Thursday, 25 February 2010



This inaugural exhibition at "Lyre & Anchor", set's a body of work up in relation to the rich heritage of the Edinburgh Vaults that have become linked in the public imagination with notions of the haunted. In response to this the artists chosen for this exhibition present a body of work, which draws on elements of the cities dark underbelly.

Thomas Aitchison presents a work on canvas, struck through with a metal grid silhouetting the image of a figure holding a dismembered head. Who is this? It echoes images of the Greek hero Perseus as victor over the Gorgon Medusa, or the nightmarish images of Goya's prints ("Great Feat! With Dead Men!" 1863, or "This is Worse," 1863). Through the silhouette, the unsaid quality in the work, the play on presence and absence is what is interesting here. That the image is inscribed in a material that holds industrial, impersonal references, seems to detract from the nightmarish subject matter, as if the filter of technological reproduction has left us with nothing but a blank shape devoid of real experience.

Heather's mask in leather, conjures thoughts of the gimp mask used in seedy sexual encounters. Further questions spring to mind. Is this the remains of some previous performance piece? Why does it resemble a bird's head? Here we see a disjunction in meaning, where the bondage mask, often used to reduce the individuality of its wearer to the status of sex toy, is met with the powerful emblem of the bird. Here one can see both dominance, and domination collide in the piece as a meditation on the social situations that plague our everyday lives. Both Heather Craig and Andrew MacDonald's pieces recall to mind John Singer Sargent's comment, "To work is to pray." One feels that the ritualistic quality of the prayer - the use of the Lords Prayer or prayer beads, where repetition and ritual blend - is present in the work.

Looking around the exhibition, we find a small painting on board by Leon Hill. Depicting a cube in an otherwise ambiguous vacant space, it seems to refer to the forms of minimalism. Radiating from the cube is an ambiguous force, calling to mind the evils of Pandora's box set to enslave all the world. The painting divulges the presence of the hand in the making of the piece, the industrial processes normally associated with is autonomous object are gone. Furthermore, the scale is small making the piece un-monumental in the extreme. It appears as a humble acknowledgement from the outside, of the power of great iconic art object.

Andrew presents the piece "NiceDay", conceivably a reference to the Optical work of Bridget Riley? These paintings rediscover the movement in the banality of office supplies, answering the question, "how is it possible to make abstract art in the 21st century?" Clearly these paintings are not abstract, but rather, observational as literal depictions of experience akin to David Batchelors discovery of monochrome paintings, documented on his travels around inner city London in "Found Monochromes". Furthermore, the optical effects present an uneasy feeling in the viewer, tying in with the overall feel of the works and context of the gallery.

The exhibition runs 27th Febuary-5th March at The Lyre & Anchor, 39 Niddry St Edinburgh. Open 2pm-6pm daily

Edinburgh College of Art (eca) is a charity registered in Scotland, number SC009201