SMILE @ Embassy

Article by Ben Robinson | 17 Aug 2011

A spaced-out cosmic bliss suffuses much of the work at the Embassy’s new show. Channelling the spirits of Sienna Miller and the 21st century satirist Michel Houellebecq, we’re promised a trip in search of enlightenment and oblivion, the artists drawing poi patterns across a melting sky.

It seems quite apt that SMILE opened in a week when riots were splashed across the front pages. Hippiedom and social unrest have shared a bed throughout the history of popular culture, and likewise here, Warhol’s would-be assassin Valerie Solanis makes an appearance in artist Sach Kahir’s film Mick Jagger Hates You, and Charles Manson is namechecked in the gallery handout, haunting the shadows of the psychedelic haze.

An inquisitive search for belief informs many of the works here presented. Circular Kaleidoscope paintings by Ronnie Heeps flank a photo self-portrait by Sophie Lisa Beresford, her face painted blue and displayed high up on the wall as a Hindu Goddess. The depiction of multiple deities might be a symptom of celebrity culture or it could just be schizophrenia.

On the opening night Beresford staged a performance upstairs in the ‘Meditation Room’, leading the crowd in a Rave Meditation Dance with the aim of freeing up their energy. Seeing the Edinburgh art audience shed their inhibitions to a soundtrack of Spanish Makina Techno music certainly made for a memorable experience. It did what art can only very occasionally do: it transcended the everyday and made us all smile.

Embassy Gallery 10b Broughton Street Lane, Edinburgh EH1 3LY