Generation - Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art One (5 stars)

Generation - Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art One

Image courtesy of Jonathan Owen and Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh

Douglas Gordon, Toby Paterson and Richard Wright among SNGoMA1's 25 year contemporary art retrospective

Where to start with a definitive, large-scale exhibition boasting of a nation's ongoing achievements in contemporary art without opening yourself up to claims of self-aggrandisement? Isn’t it for others to sing the praises while we keep our trumpets unblown? In this case the best strategy seems to have been just to show the work and allow it to make a claim on its own position, for if one guiding narrative presents itself amidst the work of the twenty-plus Scottish and Scottish-affiliated artists on display at this showpiece hub exhibition of the GENERATION project, it’s a lack of self-regard. There is humour, there are finely-constructed stories under the surface, there are often quite complex conceptual experiments, yet self-importance never weighs heavy.

The blockbuster sits alongside the less well-known. Douglas Gordon’s ’24 Hour Psycho’ is a centrepiece, and its power is reinstated when seen in person, the sense of frustrated expectation and of time being distorted as the piece is viewed both captivating and unsettling. Elsewhere a new series by Toby Paterson entitled ‘Common Area’ breaks down the shapes and colour palettes of post-war housing into abstract painting and sculpture, and Richard Wright is represented by a hallway full of bright and intricate geometric drawings.

Throughout, much of the work displays relentless force of personality, from Kate Davis’ paintings of crushed postcards depicting famous female subjects in art to the garishly clinical ‘Breathing Space’ by Smith/Stewart, a film diptych trained on two bagged, breathing heads, and Graham Fagen’s fully interactive theatre set and script ‘Peek-a-Jobby’. On its own terms this single show is gripping, and it whets the appetite substantially for other major GENERATION shows around Edinburgh at the National and Portrait Galleries.

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art One, Edinburgh, until Sun 25 Jan.

Generation: 25 Years of Contemporary Art in Scotland

As part of the nationwide Generation programme, National Galleries Scotland mounts an epic two-part exhibition showing work by some of the country's most vital contemporary artists. Modern One features work by Ross Sinclair, Graham Fagen, Victoria Morton, Alison Watt, Julie Roberts, Lucy McKenzie and others, as well as…

Generation Tours at Modern One

Free, discussion-led tours of the Generation exhibition. Booking is essential.

Generation: Curator's Tour

Julie-Ann Delaney of the Gallery of Modern Art leads this tour of the Generation exhibition, looking at works by Ross Sincliar, Graham Fagen and Simon Starling.

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