Scottish National Gallery – Ciara Phillips, William Turnbull and Richard Wright

How to make interesting connections between artists at the Edinburgh National Gallery of Modern art. The screen printing of Ciara Phillips, using the techniques of forceful messaging of Graphic Design dominated the downstairs corridor of the temporary displays of the British Art Show 2016.  Phillips’strong combination of layered images and photography with the big text referenced advertising, information posters created artworks that talk ‘at’ problems of the modern world, more than they talked ‘to’ an audience.  However the didactic content is offset by personal imagery and a warm colour field that invites you in to consider more. The gallery linked Phillips to Sister Mary Magdalene – Corita Kent and a tradition of radical printmaking.

Upstairs the work of William Turnbull, which I knew through isolated pieces, grabbed me again.  Turnbull used  multiple symbols or forms like arrows to express a kind of cloud energy. There were two works titled Aquarium, two paintings and also a sculpture.  Turnbull was described by the gallery information as fascinated by fish.  I liked this image of apparently random, but organised movement, an image of Brownian Motion or something more organised a spirit of motion?

Richard Wright’s Stairwell Project is enchanting. Created by thousands of tiny organic flower forms that swirl up to the staircase tower’s skylights, in a perfectly regular but natural and gentle spiral. The flowers are monochrome and perhaps refer to the more tragic past of this building as an orphanage in Victorian times.  For me, this may be an interesting potential way of creating a cloud of forms or text, or memories to rise like a steam plume.  The formal, apparently symmetrical  arrangement in the stairwell project  refers like much of Wright’s work to a classic treatment of surface, like a wall paper, or a fresco.  This allows the more spiritual references to come through, working off the formal structure of the building to create a moving piece.


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