WIP: Frances Scott, Untitled (Walking Orkney)

When Frances Scott was a child her pilot father would take her up in an aeroplane on Sundays to look down upon the islands of Orkney. He taught her to recognise each one by its shape alone. “To give you a feel of the place, to make you aware of your heritage and understand where you fit in.” Over a three-year period following art school, Scott flew over Orkney more than a thousand times. She worked as a steward for an airline that served the Northern Isles. In the ten minutes of take off and just before landing Scott would see through her window slithers and fragmented shapes of those familiar islands and she longed to make them her own.

Slack water is a point of stillness in a tidal flow. It is a point in time when, for a moment, opposing forces are in balance and the water appears not to move. It is a phenomenon that is strangely pleasing to see.Slack Water was once the working title of Scott’s project to map the islands of Orkney through walking their coastlines. It is no surprise t…

Exhibition Review: Andres Serrano, Torture, Stills Gallery

Torture has arrived at Stills Gallery in Edinburgh. Supported by arts organisation a/political Andres Serrano has produced an extensive body of work picturing borrowed torture devices and staged acts of torture. As part of his creative process he visited concentration camps and interrogation centres. He also took advice from torturers and victims of torture alike. Many of the photographs were made at The Foundry, a disused factory in the industrial town of Maubourguet. Since 2015 the work has toured galleries in France, Italy, the USA and Northern Ireland and now reaches Scotland in the form of eight very-large-scale photographs. 
What we see in the exhibition are four, obviously simulated, photographs of people being tortured, three still lives of historic instruments of torture and a portrait of CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou. The photographs reach almost from floor to ceiling, mounted behind plexiglass, supported by thick black wooden frames. The vast size and scale of the photogra…

Film Preview: Beatrix Wood, San Fhuil/ It's In The Blood

Many crofters on South Uist have second jobs to help make ends meet. Some work at the hospital, others at the local missile firing range. Beatrix Wood’s second job is filmmaker. San Fhuil/ It’s in the Blood is her three part documentary series showing the annual cycle of crofting and its twenty first century challenges. The films are centred on the township of Drimsdale where Wood and her family have lived and crofted for the last eight years. 

Every aspect of the crofting year is covered (brace yourself): collecting and spreading seaweed to fertilise the fields before ploughing, sowing and harrowing, cutting and drying peat for fuel, driving the sheep out onto the hills where they winter and gathering them back in again after lambing for castrating, shearing and dipping, dosing and pedicuring cattle, calving, muirburning, roof thatching, taking lambs and calves to market in Lochboisdale, harvesting the oats and barley and preparing silage for winter feed, stacking hay, digging up Kerr…

Book Review: ACWA, New Shoots Old Roots

History is not what happened it is what we remember happened. There are significant gaps in our understanding of Scotland’s history. To borrow the opening quotation from New Shoots Old Roots: “Until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” Chinua Achebe This simple publication contains photographs and interview transcripts. It brings to life the stories of eight African and Caribbean women who came to Scotland between 1958 and 1996. It places value on their experience as migrants to this country where they were welcomed for their skilled labour but often left feeling socially isolated because of racism.
The book is dedicated to Edith Meheux. There is a Polaroid photograph of her as a young woman on the front cover of the book. She is a vision in pastel shades: a light green coat over a pink dress and yellow leggings. But she also wears thick gloves and dark boots and scarf because the earth is covered in blue white snow. She faces the …

Exhibition Review: @EverydayClimateChange, Trongate 103

Photograph by Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert @JshPhotog for @Greenpeace
Another Royal Wedding, another Strictly Come Dancing ‘curse’ moment and, oh yes, that ‘final warning’ report from the International Panel on Climate Change. Temperatures are rising, the ice caps are melting and Hurricane Michael just ripped large chunks of Florida apart like they were made of paper. If we don’t take urgent and drastic action in four key areas, energy, land use, cities and industry says the report then frankly, we are all fucked! That last word is mine, but you get the idea.
Photo by Suthep Kritsanavarin @suthepkritsanavarin
The @EverydayClimateChange exhibition currently showing at Trongate 103 is prescient. This week’s major IPCC report has made little impression on news headlines. How could it when in competition with the sartorial elegance of royal wedding guests and the minor infidelities of d-list celebrities? Cara Delevingne’s top hat and tails did look smart but Storm Callum meant she had to hold onto …

Exhibition Review: Santiago Sierra, Black Flag, DCA

Black Flag is the right thing in the right place at the right time. Santiago Sierra has firmly planted the international symbol of anarchism in the city of Dundee just as the V&A opens with much fanfare across the road. The first thing that hits you when you walk into the gallery space at the DCA is the pair of giant black and white photographs on the wall at the far end. Both are landscape in orientation. Placed one immediately above the other they form a square. At the top is a black flag, small in scale, in the middle of the ice cap at the North Pole. Below is the inverted image of another black flag flying on the snowy land mass at the South Pole. Together these two photographs form a very succinct picture of planet Earth from top to bottom. The whole world is seen compressed, devoid of hierarchy.

On the wall to the right is a grid of twenty photographs arranged in two rows, again one immediately above the other. To accompany the journey along the photographs it is best to firs…

Exhibition Review: Paul Walton and Andreas Athanasopoulos, China, Glasgow University

Vitreous China, the enamel that coats bathroom ceramic, is the initial connection between the work of Paul Walton, an evangelist for bio-diversity, and Andreas Athanasopoulos, a man mildly obsessed with urinals. Another factor is that they are both black and white photographers who frequent the darkroom at Street Level Photoworks. In their exhibition China they show thirty-five large glossy silver gelatin prints. The work is mixed together, but you can tell who made which prints because as Athanasopoulos says, “all of mine have urinals in, the rest are Paul’s”. Almost all of Walton’s prints feature baths discarded in fields, now encroached upon by nature.

Walton’s picture making is rooted in his attention to the age of the Anthropocene, in which human activity has become the defining characteristic of our geological epoch. His geologist father instilled in him from an early age a sense of the infinite in nature. This has been eroded gradually through his own growing understanding of hu…