NOW | Susan Philipsz, Michael Armitage, Yto Barrada, Kate Davis, Hiwa K, Sarah Rose (4 stars)

NOW | Susan Philipsz, Michael Armitage, Yto Barrada, Kate Davis, Hiwa K, Sarah Rose

Susan Philipsz, Seven Tears 20167-channel soundinstallation, vinyl records 12", 17min., loopInstallation view Kunstverein Hannover 2016 / credit: Raimund Zakowski, Courtesy Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York

Second iteration of the series of group shows which brings together the best of contemporary art in Scotland

Proudly heralded by the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art as 'the most ambitious programme of contemporary art to be staged at the National Galleries of Scotland', NOW – which is a series of group shows, rather than just a single exhibition – seeks to link the Scottish to the international, with a selection of works from this country and from creators from around the work.

In the case of this second iteration of NOW, the centrestage belongs to Susan Philipsz; not just because her work occupies several rooms, but because her upbringing and education in Scotland and her current basing in Berlin makes the 2010 Turner Prize winner the perfect exemplar of the exhibition's theme. A number of her works are included, with the photographic series 'Elettra' and the sound piece 'Deep Water Pulse' paired with one another; in tribute to the Italian pioneer of radio, the first is a series of prints of the rusting hulk of his eponymous, Leith-built floating wireless laboratory, the latter the atmospheric ping of an underwater locator beacon.

Philipsz' 'Seven Tears' is stunning, a recorded 'performance' of the composer John Dowland's minimal 'Lachrimae' – based around the motif of a falling tear – split into seven separate tones achieved by running a wet finger around the rim of a glass and played by interconnected, computer-controlled vinyl turntables. The sense is of the visceral, experiential nature of watching a live concert being transferred to the also aesthetically-pleasing act of playing physically recorded music, in this case with the satisfying pop and hiss of a turntable.

These recorded works conjure thoughts of the current tension between the analogue and the digital in music, and are accompanied by bespoke paintings dipped in salt, literally drenched in dried tears. Elsewhere, there are examinations of Africa's colonial history in Parisian artist Yto Barrada's work, photographic representations of African child's dolls collected by the French ethnographer Therese Riviere in the 1930s; and Michael Armitage's dream-like paintings explore snapshots from Kenya's current political and social landscape in very colourful, expressionist fashion.

The Glasgow-based Sarah Rose's 'Memo to Spring' has been specially-commissioned for this show, an arrangement of artfully recreated marine detritus with a recording of American conservationist and author Rachel Carson's memoir of her lesbian affair with a married woman, while 'Eight Blocks for a Field' shows Kate Davis' (also based in Glasgow) drawings of dolls made for deprived children in Victorian London, with some of the original dolls from the collection of the Museum of Childhood on the Royal Mile, as gathered by polymath collector of the time Edward Lovett.

The Iraqi-born, Berlin-based Hiwa K's diptych of complementary films is stunning in its documentary vision and exhibition, with one showing a group of Iraqi scrap merchants who recover the metal from spent munitions, and the other detailing the construction of a bell commissioned by the artist from some of these fragments at a foundry in Northern Italy. It's not just an interesting conceptual piece, but, like all of those shown alongside it here, a work which gives us some degree of precious insight into the lives and worlds of others from different times and places.

NOW | Susan Philipsz, Michael Armitage, Yto Barrada, Kate Davis, Hiwa K, Sarah Rose is at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art One, Edinburgh, until Sun 18 Feb.


The second in a series of exhibitions celebrating diversity in modern Scottish art, with a sound installations, photographs and paintings by Susan Philips, together with work by Scottish and international artists Yto Barrada, Michael Armitage, Hiwa K, Sarah Rose and Kate Davis.

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