The British Art Show Five

8 April - 4 June 2000

David Hockney, Emma Kay, Kathy Prendergast, Donald Rodney, Johnny Spencer, Amikram Toren, Keith Tyson, and Wood & Harrison The British Arts Show 5 is being shown across eight of Edinburgh’s major gallery spaces. The British Art Show, which is staged every few years, gives audiences the opportunity to examine the current state of British art.

The exhibition celebrates the diversity, wit and exuberance of British art now – produced by artists who range from recent graduates to established figures. This year’s exhibition has been selected by Pippa Coles, Matthew Higgs, and Jacqui Poncelet, and contains work by over fifty artists.

Johnny Spencer gathers information on different subjects from a wide range of sources, and here he is responsible for the official panel – as he is in each BAS venue. As well as providing information on the exhibition, the panel includes text appropriate to Stills and forms part of Spencer’s wider interest in self-education.

Wood & Harrison’s videos present intricate visual scenarios which refer to a range of human processes. The artists use the body’s sculptural elements as a way to construct a vocabulary of shared physical and emotional experiences – with often hilarious results.

Donald Rodney shows In the House of My Father which is one of his final works before his untimely death from Sickle Cell Anaemia in 1998. Rodney’s very personal, autobiographical approach to his work is illustrated through the creation of a house using his own skin – removed during an operation. The house refers to a traditional wake that occurs in the West Indies, where families and friends gather to remember the deceased.

David Hockney recently caused some controversy when he announced that many of the Old Masters – such as Veláquez – used a Camera Lucida to produce their work. This device is like a giant camera which the artist sits inside and traces the sitters projected image using a pencil or paint. Hockney has used this same device to make this series of twelve new drawings of his friends including Alan Bennett and Damien Hirst.

Emma Kay’s work challenges the homogeneity and authority of the printed page. Through her series of works, Kay reconstructs epic historical, fictional or geographical stories entirely from memory. Here, The Bible from Memory which is presented in traditional typographical format, contains memorised episodes from the Bible transcribed by Kay, and Worldview attempt to chronicle the history of the world from the ‘Big Bang’ to the end of the twentieth century, and is written without any recourse to reference material.

Keith Tyson, who has cast different spells in all of the participating venues, here has activated The Apocolyptic Switch (Magic Item Number 11). As soon as the Magic Item is activated – by flicking the switch – it triggers the apocalypse at 1.35pm on the 14 January 2021. If the switch is flicked again, then this result will be reversed. The magic item carries a memory of everytime it has been activated – but unfortunately no initiate seems to be able to monitor this.

Amikam Toren has been producing ‘armchair paintings’ since the late 1980s. Using cheap painting materials bought at markets, Toren cuts out words in the canvas to partially obscure the original image. Toren’s actions – and the resulting increase in the value of the work as a result – raises questions about authorship, and about value in art.

Kathy Prendergast’s computer-generated Lost Map is a meticulously re-drawn map of a section of America. In contrast to the functional role of traditional maps, Prendergast’s drawings outline an imaginary landscape. In this work, most of the denominations are missing – including major cities and all of the names which would help us to locate ourselves. What remains are the ‘losses’ – place names which include the word ‘Lost’.

Paul Nesbitt : 5th British Art Show from arts-news on Vimeo.

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