Roar of Approval: Lion Gets You Nowhereby Robin Baillie, Senior Outreach Officer, 15 February 2017
‘It looks really cool, but some parts I don’t understand, but I love it!’
(A visitor's response from the exhibition Comments Book)
Last week saw the opening of this exhibition created by young people working with the Outreach Team to explore the Scottish art collection at the Scottish National Gallery. The installation of the two sets of work from groups of young people on employability schemes in North Edinburgh and Galashiels, makes a dramatic impact in the IT Gallery. Faced with presenting their art in such an institution as the national gallery the young people have taken it all on and have come out on top.
‘Great expressive work. Dark, but still visually pleasing.’
Two huge friezes cover the walls on both sides of the gallery. The longest wall features giant-sized wooden characters from a gothic tale created by the Galashiels participants, paying homage to Sir Walter Scott’s imagination. A long, black, landscape silhouette - featuring landmarks such as the Scott Monument, Abbotsford House, the Leaderfoot Viaduct and the Eildon hills, alongside Beech Avenue in Galashiels and a disused textile mill - provides the background to this story of magic, genocide and judgement.
‘Interested to see what develops from this thought-provoking exhibition.’
Arranged In front the backdrop is a set of characters including The King of the Clarty Hole, Judge Jaffacake and Bertimus Jerfordson (a lion-headed writer and friend of Scott). These characters were invented by the youths who took part in the project, mimicking the array of colourful characters that Scott creates for his historical romances. The narrative that connects them is revealed in an accompanying film - but ‘viewer beware’ - as it is almost as gothic and complicated a plot as those of the great writer. Ultimately the young people have addressed the themes of power and morality, and how history judges the deeds of those who have gone before.
‘I was delighted to see such a fun and flexible approach to engaging young people – great outcomes.’
On the opposite wall, the young people from North Edinburgh have arranged their painted cut-outs of details from historical Scottish paintings, in front of a huge photograph. This recreates their original installation of these totem-like emblems, erected on upright scaffolding poles on an empty brownfield site at Granton. This is the site of the National Galleries of Scotland’s new Collections Facility. The youngsters have mined the Scottish art collection to pick out characters and objects that are given new life as part of a symbolic forest. In this way, our young artists have released the evocative elements of genre and history paintings to roam the grassy wastelands of North Edinburgh, like a set of big cats removed from their cages. Can they survive, and what meanings do they take on in this contemporary context?
‘Dark, but amazing exhibition for the gallery.’
Look out for future episodes in this series of interventions into the Scottish art collection by young people. Their take on Scottish history is still to be written.