MICK PETER: HARMONIELEHRE **** GENERATOR PROJECTS, DUNDEE ALEX DORDOY *** COLLECTIVE GALLERY, EDINBURGH
I ARRIVE at Generator, Dundee's artist-run gallery, to find the volunteers wringing their hands. For the third time in a week, vandals have daubed red paint on the gallery front and signage. Vice-chair Anna Orton shakes her head miserably. "At least it's the right colour for the show," she says, with heavy irony.
However, excepting interventions by Dundee's less artistically minded, Generator is going from strength to strength. A refurbishment means the space is looking increasingly professional, reminding us that some of the galleries we now consider linchpins of the art scene (such as The Collective – see below) began as artist-run spaces.
But the test of a gallery is not what it looks like, but what's in it. And the strong, self-assured sculptures of Mick Peter at Generator seem to reflect the confidence of the organisation itself.
Peter teaches illustration at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art, though he is firmly associated with the group of contemporary artists who emerged in Glasgow over the last decade, through organisations such as Transmission and Switchspace. It's possible to see his illustration background in the clear, graphic quality of his surreal sculptures, as if Duchamp had collided with Dennis the Menace.
A bright red pair of lifesize legs forms the basis for a kind of half-man, half-telephone, striding along with the flex attached to his crotch. A falcon is perched on the head of a cartoon figure whose head is smeared indelicately with what birds do on the heads of statues. A huge hand pinches a stiffened roll of canvas delicately between thumb and forefinger, like a cigarette or a paper aeroplane.
Peter draws on a broad catalogue of literary and theoretical references. The title of the show, Harmonielehre, draws on Schoenberg's theories of music and sound, which is in turn picked up in Interference Pattern Screen, a big stencil-cut sculpture based on the rhythmic patterns of sound waves. Managing to appear heavy and delicate at the same time, it plays with notions of solidity and lightness.
Moldenke Fiddles On gets a room of its own. Two drawing boards pose at angles to each other in a kind of counterpoint. Painted monochrome scarlet, they appear to have been attacked by their own drawing instruments, pierced by set-squares or sliced through in geometric shapes. Saw blades coil about their feet. This looks like the battleground where the illustrator and the sculptor fight it out for supremacy, and the results are interesting: less a conclusive winner than a locked-in tussle which produces some strong, interesting art.
There is a similar sense of deftness to Alex Dordoy's solo show at the Collective Gallery, the second show in Collective's New Work Scotland programme. Dordoy graduated from GSA in 2007 and is now represented by the Modern Institute. He has cleverly taken the two rooms of the gallery and imagined them both as complete environments and as homes for individual works.
If Peter's struggle is with the drawing board, Dordoy's is with a photocopier. Central to the first room is just such a machine, hacked through the middle and rebuilt so that the two halves appear to leaning against one another for support. Brutalising a photocopier is a gift in conceptual terms: something which produces endless, cheap reproductions is made to submit to the hand of the artist, and in turn becomes a work of art.
Dordoy has also painted on most of its exposed surfaces, and mounted one of the trays on the wall as a separate work of abstract art. It is important to remember that he is first and foremost a painter, and his desire to paint on almost any given surface transforms these rooms from installations of related found objects into something more.
If the first room, with the photocopier as a centrepiece, is the "office", the second is more of a beach party, with three deck chairs used as canvases for paintings, and a piece of rubber matting making a kind of wave. An abstract painting in candystripe pink and yellow establishes the atmosphere as retro without being kitsch.
Dordoy doesn't leave a superabundance of clues for reading his work, but there is enough to give us a sense of what he's driving at.
He takes possession of the gallery in a subtle but assured way, which suggests he will be name to watch as his work matures.
• Mick Peter until 7 December; Alex Dordoy until 6 December.