Jean-Marc Bustamante: Dead Calm (3 stars)

Jean-Marc Bustamante: Dead Calm

Toulouse born artist’s debut Scottish show

Toulouse born artist Jean-Marc Bustamante’s debut Scottish show carries with it the weight of Dickens’ sentiment that, ‘There are dark shadows on the earth, but its lights are stronger in the contrast.’ Bustamante’s ‘thing’ is incongruity in technique, perspective and context. This exhibition (named, slightly ominously Dead Calm) opens with a declaration of intent with Bustamante’s late 1970s photographs of anonymous modern ruins. Ugly concrete bunkers, empty pits, half built spaces are photographed as if they were architectural wonders, these blots on the landscape, these objects of no one’s desire imbued with a cultural relevance.

Nature and man’s intervention dominates this early work. Like the Monty Python knights, Bastamante has designs on shrubbery, he photographs it as if it were a supermodel – it fills the frame, but look closer and notice the intervention of man. 1991 sculpture ‘Stationnaire II’ is the defining piece in this section of the exhibition – 12 photographs are stacked in a concrete smoke stack, unseen and waiting to be unturned. In ‘Bac a Sable’, sand is contained by concrete, sterilised and unchurned by salty waters and ‘Bac a Sable II’ wood and the deathly colours of industrial progress become one. Only the haunting, seemingly archival plexiglass creation ‘Lumiere’ hints at the joys to come.

If downstairs is Bustamante’s past, upstairs is very much his present with work he has created especially for the Fruitmarket, and it is here that the lights are really clearer in contrast. While the sculptures on this floor are uninteresting experiments in form and material, Bustamante’s new ink on Plexiglass work is stunning. The artistic lineage and reference is all British here: Hockney, Hodgekin, Davie and Jaray. These bold abstractions are enough to still the breath. Alive with pantheistic allure and architectural connection, they are works that seem to ripple from willow to bank and back again.

Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, until Sun 3 Apr

Jean-Marc Bustamante: Dead Calm

  • 3 stars

A rare UK showing of the renowned French artist's work, including some new paintings on plexiglass completed in 2010.

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