NOW: Katie Paterson, Darren Almond, Shona MacNaughton and Lucy Raven
- David Pollock
- 30 October 2019
First major showing of Paterson's work in a public institution in Scotland delves into the theme of time
With its sixth and final instalment, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art's NOW, an extremely high-quality set of group shows by artists from Scotland and around the globe, comes to an end in spectacular fashion. Although four artists are included, the centrepiece work belongs to Scottish artist Katie Paterson, whose work occupies most of the gallery's ground floor. There's enough complexity and large-scale spectacle to have sustained a solo show, and this exhibition – and her retrospective at the Turner Contemporary in Margate earlier this year – deserve to be breakthrough career moments.
Paterson's work is brilliantly thoughtful, not just within its own context, but also the imaginative journey it takes the open-minded viewer on, into an appreciation of their place within the universe. In the specially dark-walled hallway is displayed the silver-lettered text of some of her wild but scientifically researched conceptual ideas, such as 'an ice rink of frozen water from every glacier' or 'the surface of the moon sculpted on to white cliffs'.
Elsewhere, in a darkened room, a single lightbulb hangs, specially designed to emit the same wavelength light as moonlight, with enough bulbs waiting on a wall display to last a lifetime; a ghostly grand piano plays a fragmented 'Moonlight Sonata', its sheet music bounced in Morse code off the surface of the moon and back; and in a film record of her Future Library project, Margaret Attwood hands over a manuscript made of trees from the Oslo forest around her, to be read in a hundred years.
Alongside such monumental grandeur, three more rooms of extremely engaging work – Darren Almond's stunning long-exposure landscape photographs by the light of the moon, Shona MacNaughton's visual record of her performance 'Progression', in which she compares her own pregnancy to the regeneration of Glasgow, and Lucy Raven's photographic animation celebrating millennia of human-made images – serve more as appetisers to this feast of a group show.
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (Modern One), until Sun 31 May.