Girlpower & Boyhood

Article by Joe Lewis | 14 Aug 2006

On entering the Talbot Rice Gallery, the introduction helpfully informs us that, "Many of the artist…are hotly tipped for greater recognition" and that the show offers us the opportunity "to compare artists at differing stages of their careers". Reading between the lines, one could deduce that what they are really saying is 'here is a selection of artists with varying degrees of ability and work of varying quality'. Whatever it means to say, it quickly becomes apparent that this is the case.

Of the 21 artists on display there is a fair mix of ability and accomplishment. Whilst much of the work is of distinct quality, others are somewhat lacking in either standard of execution and/or concept. Julie Nord's beautifully executed etchings depicting scenes that would not be out of place in the fairytales of Hans Christian Andersen, or the Brothers Grimm, certainly fall into the first category. In one particularly striking scene a young girl is depicted walking through a serene garden, her eyes shut, but other more sinister eyes appear to be watching her from a silhouetted house in the background. Themes of fantasy, fairytale and gender are explored throughout the show, whilst a distinctively northern European flavour pervades much of the work. From the Bosh inspired paintings that Sandra Scolnik presents, to the sinister work of Vanessa Phaff that are executed in a style reminiscent of the Nazi and Stalinist propaganda posters of the 1930's and 40's. Phaff's work is especially striking, as young girls are depicted in a rather aggressive manner, with guns, flags and angry or mischievous expressions adding to the disturbing quality of the work.

The exhibition is a collaborative project, the Talbot Rice teaming up with the Kunsthallen Brandts Gallery in Odense, Denmark. Odense being the birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen, and Edinburgh being the hometown of Robert Louis Stevenson makes this an interesting opportunity to explore the nightmarish imagery that pervades the work of these two writers. The exhibition is to a great extent successful in conveying these qualities through the pieces on display. It seems a shame that the show could not have been put together with greater selectiveness to produce a show of a more consistently high quality.

Talbot Rice Gallery, 5 August - 30 September (Mon-Sat, 10-5, Sun 2-5), Admission: Free