2015 art preview: Goya | MC Escher | Turner Prize

FROM pop art to optical illusions Duncan Macmillan and Moira Jeffrey look forward to an exciting year

In the Car, 1963
. Picture: Contributed
In the Car, 1963
. Picture: Contributed
Lichtenstein's In the Car, 1963 . Picture: Contributed


When Laura Aldridge showed at Glasgow’s Tramway nearly a decade ago for her MFA degree show it was clear a serious new talent had hit town. A series of subsequent exhibitions has revealed a relentless curiosity about materials to match her intellectual chops. Aldridge is an energetic and unpredictable artist, who, from giant fabric pockets to tiny ceramic oranges, uses sculpture, craft and performance to explore fundamental questions about form, hierarchies and function. Her show California Wow opens at Tramway in at the end of January. MJ


As we await the eventual opening of the V&A Dundee, the museum-to-be is sending out a taster. Starting in February, a bus will tour with “Design in Motion” painted on its side. Promoting the brand of the new museum, the travelling gallery will visit 78 venues from Fort William to Dumfries and Galloway before driving south for a final stop at its parent, the V&A in London. (While at the V&A, the Dundee team could also take in one of the oddest shows of the year, Shoes, Pleasure and Pain, extreme footwear through the ages.) As it goes round the country, the bus will both highlight local design and showcase leading designers. DM


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From February until June, Scottish heritage will have a place in one of the most intriguing shows coming up at Tate Britain. Called Salt and Silver, it will be devoted to salted paper prints, rare and fragile survivors of the earliest viable form of modern photography. DO Hill and Robert Adamson were among the very first to recognise and exploit the artistic potential of this process, invented by Henry Fox Talbot in 1839. They were not alone, however, and the show will include them among a wide range of the first photographers. The press release says this show will be “an opportunity to see the rarest and best early photographs of this type in the world.” I would also add that it will include some of the most beautiful photographs ever made. The National Museum of Scotland then picks up the theme from June with an exhibition focussing on Victorian photography. DM


“The memory haunts my reverie...” sings the girl in a picture by Roy Lichtenstein which will be on show at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art from March. By copying the style of comic books, even down to the visible dots of cheap colour printing, and by giving voice on a grand scale to the romantic emotions of their heroes and heroines, Lichtenstein has found more of a place in the popular imagination than any of his contemporaries among American Pop artists. So the exhibition of his work under the aegis of Artists’ Rooms and with support from the Roy Lichtenstein Estate and Foundation, may prove to be a quiet hit. DM


Like their historical namesakes The Slavs and Tatars collective (established in 2006) have turned out to be forces to be reckoned with. The artists, whose work often focuses on publishing, echo the history and interests of a complex multicultural Eurasia, “an area east of the former Berlin Wall and west of the Great Wall of China”. At Edinburgh’s Collective from April to July, Slavs and Tatars will create a prescient new body of work around the mirror genre, a medieval form of advice literature or self-help shared by Christian and Muslim lands which aimed to elevate statecraft to the same level as faith and religion. MJ


Graham Fagen will represent Scotland at this year’s Venice Biennale, with a show at the Palazzo Fontana from May until November, but this won’t be the first time he has exhibited at the Biennale. Eleven years ago when the Zenomap project kicked off Scotland’s post-devolution presence, Fagen showed a short film among the wider programme. The artist, who studied sculpture at Glasgow School of Art, is a mature figure hitting his true stride, with interests that range from film and photography to live and recorded theatre with collaborator Graham Eatough. This year his hallucinatory watercolours at Glasgow School of Art, in a show that twinned him incongruously with Charles Rennie Mackintosh, were a revelation. MJ


Like movie stars, artists who happen to be women often become invisible in the art world in middle age, only to re-emerge as grand dames in their senior years. At 70, the sculptor Phyllida Barlow now has the clout that her influential art and teaching would have long merited in previous decades. Her improvised aesthetic – think masses of artful clutter and formless form – sits well with current sensibilities. Having recently spread her wings so emphatically in the vast Duveen galleries of Tate Britain, it will be interesting to see how she structures this show in the tight scale of Edinburgh’s Fruitmarket from June until October. MJ

MC Escher

I still can’t make up my mind whether the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art’s MC Escher show, opening in June and drawing on collections from The Hague, is clever programming or a bit of populist barrel scraping. The geometrical confabulations of the Dutch graphic artist are currently the stuff of student poster art but this show will try to convince us that Escher was a true artist. Either way I’ll be among the guaranteed crowds trying to figure out the lasting legacy of the king of the complex picture puzzle. MJ


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A must-see exhibition of the year will surely be Goya’s Portraits at the National Gallery in London in October. If you encounter a single portrait by Goya in an exhibition or a museum somewhere its impact is invariably profound. His images stick in your mind as though, more than mere paintings, his portraits somehow reach that place in memory where we store the faces of people we know. No exhibition has been devoted entirely to them before and it will surely be as memorable as was this year’s Late Rembrandt show. DM


Opening in October, the Scottish National Gallery’s show devoted to Arthur Melville will certainly be a delight. Melville was one of Scotland’s most original artists. He had a huge influence both on the Glasgow Boys (with whom he is too often muddled) and the Colourists. He died relatively young and worked principally in watercolour. Both these things may have contributed to his not being as celebrated as he should be, but when you see his work at its freshest and most brilliant, as you will in this show, it is hard to believe that he actually preceded Matisse and the Fauves and did not follow them. This tribute is the more welcome for being so long overdue. DM


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Is there much more to say about the Turner Prize? Every year another wave of critics say it is past its best or irrelevant. Every year tens of thousands of visitors go and see it and artists move from their specialised world into a wider public awareness. These days every second year the Turner is held outside London. Baltic in Newcastle turned its moment in the Turner limelight into a triumph. Derry used it to convert the Ebrington Barracks into gallery space in a symbolic political masterstroke that was undermined by the building’s uncertain future. The trick that Glasgow must pull off, in a city whose artists are close to dominating recent nomination lists, is not to be complacent when the circus goes to Tramway in October. MJ


Since the 18th century and even earlier, women artists have made their mark in Scottish art, and now a show at the Scottish National Gallery – Scottish Women Artists 1880-1965 – will highlight their contribution. Opening in November, the exhibition begins with Anne Forbes and Catherine Read, two of the earliest professional women artists. You can’t imagine a show expressly devoted to Scottish “men artists” but that fact alone makes it clear why this show is necessary finally to balance the historical books. DM