Scottish visions

By Sun Shuangjie Source:Global Times Published: 2015-7-9 17:33:12

Exhibition to feature rotating roster of cutting-edge art from Scotland

The fourth floor of Shanghai Himalayas Museum has been turned over to newly opened exhibition Current: Contemporary Art from Scotland, which will see a changing roster of works by various artists from the country.

Co-organized by Cooper Gallery of University of Dundee in Scotland and Shanghai Himalayas Museum, the exhibition is in its first of four phases that will be shown over the next 18 months.

A number of artists and artist collectives from Scotland will be invited to display works, supported by the Cultural and Education Section of the British Consulate-General as part of activities of the 2015 UK-China Year of Cultural Exchange.

Sophia Hao, co-curator of the exhibition, told the Global Times that she expects this exhibition can create space for thinking and discussion of contemporary art among artists and the audience in China.

Currently on show are installations by artist Edgar Schmitz and Poster Club, a collective made up of six artists.

Schmitz's Surplus Cameo Décor: Sindanao 2 (pictured below) is made of two rooms linked by a door. The outer room has two neon Chinese words, shengyu (surplus) and kechuan (cameo).


On the ground is a gold-colored swimming pool cover. On top of the cover lies a blank TV screen from which emanates the sounds of poolside conversation.

The inner room has the neon word zhuangshi (décor). Half of the floor is covered with semi-transparent pink-colored plastic tape, on which stand two photographs of trees, and another blank screen from which comes the sound of a woodland environment.

Poster Club's Wheat, Mud, Machine (below) is a display of posters, stickers and garments. The posters feature onomatopoeic words like "sqeech" and "hufft," and bizarre sentences like "who owns the moon?" Stickers of a funny-looking man chewing on his own toes appear from time to time. Garments are displayed on wood stands.


Collaborative spirit

In Hao's view, Schmitz - who turns exhibition space into a semi-fictional "elsewhere" through recasting cinema elements, future infrastructures and derelict resort architecture - stands for the phenomena of contemporary artists who cross the boundary between artist and curator. Schmitz often invites other artists into his installations to shoot video of their experiences. He then incorporates these videos into the pieces.

Meanwhile, Poster Club is a representative of the popular art collaboration scene in Scotland. "Each artist in Poster Club has their own practices, which are very different from what they do when they are together," said Hao, noting that people can always find an opportunity to produce something new through collaboration.

Hao was previously an artist in China. She graduated from Manchester Institute for Research and Innovation in Art and Design with a master's degree in 2005 and lived in Scotland for about five years, working as a curator and at the Visual Research Centre at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design at the University of Dundee.

Hao said other features marking out the Scottish art scene include a focus on social function and a grassroots, DIY spirit. Events such as the Glasgow International Contemporary Art Festival also stimulate interaction between artists, as do collaborative programs by the four major art colleges in Scotland.

"If a curator comes to Glasgow to see you, there is an unwritten rule that you introduce them to someone else, too," Nathan Coley, who was shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 2007, told the Guardian in a 2011 article named "Glasgow's Turner connection" after a string of artists in the city became Turner prizewinners and nominees.

(From top) Pieces from the ongoing exhibition Current: Contemporary Art from Scotland Photos: Sun Shuangjie/GT and courtesy of Shanghai Himalayas Museum

Ideas that matter

"The most distinctive spirit of contemporary art in Scotland is artists' courage to constantly question themselves, question society and subvert conventions," Hao said.

Hao attributes this spirit to a special course at the Glasgow School of Art named "Environmental Art" initiated by Scottish artist David Harding in the 1980s. It was not about traditional painting or sculpture, but about ideas. Students were asked to make their projects outside the school, in direct dialogue with society.

Wang Nanming, the other co-curator of the exhibition, wrote in an introduction to the exhibition that contemporary art "manages to revive art through discussion and reflection on problems; and its legacy - 'everything can become art' - has been brought into full play, enabling art to fully become ubiquitous, and art museums, an effective thinking bank."

According to Hao, the first phase of the exhibition will also include two residency projects by Scottish artists in Shanghai, one by Poster Club and the other by Frances Davis, who makes art with texts.

Future phases will include solo exhibitions of Bruce McLean, Ross Sinclair, Lucy Skaer and Corin Sworn, as well as two group exhibitions, one featuring video work archives of British art in the 1970s and 1980s and the other moving images presented by young Scottish artists.

Date: Until August 9, 10 am to 6 pm

Venue: 4/F, Shanghai Himalayas Museum 上海喜玛拉雅美术馆4楼

Address: 869 Yinghua Road


Admission: 30 yuan ($4.83)

Call 5033-9801 for details

Posted in: Metro Shanghai, Culture

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