SSA | VAS Open 2019 Review

Arabella Bradley, The List, January 7 2020

Second collaborative venture between Scotland's two leading arts organisations

Any opportunity to see the latest and greatest in the contemporary art scene is guaranteed to be exciting, and this year's collaboration between the Society of Scottish Artists and Visual Arts Scotland is no exception.

 

As first impressions go, nothing quite compares to ascending the grand RSA stairs to be greeted at the top by a giant, mythological dog sculpture (that is, Emelia Kerr Beale's sculpture, Dog, which won the recent ECA graduate the Arusha Gallery Award). This piece provides just a taste of the eclecticism of the whole show; there is such a vast selection of works to take in, created using all manner of materials. The Wilhelmina Barnes-Graham prizewinner Siobhan McLaughlin's work Untitled (Lochnagar III) embodies the interdisciplinary approach which seems to run through the whole exhibition; sculptural in its scale, combining oil paint and textiles to produce an impressive result.

 

The exhibition's emphasis on process becomes most evident in the Over Under: Under Over presentation, curated by the Cordis Trust. Six artists were selected for their varied and innovative uses of weaving techniques in their practice, including a wooden desk by Sebastian Cox, woven paper sculptures by Dail Behennah, and soft textiles by Celia Pym. Pym's work Lumpy uses repurposed socks to demonstrate darning techniques, stressing the importance of repurposing and repairing in a society which is quick to replace rather than repair.

 

There is also contemporary furniture and lighting design: Simon James Whatley's table nods to mid-century modern design, as do the cast ceramic lights by Highland duo Yellow Broom. Edinburgh-based designer Isabelle Moore's woven oak stool is particularly striking, winning her the Scottish Furniture Makers Association Craft Excellence Prize, as well as the Craft Scotland Award.

 

Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh, until Thu 30 Jan.