Drawing for Instruction
While the presentation at first appears haphazard, Drawing for Instruction draws the viewer deep into the space on a journey through an Edinburgh history of buildings, musical instruments and even the brain.
Edinburgh College of Art displays a selection of rough work from past and contemporary students that depicts anatomy, portraiture and animals among other themes. These pieces are jigsawed together into one large being that reaches far above head-height, making close inspection somewhat difficult. Turn left, however, and you are greeted by the Royal (Dick) Veterinary School section, a larger than life combination of paintings on cloth that used to be lecture aides and equine drawings relating to anatomy. Further into the gallery, the plans and artefacts from the School of Architecture, and those of the Edinburgh University Collection of Historic Musical Instruments are admittedly carefully constructed but less memorable than these earlier rooms.
It is the upper level of the exhibition that really engages. The Lothian Health Services Archive has selected work including the musings of two psychiatric patients from the late 1800s. Here we see how the process of drawing can work backwards to create an impression of the self and offer an insight into the beauty of madness. William Bartholomew (1819-1891) and Andrew Kennedy’s (1825-1899) work resides alongside commissioned portraits of other in-patients and would not look out of place in a contemporary exhibition. In fact, this fascinating theme might warrant a show of its own.
A neat finish consisting of medical and botanical drawings, combined with the contribution from the School of Chemistry (including a 3D display) pulls back a semblance of order from the chaos of the lower level - but the lasting impression is created by the Health Services Archive.
Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh, until Sat 6 Mar