Urban / Suburban (3 stars)

Martin Boyce, Graham Fagen and Christine Borland respond to the built environment as part of GENERATION

*4urban / Suburban

Carol Rhodes, 'Town', 2005

A part of the landmark Scottish contemporary art retrospective GENERATION, Urban / Suburban explores in a group context the response of a variety of the nation’s artists to the built environment. The relevance of some of the works showing here suggest that there may have been a slim field to select from, but where they fully engage with the subject matter, this becomes a show which opens our eyes and awareness to the constructed world around us.

For example, Carol Rhodes’ paintings are illuminating – not in the sense that they introduce us to a new vision of the world, precisely the opposite. Yet in her ‘Carpark, Canal’, ‘Industrial Belt’ and ‘Town’, each rather uniformly depicting precisely what the title offers, she presents to us a new and possibly irony-soaked interpretation of landscape painting in which the human-made environment is celebrated in vivid colour. Likewise, Graham Fagen’s video meditation on the subject of the postwar British town, a recurring theme of his work, is an engaging and emotional after-the-fact response to an iconic piece of functional architecture.

Elsewhere, some of the selections are more obtuse in their relevance, for example Kenny Hunter’s works, including text-based wall pieces and sculptural animals which seem oddly placed in this context, and Christine Borland’s ‘The Velocity of Drops’, a photographic study of smashed melons which seems to have found a home here thanks to the Spanish villa architecture visible in the background. Other pieces occupy a middle-ground, including Martin Boyce’s fun hijacking of wall-mounted metal grille as artistic adornment in ‘Punching Through the Clouds’ and Chad McCail’s endearing series of socialist cartoons ‘Face Time’, all combining to form an exhibition with much intriguing and on-subject work to recommend it, despite the sense that the whole thing doesn’t add up to more than the sum of its parts.

City Art Centre, Edinburgh, until Sun 19 Oct.


A view of architecture and the built environment in recent Scottish art, featuring work by Nathan Coley, Graham Fagan, Carol Rhodes, Toby Paterson, Christine Borland and others.


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