A new film by Scottish artist Charlotte Prodger, who won the Turner Prize in December, will represent Scotland at the Venice Biennale, the world’s biggest contemporary art festival, which opens to the public this weekend.
Prodger’s film, SaF05, is being shown in a screening room constructed in a former boatyard at the Arsenale Docks, near the festival’s major venues.
The film is named after a rare maned lioness, which Prodger travelled to Botswana to film, and also includes footage of the Great Basin Desert in Utah and autobiographical fragments about growing up gay in rural Scotland.
Another Scotland-based artist, Cathy Wilkes, who, like Prodger, studied at Glasgow School of Art, has been selected for the British Pavilion at the Biennale, commissioned by the British Council. It is the first time a Scottish artist has occupied the British Pavilion since 1938, and is seen as a reflection of the strength of the contemporary art scene in Scotland.
Amanda Catto, head of visual arts at Creative Scotland and chair of the Scotland + Venice partnership, said: “Charlotte is an artist who makes work of exceptional vision, rigour and integrity. This is her most ambitious work to date and we’re proud and delighted to be showing it in Venice.
“Cathy is an amazing artist based in Scotland, very supportive of the visual art community, and we’re very proud that she is representing Great Britain.”
Scotland launched its own venue at the Venice Biennale in 2003 to showcase the strength of visual art in the country. Since 2006, five Turner Prize winners and 30 per cent of nominees have trained at Glasgow School of Art.
Ms Catto said: “We are here because we believe in the strength and diversity of our art community.
“Sixteen years after our first show in Venice, it feels like we have come of age. There is a real confidence that we are producing something which reflects the strength and depth of the work we see every day.”
However, she said Scotland’s presence at the Biennale, which runs until 24 November and attracts more than 600,000 visitors, is more important than ever. “It’s about how Scotland is perceived. It’s fundamental that we maintain our international profile and connections, particularly at the moment.
“There are 90 participating countries at the Biennale this year, and I can’t now imagine a situation where Scotland is not among them.”
Curator Linsey Young, who spearheaded the proposal to bring Prodger’s work to Venice in partnership with international residency centre Cove Park, said: “Charlotte is one of the best artists working in Scotland at the moment, and she is right artist for Venice this year.
“I feel she represents the Scotland I want to see out in the international world. At the time of Brexit, it’s very important to show that Scotland is critically self-aware, politically aware, and a generous and welcoming place.”
Wilkes was selected to create a solo exhibition for the British Pavilion by a panel of nine curators from all over the UK. Previous artists selected for prestigious role include Tracey Emin, Jeremy Deller and Phyllida Barlow.
Fiona Bradley, director of Edinburgh’s Fruitmarket Gallery, who was on the panel, said: “Cathy is one of Britain’s senior artists and the fact that she is based in Scotland is indicative of the strength of the Scottish scene, and the art scene outside London.”