Six of the best
Alexander Kennedy introduces the work of the artists who will be representing Scotland at this year’s Venice Biennale.
Congratulations to Charles Avery, Henry Coombes, Louise Hopkins, Rosalind Nashashibi, Lucy Skaer and Tony Swain, who have been selected to represent Scotland at the 52nd Venice Biennale of Art, after months of deliberation. The Scottish show, which will be curated by Philip Long, senior curator at the Scottish National Gallery of Art, will run from Sunday 10 June-Friday 2 November at the Palazzo Zenobio in the Dorsoduro district of Venice.
This five-month long Biennale represents a fantastic opportunity for the chosen artists, who will exhibit work alongside the best emerging talent from more than 65 countries.
This is the third year that Scotland has taken part as a country in its own right, apart from the British Pavilion (which this year includes new work by seasoned controversy-courter Tracey Emin).
The Scots sextet joins a distinguished band of talent (Scottish artists have exhibited at the Biennale since 1897), building on the strong foundations put down in recent years by the likes of Claire Barclay, Jim Lambie and Simon Starling.
‘Each artist seems to us to share as part of their concern an interest in cultural similarities and differences,’ says Long. ‘Some, on occasion, use invented worlds to investigate their concerns; others make use of comparisons, real situations or look back into history.’
Long’s assessment applies most strikingly to Charles Avery, best know for drawings, paintings and installations that take imaginary islands as their subject matter. Rosalind Nashishibi, meanwhile, examines the patterns people make while going about their daily life. Her film and video work overlaps distinct cultures, putting a positive spin on differences.
Louise Hopkins’ paintings are re-workings of found materials, in which small details are repeated, the original state of the fabric becoming completely transformed by her intervention. In a similar vein, Lucy Skaer takes inspiration from the readymade, a photograph, covering it in layers of graphite and gold leaf, creating new and seductive images that are worlds away from the original.
Tony Swain finds inspiration in newspapers for his painted collages while Henry Coombes uses wry humour to address class issues, creating darkly humourous images (pictured).
The selection for the 52nd Venice Biennale marks a slight shift of focus, away from art emerging in Glasgow to work by Edinburgh-based artists. It also represents a less showy aesthetic approach to creating art.
Four of the exhibitors (Avery, Hopkins, Skaer and Nashishibi) are represented in Scotland by Susanna Beaumont at Doggerfisher, with The Modern Institute (Tony Swain) and Sorcha Dallas sending artists from Glasgow.
Curator Philip Long believes the selection shows off the strength and diversity of Scotland’s contemporary art scene. ‘What is clear is that each artist works with such ability and often with such surprising and new means that they have the power to alter our perceptions.’