Sadly it’s not every day you can take the time to jump on a train and spend the day taking in art. However Friday was one of those days and I boarded a train to Dundee for an all too rare opportunity to enjoy a number of exhibitions unfettered by the need for head counts, justifications and explanations and that’s just trying to get round galleries with my children at the weekend!
The first stop was the recently upgraded McManus galleries where amongst the various collections extolling the virtues of Tayside‘s diverse industrial and cultural history is a film by Matt Stokes called Long After Tonight. It’s a beautiful albeit short film documenting the Northern Soul scene in Dundee which held events at the St Salvador Episcopal church in the Hilltown area of the city. The film subtly connects the religious iconography and the passion and dedication required to “Keep the Faith” The work features many of the original “soulies” who organised and attended the events and who have contributed to the room of Northern Soul memorabilia you can also see at the museum. Sadly the exhibit closes tomorrow but if you can try and make it along.
Next, after a short walk through town to Dundee Contemporary Arts DCA was “Brank & Heckle” by Ruth Ewan. This is a brave yet timely show by DCA who have taken a risk by giving over the entire gallery to an emerging artist. However the risk certainly paid off. On first encounter it is difficult to trace an aesthetic thread through the works but it soon becomes clear that the artist is interested in idea rather than materiality. Overtly political the show does however draw threads through the cities social and political past to examine themes of poverty, inequality, feminism & racism. The show is centered around the two conflicting ideas of the Brank; a medieval torture device used to silence women and the Heckle; the act of spontaneous verbal engagement the origins of which lie in the politically charged and radical atmosphere of the cities Jute mills.
This is a very strong and rewarding show for those willing to give just a little effort to engage with it. I could go on describing and discussing the works and I may do so in a future post or two but for now `I would encourage you to take the time and effort to see it.
After a brief pit stop it was time to head up to the Master of Art show at Duncan of Jordanstone where I was joined by Telford and DoJ graduate Neil Nodzak. There is no doubt that student exhibitions of every level present the viewer with an eclectic mix of work, various in approach, content and quality but I wasn’t quite prepared for what I encountered. I am accustomed to all sorts of weird and wonderful works and watching a video of an artist undertaking a year long transformation into a competition standard body builder despite an initial ambivalence to the subject was amusing and engaging but not very shocking. Indeed the artist mother of an old school friend and former Telford colleague made a similarly themed work some 10 years or so ago. No, the real surprise were the unexpected encounter with the results of the Masters in Medical and Forensic Art. Who new that in this digital age there was still a need for fine pencil renderings of syphilitic facial sores! Who other than Dundee University that is?
After a less than Forensic dissection of the exhibition Neil and I wandered up to Tinroof, a new studio complex in the city which offers enormous potential for the increasing number of graduates who are choosing to stay in the city. Having seen his excellent degree show exhibition the committee at Tinroof selected Neil for a 3 month stint as committee member a position which came with a free studio. It was great to see Neil who is as engaged, inquisitive, interrogative, witty and annoyed as ever. Hopefully next time I will also catch up with Hayley Mathers who is also a Telford Alumni an artist and will shortly take up her post as of Generator Projects in Dundee.
I have a genuine affection for Dundee which goes back a long time now and I have to say it rarely if ever disappoints.