Dark history of Scotland depicted in new art exhibition

I Love Rapid Change by Kenny Hunter. Picture: Neil Hanna

I Love Rapid Change by Kenny Hunter. Picture: Neil Hanna

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THE THREAT of nuclear war, the horrors of the Holocaust, the persecutions of witches in Scotland and the little-known links between Robert Burns and the slave trade are depicted in a new exhibition exposing the darker side of the Scottish art world.

The Scottish Endarkenment show, which opens in Edinburgh on Friday, also features work inspired by the notorious Black Dahlia murder case in 1940s Los Angeles, a scene from classic novel The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, attacks on gay men on Calton Hill, one of Edinbugh’s most celebrated viewpoints.

The Scottish Endarkenment: Art and Unreason. Picture: Neil Hanna

The Scottish Endarkenment: Art and Unreason. Picture: Neil Hanna

Eduardo Paolozzi, John Bellany, Alan Davie, Joan Eardley, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Douglas Gordon, Alison Watt and David Shrigley are among the featured post-war artists in the show at the Dovecot Gallery, which is partly inspired by the famous Robert Louis Stevenson “Jekyll and Hyde” horror story.

The show features Joyce Cairns’ depiction of the shoes of Holocaust victims from the Nazi concentration camp at Majdanek, in Poland, Kenny Hunter’s nuclear “mushroom cloud” and Mr Cruickshank, by Eduardo Paolozzi, which was inspired by a wooden model made by American scientists for testing the radiation caused by the penetration of Z-ray beams into the skull.

Graham Fagen’s screenprint is inspired by the abandoned plans of Robert Burns to emigrate to Jamaica to work as a book-maker on a sugar plantation.

Georgia Horgan’s pieces explore the links between radical changes in the textile industry in 17th century Scotland and accusations of witch-hunting.

Lizzie Cowan of Dovecot Galleries beside The Ettrick Farmer by John Bellany. Picture: Neil Hanna

Lizzie Cowan of Dovecot Galleries beside The Ettrick Farmer by John Bellany. Picture: Neil Hanna

The exhibition, which has been compiled by Edinburgh University art historians Bill Hare and Andrew Patrizio, features more than 50 works charting 70 years.

Social inequalities and consumer materialism, moral struggles and sexual prejudices are among the issues tackled in the exhibition, which will run during the 70th Edinburgh Festival this summer.

Professor Patrizio said: “The show has been in development for about five or six years.

“We just felt that a whole range of artists, in or from Scotland, from 1945 to the present day, had a different alternative, darker take on the Enlightenment.

“Whenever we mentioned the idea of ‘The Scottish Endarkenment’ to any of the artists we approached they usually stopped us right away and said: ‘I get it.’

“We looked at some really obvious artists, that we were sure had to be in the show, like Eduardo Paolozzi, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Douglas Gordon and Christine Borland.

“But we also wanted to go for younger artists and artists that you wouldn’t normally put in that category, like Alan Davie or Alison Watt.

“A lot of people will recognise a number of the artists, but they are being presented in a kind of weird context of a darker side.

“Some of the work in the show will be realy familiar to people, but they will never have been seen in this context before.”

The Scottish Endarkenment is at the Dovecot Galler till 29 August.

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