Nothing is Guaranteed: Bosnian-Futurism Exhibition ***
No call back: Diana Zwibach ****
Balance: Iain Patterson ****
Displacement ecologies: Farrukh Addnan and Michèle Marcoux ****
All at Summerhall, Edinburgh
The guiding spirit of Richard Demarco is presiding over this year’s summer art program at Summerhall. It’s as if the heritage of the Demarco gallery has escaped from the rooms where the archives are stored and has made its way along the corridors to keep the gallery’s spirit of innovation and connection alive. .
Nothing is guaranteed: the Bosno-Futurism exhibition in the basement galleries is the first exhibition of contemporary Bosnian art in Scotland since Bosnia and Herzegovina became an independent country in 1992, but artists Bosnians have already shown in Edinburgh as part of the Demarco gallery. presentations of art from Yugoslavia in the 1970s and 1980s.
Bosnia has little infrastructure to support artists – of the six artists in this show, most have a base elsewhere. Moreover, art in Bosnia is still shaped by the war of the 1990s, either directly addressing it or struggling with the expectation that it would have to face it. Here, Aberdeen-based curator Jon Blackwood takes an approach inspired by Afro-futurism: circumventing difficult history by imagining a future in which that history is not meaningful.
Aiming for “commonalities” across the cultural divide, Blackwood takes a minimal approach to interpretive information, making it a show that’s hard to absorb. The most accessible work is Mladen Bundalo’s Uncertainty Principle: BYINTEK Projector, which gives voice (and personality) to a low-cost video projector from China purchased by the artist online. The story of the purchase, the artist’s subsequent complaint and its (partial) resolution seems all too familiar, a deconstruction of our globalized online economy.
Igor Bosnjak’s animation simulates drone footage of a ruined landscape featuring the shapes of “spomenici”, post-war monuments to the Yugoslav communist struggle now fetishized online. Lala Rascic’s film is a version of the Arachne mythos that is (perhaps rightly) difficult to unravel. The Maja Zeco facility is a place of haunting sounds and strobe lights, Yugoslav-made lace and UNHCR humanitarian aid bags, suggesting a difficult past and an uncomfortable present.
Lana Cmajcanin’s Anatomy of Speech addresses language issues and how it has become complicated in the post-Yugoslavian space, breaking communication between people who previously shared a common language. Sasha Tatic’s photographs of a raw clay ‘heart’ held close to a human heart communicate something direct about attachment to place. However, in general, these works speak more of the specificity of the Bosnian situation than of shared concerns.
Diana Zwibach was born in Serbia and now lives in the UK, and her exhibition, No Callback, at the War Memorial and Sciennes galleries, would not have moved to the Demarco gallery in its heyday. His expressive figurative work – painting, drawing, engraving – draws on a tradition of European modernism led by Chagall and Soutine.
The whole work here, however, has a very specific genesis. The loss of Zwibach’s husband shortly before the trauma and confusion of the pandemic caused mental and physical collapse. Returning to her work, she began to tear up previously completed paintings, drawings and prints and glue them together in new ways, adding new marks, figures, words.
These 59 works show how his energy became anchored in a new way of working. The characters are again grouped together, sometimes with a silhouette distanced from the others, but attached. Cut-out words, phrases and newspaper headlines all find their way into the artwork. Some of the collages are three-dimensional, such as the group of tall cylindrical columns; others were used to make fabric that covers a large throne-like chair. There is an energy there that speaks of work done in the worst circumstances, of destruction that becomes a new form of creativity.
Iain Pattersonan Edinburgh-based artist who taught painting and drawing at Edinburgh College of Art for some thirty years, had his first exhibition at the Demarco Gallery in 1971. He went on to forge important connections in Poland, in Yugoslavia, Hungary and Czechoslovakia in the 1970s which continue to this day: the publication of this show is in four languages.
His exhibition at the Lab Gallery is an important collection of works, a work built up over decades. The tables are not dated, so it is not a question of tracing a chronology. What emerges most clearly from these works, which range from postcard to large format, is the coherence and specificity of style.
They are abstract works, perhaps inspired by landscapes and weather, stones and constellations, as well as intangible elements like mood and music. However, like many abstractionists, he works according to a series of self-constructed rules: a limited palette of black, gray, white, ochre, and sometimes blue; a lexicon of forms and techniques, compositions and gestures.
These are works that balance different qualities: freedom and formality, simplicity and detail, spontaneity and craftsmanship. They are the product of the hand and eye of a mature artist. Relying on precise and thoughtful ways of seeing, they have their own distinctive beauty and reward the time spent looking at them.
In the Meadows and Corner galleries, two contrasting artists come together in Displacement ecologies. Lahore-based Farrukh Addnan and Edinburgh-based Michele Marcoux met during an online lockdown residency funded by Creative Scotland and the British Council. While their work could hardly be more different, both are drawn to the homes of their childhoods, Addnan’s in Tulamba, an ancient archaeological site in Punjab, and Marcoux’s in Cleveland, Ohio.
Addnan makes ultra-controlled tiny marks on paper with a fine architectural drafting pen, sometimes so small they are barely visible, creating abstract patterns that reflect elements of the changing cityscape. Marcoux makes impressive multi-layered paintings on the pages of newspapers, drawing inspiration from childhood memories placed in domestic settings. They remember moments that were personally or politically significant, including the day the Cuyahoga River caught fire in the 1960s, highlighting the dangers of toxic industrial waste, and the day protesters against the war in Vietnam were shot at Kent State University in Ohio.
Both artists include large-scale works: Addnan’s impressive Rivière is a floor-to-ceiling “flowing” canvas, yet bearing laboriously detailed ink and wash marks, while Marcoux assembles an entire edition of the Financial Times to create a sort of wall hanging. The larger his works, the more expressive they become.
Despite – perhaps even because of – the contrasts between them, in this exhibition curated by Sana Bilgrami, the two bodies of work revolve around each other in engaging conversation on a common theme.
All exhibitions until September 25