Where to find Scotland’s contemporary art treasures

ALISON Campsie runs down five great small galleries with contemporary art to enjoy and inspire
Artist Phyllida Barlow at the Fruitmarket Gallery this past summer. Picture: Greg MacveanArtist Phyllida Barlow at the Fruitmarket Gallery this past summer. Picture: Greg Macvean
Artist Phyllida Barlow at the Fruitmarket Gallery this past summer. Picture: Greg Macvean

The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh houses one of the finest and most comprehensive collections of modern and contemporary art in the country, but elsewhere there are plenty of small galleries at the forefront of Scotland’s contemporary art scene dedicated to showcasing ideas that stimulate conversation and challenge convention. Here, we run down some of Scotland’s best intimate spaces for innovative, thought-provoking exhibits.

Transmission, Glasgow

Set up in 1983 by graduates from Glasgow School of Art, Transmission helped to forge a new creative quarter in this once comparatively unloved part of town. Originally devised to meet the demand for exhibition space, Transmission is run by a committee of volunteers which rotates every two years. As the name suggests, its constant renewal of talent and ideas is essential to Glasgow’s creative community. Some of GSA’s most well-known graduates have led Transmission, including Douglas Gordon, Eve Rothschild and Scott Paterson. The model has inspired many replicas, including Generator in Dundee.

HOLD, SWAY at Dundee's Generator earlier this year. Picture: FacebookHOLD, SWAY at Dundee's Generator earlier this year. Picture: Facebook
HOLD, SWAY at Dundee's Generator earlier this year. Picture: Facebook

2015 highlights

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The Witch And The Swarm by Johannes Paul Raether, who creates characters with multiple identities. His two personae - Protektorama, the world healing witch, and Swarm Being - drew audiences to installations at the River Clyde and Machrie Moor standing stones on Arran.

Generator, Dundee

Run by artists for artists in the mould of Transmission in Glasgow, Generator was established in 1996 and plays a key part in the cultural-led regeneration of the city. Based in a converted factory on an industrial estate, Generator is largely powered by the creative talent produced by the much-lauded Duncan of Jordonstone College of Art and Design, with regular shows and tie-ins with Dundee Contemporary Arts. Its annual exhibition, They Had Four Years (THFY), shows work from graduates across the country.

2015 highlights

TH4Y - the committee’s selection of recent graduates from three of Scotland’s art schools. The best emerging talent, in a nutshell.

Wall Projects, Montrose

Based in the Old Ropeworks – or Ropey as it’s known – Wall Projects is the labour of love of artist Kim Canale, who after time working in London moved back to her hometown with a mission to bring contemporary art to the north-east. Driven by the philosophy that “not all roads lead to Glasgow and Edinburgh”, Canale supports emerging talent while showcasing artists who are at the top of their game. The Society of Scottish Artists selected Wall Projects for its summer Empire exhibition and Canale also curates exhibitions in her own home. Recent shows include contemporary landscape painter Anna King and printmaker Jo Ganter, who described Wall Projects as a “major new cultural powerhouse” for the North East.

2015 highlights

Outlands by Anna King, a study of forgotten spaces, was her ninth show at Wall Projects.

Suttie Space, Aberdeen

A purpose built gallery in the heart of Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, the Suttie Space is the first of its kind in the UK. It is the culmination of years of work by the Grampian Hospitals Art Trust, which pushes the restorative powers of art for patients, visitors and hospital staff. GHAT has transformed the often-bleak hospital environment with quality works from its collection of 4,000 pieces, which are hung in corridors, wards and waiting rooms across the north east. The Suttie Space, created following a donation from Aberdeen businessman Ian Suttie, now hosts curated shows of carefully selected artists. All are welcome to the gallery with hopes to make it a key destination on Aberdeen’s culture map.

2015 highlights

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Sam Dransfield and Hannah Imlach’s H20 is a site-specific exhibition that charts the hospital’s history and it’s day-to-day operation.

The Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh

A small space with a world view right in the heart of Edinburgh, The Fruitmarket has brought some of the most important artists working today to Scotland. Based in an old fruit and vegetable market on the edge of Waverley Station, its guestlist has included Turner Prize winner Martin Creed, video artist Willie Doherty and Mexican painter Gabriel Orozco. It is also proud to have developed the profile of some of Scotland’s finest talents, including Nathan Coley, Christine Borland and Claire Barclay. The Fruitmaket’s influence is undoubted and in 2011 it curated Scotland’s pavilion for the Venice Bienalle.

2015 highlights

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Next month’s exhibition Another Minimalism looks at the impact of California Light and Space art on current generation artists with the help of two pioneers of West Coast American minimalism