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2022 Edinburgh Art Festival Highlights

By Susan Mansfield, 03.08.2022
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Henri Matisse, Icare [Icarus] (from 'Jazz'), 1947. National Galleries Scotland. © Succession H. Matisse.

A Taste for Impressionism: Modern French Art from Millet to Matisse 

There are two ways to approach this show, the nearest we have to a blockbuster in Edinburgh this summer. On the one hand, it’s a show about art collecting, telling the stories of the individuals who invested in French art, from the Barbizon School through Impressionism to the post-Impressionists and the Fauves. Curator Frances Fowle draws out of the stories of the men and, most interestingly, the women, who bought work regarded by many as dangerously avant-garde: look out for Fleet Street editor and early feminist Rachel Beer and yachtswoman Elizabeth Workman.

On the other hand, you can simply enjoy a show which brings together some of the most beautiful and popular works in the National Galleries Scotland collection: Monet, Pissarro, Van Gogh, Gauguin, paintings and sculptures by Degas. And a surprise in the final room: a gloriously fresh presentation of Matisse’s Jazz series from the 1940s. This, alone, might be worth the ticket price.

Scottish National Gallery (Royal Scottish Academy), until 13th November, Tickets £15/£13. 

Cooking Sections & Sakiya, In the Eddy of the Stream, at Climate House, RBGE. Photo by Shannon Tofts

Cooking Sections and Sakiya: In the Eddy of the Stream

Art collective Cooking Sections are best known for their Climavore project for Skye’s Atlas Arts which focusses on finding sustainably produced food alternatives to farmed salmon. Their work, around food and ecology, is science- and community-based, and this is a rare chance to find them in a gallery.

There’s still science - a project with RBGE scientists looking at the symbiotic relationship between wild salmon and Scottish forests - and there are various attempts to make an eco-friendly cement from crushed shells. Get an oyster reading if you can (available weekends, book in advance) and be prepared to learn a few things about oysters and possibly even a few things about yourself.

Cooking Sections has brought in Sakiya, a farm, research base and art project in the occupied territories near Ramallah, to share the space. Their work is a reminder that food and farming quickly touch on issues of colonialism, land ownership and freedom. 

Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh, until 18th September, Free

Ishiuchi Miyako, ひろしま / hiroshima #106, 2016/2017. Courtesy of The Third Gallery Aya.

Ishiuchi Miyako

When Ishiuchi Miyako’s mother died, her work changed direction. She began to photograph in colour for the first time, making studies of her mother’s clothes and possessions: an old lipstick, a lace nightdress photographed on a light box, half-transparent, yet still carrying the shape of the woman who once wore it.

The resulting body of work, ‘Mother’s’, was shown at the Venice Biennale in 2005. As a result, she was approached by the Hiroshima Peace Museum to work with the clothes and possessions of people affected by the blast. Damaged dresses, a school uniform, a broken watch, powerfully evoke the havoc wreaked by the bomb on thousands of ordinary lives.

In a further project, she worked with the Frida Kahlo Museum, photographing the artist’s personal effects. Two crusted bottles of nail varnish, a cigarette case, a corset decorated by the artist conjure the real Frida in new and surprising ways. All three projects are a powerful reminder of the way things - especially clothes - can suggest presence, absence and loss.

Stills, until 8th October, free

Alan Davie, Still Life, Flowers on a Table, 1946. The Fleming Collection. Ⓒ The Artist's Estate.

Alan Davie: Beginning of a far-off world

Alan Davie’s centenary in 2020 came and went with no gallery in Scotland seeking to mark it. The challenge was instead taken up by emerging curator Siobhan McLaughlin, in partnership with Dovecot Studios, and this rare and special show has been drawn mainly from private collections.

Every decade of Davie’s long career is represented, from paintings done as a recent graduate to the vigorous and detailed biro sketches of his final years. The works are arranged in pairs or groups and, while it’s not chronological, it’s possible to trace the evolution of his style from loose painterly style abstracts to his own brand of symbolism, drawing on a range of ancient and indigenous cultures. 

With his willingness to look outside mainstream western cultures, a tendency to mix and match his source material and work intuitively in a kind of painterly jazz, it’s no surprise that a whole new generation are falling in love with his work 100 years after his birth.

Dovecot Studios, until 24th September. Tickets £10.50/£9.50/£7.50.

Tracey Emin, I Lay Here For You, 2022. Image Allan Pollok Morris, Courtesy Tracey Emin.

Tracey Emin: I Lay Here For You

The installation of Tracey Emin’s large-scale bronze sculpture, I Lay Here For You, in the woods at Jupiter Artland was delayed for two years by the pandemic. The six-metre long a female nude now lies on a bed of dead leaves in a grove of trees on the estate looking, surprisingly, bigger and more monumental that she did when shown in a white-space gallery.

While the sculpture was made back in 2018, Emin accompanies it with an exhibition of work from the last two years, her journey through the pandemic and her battle with cancer. Populating various spaces - paintings in the ballroom, a sculpture in the doocot, a suite of prints and further paintings in the Stables Gallery - these works are raw but ultimately life-affirming. If her Journey to Death show in Margate in early summer embraced mortality, this show embraces life. There are a lot of beds, but the bed as a place of sanctuary, recovery, affection and companionship as well as, yes, sex.

Jupiter Artland, permanent installation and exhibition ends 2nd October. Tickets for Jupiter Artland £10/£9/£6.