Salt of the Earth
National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, until Sun 10 Jan
There are a few surprises at what might have been a straightforward showcase of some of Scotland’s famous faces by Craig Mackay. The first revelation is that not all the usual suspects are present, and the second is the inclusion of a few famous faces from across the pond with Scottish heritage, such as Neve Campbell and Jack White. A third (and most welcome) diversion from the portraits on the wall is a video documenting the process behind the work, and a celebration of the sitters’ ancestry. This is also projected out onto the street, much to the delight of passers-by.
Mackay approaches his subjects with humour and humility, illuminating the person, rather than the facades we are used to seeing in the press. Rough-edged triptychs add depth to what might have been a staid tribute to Scottish luminaries, but there is a deplorable lack of room here, with the work crushed onto the available wall space. Such a tribute deserves room to breathe, and a long approach to the distant figure. The result is reminiscent of being stuck in an overcrowded – if star-studded – lift.