Another Country at City Art Centre
- Susan Mansfield
- 19 December 2018
Contemporary artists tackle immigration in Edinburgh art exhibition
Inviting a group of artists to comment on a live contemporary issue is sometimes less rewarding than anticipated, with everyone taking a soft-left right-on approach while taking care not to rock the boat too much. Before seeing this show on immigration, one can rest assured that no one in this is gathering votes for UKIP.
However, the show, curated by Elaine Rutherford, Euan Gray and Alberta Whittle in association with CAC, is lively and interesting at least partly because the topic is so wide-ranging. Julie Roberts' arresting paintings of children saved from Nazi Germany by kindertransport (based on photographs of unnamed children) are specific in time and place, but the hopefulness on their faces says something about all refugees.
Owen Logan is interested in drawing attention to the Italian community in the UK, and how the difficult parts of their history have sometimes been sidelined: the surge of anti-Italian feeling during World War II, and the sinking of the Arandorra Star, torpedoed while transporting 'enemy aliens' to Canada.
Graham Fagen's paired photographs looking West and East across the Atlantic speak of the long connections between Scotland and the West Indies, while artist Katherine Ka Yi Liu and poet Lo Mei Way collaborate on a work which challenges Western perceptions of East Asian women.
Of the work which address today's immigration issues more directly, Euan Gray's pinball Immigration Game speaks of the lottery-like nature of success, while Andrew Gilbert's paintings attack Brexit with a sharp does of satire. Irineu Destourelles' film/essay left me puzzled, wondering whether the aim was to discuss immigration or the Western perception of art by black artists. Toby Paterson's steel fence, however, painted bright orange and slicing across the room, is a vivid reminder of the barriers we all put up, even if they are provisional, ill-thought-out and quickly dilapidated. 'Palisade (Safety Orange)' addresses effectively all the traditional values of sculpture, while reminding us of the borders we very quickly stop noticing if they don't affect us.
City Art Centre, Edinburgh, until Sun 17 Mar 2019