Katie Schwab: Together in a Room (2 stars)

Research undertaken by artist as part of Satellites Programme needs more time to develop

Katie Schwab: Together in a Room

There’s a sparseness apparent in Glasgow-based artist Katie Schwab’s new exhibition in the Collective’s bright gallery space on Calton Hill, and this sense of minimalism draws complete attention to the few objects therein. On the bright red floor stand ten handmade stools with green seats, the colours complementing one another, the order random. They’re meant for use, for sitting on to watch the film playing on the screen at one side of the room. On another wall, a long roll of hessian is stitched in wool and cotton with a random map of shapes, lines and zigzags.

That this is the culmination of a research project undertaken as part of the Collective’s Satellites Programme 2016 makes sense, because the pieces are thus far hard to penetrate and to connect to one another. The stools, made by Schwab with her flatmate Simon Worthington, are functional but attractive; the tapestry is appropriately called ‘Sampler’, because it looks like a large-scale practice piece (it is, using patterns from a book the artist’s grandmother owned and researched designers like Enid Marx and Peggy Angus); and the film a collage of subtitle reminiscences of an older woman who grew up in Germany in the early 20th century before migrating to England, bursts of painted film, and one woman showing another around an unidentified building from the exterior.

Little is revealed until the accompanying text is read. The elder woman whose words appear as text in the film is also Schwab’s grandmother, and the mysterious building is St Catherine’s College, Oxford, designed by Arne Jacobsen, who also provided inspiration for the stools alongside Finnish designers Marimekko. The film, appropriately, is called ‘Dedicated to my great teachers’, and Schwab makes plain an apparent intention to reflect upon the loss of generationally-passed craft skills in favour of advancing Post-War industrialisation; yet in the displayed work itself, these threads don’t hold together.

Collective Gallery, Edinburgh, until Sun 24 Apr.

Katie Schwab: Together in a Room

Installation work exploring ideas of function and decoration.


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