Peter Pretsell (3 stars)

Edinburgh College of Art and Edinburgh Printmakers, until Sat 25 Oct

Peter Pretsell


There’s a light-hearted sense of joy and goodwill in these two parallel exhibitions celebrating the four-decade output of the late Peter Pretsell, who was both student and lecturer at Edinburgh College of Art and, appropriately enough, an enthusiastic exhibitions organiser. Upstairs in the sculpture court, his collages, sketches and thick-lined paintings have a cartoon-like energy and a refreshing economy, his work infused with a wry, humane sense of humour.

Aside from the display of his sketchbooks, the work falls into three broad categories. There are the coolly ironic paintings of 1970s domestic interiors in which modern functionalism contrasts with the ornate patterns of wallpaper and carpet design. Then there is the series of paintings of a dancing couple, the course black lines recalling Picasso with a thicker paintbrush, the splashes of colour reminiscent of Miro, adding up to an affectionate portrait of a couple lovingly locked together regardless of their human lumpiness. Finally, there are the collages – dancing monochrome figures, strips of textile, magazine images – reconfiguring the visual world around us in happy celebration of the human form.

It’s up to you to decide whether they are beautiful, absurd, outlandish or contradictory, as the exhibition title has it, but those adjectives pretty much cover the ground of this feelgood show. The fun continues over at Edinburgh Printmakers (downstairs from the brilliantly bonkers cut-out anthropomorphism of Helen Snell’s installation) where there’s a small selection of Pretsell’s bold primary coloured prints which have a poster-paint immediacy and even more joie de vivre.

Peter Pretsell: The Beautiful The Absurd The Outlandish The Contradictory

  • 3 stars

A collection of Peter Pretsell's work from the past 36 years.


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