MODERN PRINT MASTERS **** THE WATERMILL, ABERFELDY LESLEY LOGUE: BEAUTIFUL TROPHIES *** GILLIAN MURRAY: SCOTLAND'S ISLANDS & EDGES *** BOTH AT EDINBURGH PRINTMAKERS
I KNOW it sounds unlikely, but if you want to see work by some of the top artists of the 20th century under one roof in Scotland this month, head for Aberfeldy. The Modern Print Masters show at the Watermill is now in its fifth year, but shows no signs of dropping its ridiculously high standard.
When Watermill owners Kevin and Jayne Ramage opened their bookshop-cum-coffee-shop-cum-gallery here, many miles from a city, it seemed an unlikely venture. Now, viewers find themselves in the happy position of looking at Picasso ceramics while the autumn colours of Perthshire blaze outside and the smell of fresh coffee drifts up from downstairs. How civilised is that?
The first signs that this show is indeed an embarrassment of riches are to be found as you climb the stairs to the gallery. Joan Miro has spilled out into the staircase, as have a couple of fine monoprints from Kate Downie's Metropolis series. And that's just the beginning.
Picasso is here (a charming etching of a rather bemused donkey), and Damien Hirst (a spiral of lines). Pop art is represented by Andy Warhol (who else?) with a lithograph Brillo poster, and big American-influenced early screenprints by Gerald Laing. Geometrics come from Bridget Riley and Victor Vasarely. I think you're getting the picture.
More than anything, this show is a festival of colour. Patrick Heron's screenprint Female in Motion is a glow of saturated reds, oranges and pinks with a fringe of vivid green coming in on the left. Very like the colour scheme in Howard Hodgkin's nearby intaglio, in fact, though his colours are more transparent and seem to soak into one another. Stanley Hayter renders the surface of water in whirls of aquamarine, gold and green.
It's also interesting to see the gallery branching out to include more left-field choices. After its successful Urban Art show earlier this year, the gallery has made room for screenprints by Blek le Rat, and Banksy's Grannies, knitting away in their armchairs at jumpers which bear the slogans "Punk's not dead" and "Thug for life".
Scottish artists are here too with some fine work. As well as Downie, there's a screenprint by Adrian Wiszniewski, and a lithograph by Steven Campbell, Study of a Kleptomanic – a raven gripping a pair of spectacles, one lens of which seems to have the eye still attached to it. A characteristic flash of black humour from one of our most inventive (and sadly missed) artists.
Meanwhile, back in the city, Lesley Logue lifts the lid on the world of bow hunting in her show at Edinburgh Printmakers, in particular exploring the trophy photographs with which hunters celebrate their kills.
This has a long history in art, of course – just think of all those Landseer country gents posing with their dead stags – but there is something very strange about these images, inspired by hunting websites, in which a stag or a bear is arranged as if alive in order to pose in a kind of buddy photograph with its killer.
Logue's woodcuts depersonalise the hunters as dark silhouettes, foregrounding the power dynamic between man and animal. In Bear Hug, the hunter stretches his arm amiably round the neck of a bear which appears to be dozing. Beautiful Trophies shows two hunters, arranged carefully, each with their stag, as if in some forest friends fantasy.
Others are more brutal. The hunter in Cugar Hunt drags the body of a once-majestic cat, its tail dragging along the ground, while the hunter in Maine Black Bear has abandoned any pretence at aesthetics and hung his kill from the meat hook. Logue's interest is not in the morality of these images, but what they have to tell us.
Hunting with arrows is illegal in this country, but archers use wooden targets often in the shape of animals. Photographs of these pock-marked beasts are a powerful source of imagery for her screenprints, while the looped films of archery practice create background percussion.
One room is papered with wallpaper she has designed featuring young people with their first kills. Playing on the idea of the cutesy animals often found in children's bedrooms, these images are indeed strange to British eyes. What is slightly uncomfortable is the sense of implied superiority over those in other parts of the world for whom little Johnny's first deer is a normal part of the family album.
Gillian Murray's prints in the downstairs gallery at Edinburgh Printmakers come from a more straightforward artistic desire: to enjoy the landscape and communicate something of that back to the viewer. Her subject are coasts, islands, hills, lochs. Her statement speaks about "fascination" and "serenity", terms we hear very little of since beauty went out of fashion.
Murray currently runs the screenprinting department here, and this is also a showcase of techniques: the clear lines of screenprint which foreground drawing and pure colour; the possibilities of combining this with photographic elements for a pop-art feel, or with collograph to add texture.
Lochans, North Uist, in which Murray uses collograph to capture the strange lunar quality of the rocks, is a particularly effective example, as is Polney Lock (frozen), Dunkeld which foregrounds the expanse of still water with the effect of a fish-eye lens. Solarplate prints of the remote isle of Berneray create the nostalgia of sepia-tint photographs.
&149 Modern Print Masters until 2 November; Lesley Logue and Gillian Murray until 24 October.