Arctic Circus and Skylights (3 stars)

Edinburgh Printmakers, Edinburgh, until Sat 10 May

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Edinburgh Printmakers seem to be inviting comparison between two solo exhibitions exploring Northern light, relying on the cantilever of their difference. But it’s the common thread of exploration that elevates both.

Lithographer Gill Tyson’s Arctic Circus takes us to the landscape of the Lofoten Islands, a Norwegian Archipelago within the Arctic Circle, where an overcast midnight sun is ‘best described as perpetual light’. The more organic, muted works convey that atmosphere of mist and cold air, and one imagines, the sound-deadened quality of the landscape.

Manmade objects intrude on the environment, though can seem too heavy for work that plays most successfully when its lighter touch achieves a duality extending beyond the edges of the frame; inviting you to wonder what lies across the waste, such as in the title work, Arctic Circus.

Alastair Clark’s exhibition, Skylights, by contrast uses the graphic qualities of the Northern Lights as an aesthetic musing on the atmosphere and sky as the Earth’s window on a perpetual night.

While the video montage is an ill-conceived add-on, the screenprinted works are incredibly photographic – paradoxically it’s their rich blacks (the ‘unlit’ infinite darkness surrounding brilliant flashes of captured light), that give them their appeal.

As both artists have experimented with techniques and processes, it’s when boldly going into that light-filled emptiness that both achieve their best works.

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