Alison Turnbull (4 stars)

Alison Turnbull

Constrained pieces exploring ideas of order and chaos

Order and chaos, Alison Turnbull’s work implies, are both simple functions of human perspective, with her seemingly very precisely constrained pieces actually subject to no more than the artist’s own arbitrary designs for them. In large part that’s a description of art itself, of course, but Turnbull goes out of her way to hem herself in using predesigned patterns. In ‘North & South’, for example, she appears to have redrawn constellations of stars as seen from either pole as a join-the-dots puzzle resembling bacteria in a dish, while the shading of intersecting corners on squared paper (or a map of the Isle of Barra) to create oscillating, mark-making patterns is a recurring feature.

The consideration of colour is also important. ‘Orto Botanico’ implicitly invites us to match a printed palette of colours with the imagined shades on a black and white landscape photograph and Turnbull’s written descriptions of each shade: ‘dull grey façade of the cactus house’; ‘dead bird, its bright pink foot’. ‘Various-coloured Snapdragon’, meanwhile, takes shades from Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours, an antiquarian reference book used by Darwin, to assemble a wall-painting which mimics a molecular structure, the better to suggest that our understanding of colour itself is partly a mechanical and partly a creative process.

Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh, until Sat 5 May

Alison Turnbull

  • 4 stars

Meticulous paintings derived from plans and charts, examining systems of classification.

Artist's Talk: Alison Turnbull and Ross Birrell in Conversation

To coincide with the publication of the catalogue for her current exhibition, Turnbull discusses her work with artist, writer and lecturer Ross Birrell. Followed by wine and catalogue sales.

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