solo show, Crewe begins with The Balcony, a play by Jean Genet. From this, a new body of work is made which makes reference both to Genet’s text, as well as the incomplete pornographic adaptation by director James Bidgood.

Transmission will then present their GI project, a solo exhibition of Sidsel Meineche Hansen's work. With an emphasis on the possibility of institutional critique, she looks towards the potential of nervousness in this regard. Her output extends across teaching, writing, printmaking and sculpture, and though working with objects is critical of the operation and circulation of the art market.

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More to look forward to this year:

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Transmission have also recently launched their new website, which will serve also as a platform for new projects. Though taking some time, in response to the complexities of how the gallery is run and what it provides, Struan Barr’s newly-built website is now up and running. Its first project has been designed by artist and writer Sarah Tripp, who “proposed a posti-it note style insertion which has allowed artist Sian Robinson Davies to add footnotes to the ‘about’ text.” This is intended as a yearly project to allow for “an interrogation of the the gallery’s responsibility, history funding, etc.” Continuing digitisation of the gallery’s archive will also be presented through the new website.

Also enjoying the results of a long period of thought and design, Dundee gallery Generator Projects will throughout 2016 begin to put to use their new multifunctional artist hub space, The Collective Space. Keep an eye on the Generator website for news and updates on talks, screenings and workshops in this new space. In February, they will hold the annual members’ show, and then a group show in March. This year also marks an important milestone for the gallery, as they’re celebrating their 20th anniversary.

As well as Generator’s members’ show, in February the Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop (ESW) will present the work recent Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) graduate Amy Boulton has produced in their TANK space. As recipient of this year’s ECA/ESW award, Boulton was provided the resources to continue her digital media enquiries into “the aesthetic and politics of aspirational living and urban regeneration.”

As well as hosting this specific award’s exhibition, the TANK space will be “presenting a curated programme of exhibitions from artists who work with language as a material in a range of forms.”

As well as a venue for the British Art Show 8, further into the year, the Talbot Rice Gallery has planned a show of major 20th century painter Alice Neel from July to October. Known best for her portraits, her career coincided with huge political changes in America. She documented in many paintings trade unionists, socialist writers and other artists around Greenwich Village, an area once known for its radical social politics. Throughout the rest of her life, she painted her neighbours after moving to the Spanish Harlem, then later the most influential art personalities in the Upper West Side.

Alice Neel (Hartley and Ginny, 1970), exhibiting at Talbot Rice Gallery from July

From 20th century American painters, Talbot Rice then shifts to the contemporary and local to home, as Glasgow-based Rob Kennedy receives a solo show in Gallery 1. We reviewed his GI 2012 offering with a healthy five stars, and particularly enjoyed the ping pong table set up not far enough from Walter Sickert's painting, so it might be expected that Rob Kennedy will have some more fun with his upcoming solo show in October.

Still in Edinburgh, Collective has some of its year planned out so far. During its continuing redevelopment, the gallery has planned a series of off-site projects under the title of Constellations. In March, Petra Bauer will continue her work which began with mapping political action in Edinburgh. She will return to Edinburgh commence a long collaboration with Scot-Pep, who are devoted to the promotion of sex workers’ rights. As part of this relationship, they will together develop enquiries into the political practice of filmmaking, potentially as a means of documenting the experience of the daily running of the organisation.

The Satellites programme, which supports recent graduates with mentorship and funds to produce work, will showcase this year’s participants in the temporary space near the City Observatory complex (under construction). Still to come is Katie Schwab, with concerns surrounding the domestic interior and craft education. Then there is Mark Bleakley in June, also in receipt of a dance-based bursary, whose work combines film, performance, dance and text. Later in the year, the programme continues with three other recent graduates, including recent Edinburgh College of Art Sculpture graduate Hamish Young. In his medium-conscious work, he takes an interest in the origins, behaviours and commercial circulation of metal and clay.

Katie Schwab will also feature in the New Year exhibit in the Glasgow Sculpture Studios from 9 July until 3 September next year. Before this, between 8 April and 4 June next year, and coinciding with GI, New-York based Alisa Baremboym will exhibit with Canada's Liz Magor, with consideration of their generational difference and shared medium of sculpture. Their respective practices share a fascination with process, and what might be learned through the exploration of different materials.

Dundee Contemporary Arts (DCA) has three large shows planned so far across its year. With more to be announced, keep an eye on the DCA website and Twitter feed. From 27 February until 1 May, they position themselves within the Festival of Architecture, which celebrates the Scottish architectural culture and legacy across different parts of the country. For this, DCA look particularly towards art and architecture that references modernity and nature. They include innovative 20th century Italian landscape photographer Guido Guidi, Glasgow environmental artist and sculptor Martin Boyce and Neville Rae, whose concept-based practice considers architectural theories and histories, in the past including subjects like New Town optimism.

Mexican artist Damian Ortega comes to Fruitmarket

There is then, from 14 May until 3 July an exhibition of the work of Duncan Marquiss. Establishing parallels between discrete disciplines, practices and behaviours, Marquiss' 2014 piece Search Film makes an analogy between the foraging of field study and shopping. He will also be screening his Margaret Tait Award-winning film during the Glasgow Film Festival 2016 between 17-28 February.

Rounding off their plans for 2016 so far, DCA will mount a memorial exhibition of the drawings, paintings, prints and animations of Katy Dove (1970-2015) from 17 September-20 November. This exhibition will bring to attention Dove’s rich practice, which combined musical collaboration with dance performance and the moving image. There will also be a major publication on the artist’s work and life.

After installing a brand new permanent sculpture in Jupiter Artland in 2015, this year Sara Barker has been chosen to present a solo exhibition in The Fruitmarket. Originally trained as a painter, there can be painted elements in certain wall-based works. Usually with a deceptively fragile look, Barker’s skinny metal structures cut through space rather than densely occupying it. There is an interest on Barker’s part in personal spaces and the room.

Fruitmarket also has planned two more exhibitions, one of major Mexican artist Damian Ortega. After visiting Edinburgh, Ortega plans to construct an exhibition in close reponse to the city. In his practice, he spans – to name a few – performance, video, sculpture and photography, and frequently pulls apart the recognisable and everyday. In doing so, there’s a consideration of a kind of 'hidden poetry' in these otherwise-forgotten-about things.

After Ortega, there is a two-person show of Vivienne Koorland and William Kentridge. Maker of objects and printmaker Koorland shares an interest with artist-animator Kentridge in a bookish approach to the visual arts and the intersection of African and European or North American references. The two met in art school, and their back-and-forth discussions on art since then have resulted in a 40-year friendship – they have exhibited together in groups shows throughout their career.