SCOTLAND’S sixth exhibition at the Venice Biennale was unveiled yesterday, showcasing the work of three artists, all of whom are graduates of Glasgow School of Art.
The work of Duncan Campbell, Hayley Tompkins and Corin Sworn opened for its first preview at Palazzo Pisani in the heart of the city.
It will open to the public formally on Thursday. The works include an installation featuring paint which is left to dry in plastic trays and a film about a remote village in Peru.
In the next few days, the great and the good of the art world will flock to Venice for the 55th Biennale, the world’s biggest contemporary arts festival.
Curated by Glasgow-based gallery The Common Guild, the Scottish show marks the tenth anniversary of the first Scotland + Venice exhibition, and continues to affirm Scotland’s prominence in the world of contemporary art.
The UK has long been represented at the Venice Biennale by the British Pavilion in the gardens which were the festival’s original home, but this is usually occupied by an artist from England. In recent years, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have established their own “pavilions”, alongside a range of other countries and projects, in the wider city.
Martin Boyce, who represented Scotland in 2009, went on to win the Turner Prize. Karla Black, who occupied the Scottish space two years ago, was shortlisted for the prize last year. Another Turner Prize-winner, Simon Starling, was part of the first Scotland + Venice show in 2003.
Amanda Catto, chairwoman of Scotland + Venice Partnership and portfolio manager for visual arts at Creative Scotland, said that Scotland continually punches above its weight when it comes to contemporary art.
“It’s phenomenal that in a country of our size that we have got such an amazing dynamic visual arts scene,” she said.
“In the ten years since the launch of Scotland + Venice, we have consistently produced new work of real interest and relevance to an international audience. Venice is still the most prestigious visual arts event in the world, and we have managed to establish a profile within what is a very busy, congested environment. It is an amazing opportunity for those artists.”
Campbell said: “I’m very grateful to be asked to do it. I think it’s a great platform to show your work.”
Tompkins said: “It was a bit nerve-racking to begin with. There is pressure but it’s good pressure. It’s the right sort of challenge for me at this time and it’s very exciting to be included.”
Catto said that she hoped the exhibition would draw international attention to the wider Scottish art scene. “We want people to come to what’s good at home, which could be in Skye or Inverness or Orkney. The message is always to come and see more. We hope people who see this show in Venice will come to Edinburgh Art Festival or next year’s Glasgow International.”
International visitors will also be encouraged to come to Scotland for Generation, the biggest ever show of Scottish contemporary art on home soil in 2014.
Culture secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “The Scottish presence in Venice is a confident statement about the continued growth and achievement in the visual art sector. We have a very vibrant visual art scene and it’s important not only that we share that with the world but that it’s recognised here in Scotland, too.”
Duncan Campbell was born in Dublin in 1972, studied art in Belfast and came to Glasgow to study on the Master of Fine Arts course at Glasgow School of Art in 1996.
He is a filmmaker, often blending archive and documentary footage with imaginary elements.
His best-known works include films about the Irish political activist Bernadette Devlin and the American car maker John DeLorean.
His work for the Venice Biennale is It for others, a 50-minute film inspired by Chris Marker and Alain Resnais’s 1953 film Les statues meurent aussi.
His film combines new footage with animation, archive footage and a filmed performance by Michael Clark Dance Company.
Hayley Tompkins was born in Leighton Buzzard in 1971, and came to Glasgow as an undergraduate, studying painting at Glasgow School of Art before going on to the Master of Fine Arts course.
She was shortlisted for the 2004 Becks Futures Prize.
Her work was included in the Watercolour exhibition at Tate Britain in 2011 and she took part in last year’s Sao Paulo Biennial.
Her sister, Sue Tompkins, is also an artist and GSA graduate.
Her work for the Venice Biennale is a floor installation of paintings, in which the colours have been left to dry in plastic boxes, arranged next to photographs sourced from websites.
Corin Sworn was born in London in 1976 and studied in Vancouver before coming to Glasgow for the Master of Fine Arts course, which she completed in 2009.
She creates installations which use film and objects, and blend history, memory and fiction.
Her work was part of Glasgow International festival of visual art in 2010 and Art Now, a platform for new practices at Tate Britain in 2011.
For her work for the Venice Biennale, she travelled with her father to make a film in the remote village in Peru where he worked as a social anthropologist 40 years before.
Her film, The Foxes, is presented alongside photographic prints and a mosaic floor sculpture.