Edinburgh Art Festival: 5 Must See Exhibitions

­A celebration of all that contemporary art is, Edinburgh Art festival keeps growing every year, with this being the biggest yet.

Spread across the city centre, the art festival expands their repertoire of unique venues every year, with each location carefully selecting and curating artworks perfectly suited to the environment.

Among those occupying the spaces are international emerging artist’s and the well-known faces of Scottish art: appealing to the feminist, the Millennial, those who are LGBTQI and the critics of society.

This year festival go-ers have been able to participate in events for early risers, night owls and those dying to know more about the processes of contemporary art. With talks, performances and workshops for all ages, the last few weeks have been jam-packed with artistic events.

Alongside the fringe, it can be a lot to take in, trying to see everything can be a stressful situation. To give a reasonable over view of what’s in the art festival, here’s my cream of the crop:

Crimea – Roger Fenton

Sent as a campaign photographer to the Crimean Peninsula, Roger Fenton’s unique depiction of the aftermath of the Crimean war changed the face of war photography at a time when capturing form was in its infancy. Fenton’s photographs are not just fine uniforms and sleek-haired soldiers, but a true depiction of trauma, of a mourning period after battle. Eerie fields lined by tents and the desolate open land, littered with bombshells where so many died.

Fenton’s work is being shown at The Queen’s Gallery, Holyrood Palace until the 26th of November.

Daughters of Penelope

The result of a collaboration of female artists, Daughter’s of Penelope draws on the traditional use of tapestry as a form of storytelling. Each piece has a unique and intimate background: from the history of tapestry in Dovecot studio, to women’s integral role in the process, with a personal touch from each artist.

A celebration of sisterhood, the title Daughters of Penelope’ itself sets the scene of the exhibitions intricacies: a history of perseverance and organisation that runs in tandem with textiles and a reflection on contemporary society.

Daughters of Penelope can be found on the bottom floor of Dovecot Gallery until the 20th of January 2018

To Those in Search of Immunity’ – Patrick Staff

As many were, I was introduced to the artworks of Patrick Staff during the British Art Show 8, last year. Staff’s guide to Calton Hill reaches new levels of intimacy, at a time when the site is littered with tourists. The audio piece talks you through society, nature and how we approach life, with an overt intertwining of sexual encounters, of the dampness (which you will naturally be feeling having just climbed up the hill) that becomes sensually vulgar and personal.

Staff has an innate ability to be explicitly inclusive in his work, thoroughly engaging the viewer and putting them at the centre of the artwork. This comes with no exception, in this interactive piece.

Patrick Staff’s audio piece is available for download from Edinburgh Art Festival’s website or, you can rent an iPod by giving over a few details and something you will want back in the Collective exhibition space at the top of Calton Hill. The piece is accessible until the 27th of August.

Thought Collider – Mike Thompson & Susana Camara

A piece in the puzzle of a long term project, the duo creates space to induce a meditative state: a room to clear the mind. Touching on phenomenological ideas, the installation is a space to draw on your own ideas of life and reality, to find peace of mind; a moment of reflection.

The philosophically influenced environment is an experimentation of metabolic processes, a play on how we experience the world by engulfing the viewer in their own mind through space and sound.

You can enter this space from Wednesday to Sunday until the 27th of August at the City Art Centre.

The Slave’s Lament – Graham Fagan | Black Burns – Douglas Gordon

Graham Fagan brings part of his artwork from the 2015 Venice Biennale to the National Portrait Gallery, using a fusion of reggae and classical music to create a consuming video piece: inducing a state of hypnosis, drawing to reflection.

Taking on a Burns poem, Fagan’s choice of tempo matched with the repetition of the piece brings out desperation in a time of diaspora; of fleeing by boat. Suddenly the otherwise friendly, relaxing rhythm is discomforting: irritable.

On the theme of contemporary Burns, just around the corner from Fagan’s artwork, Douglas Gordon’s takes you to the darker side: Black Burns, hung, drawn and quartered.

The sculpture opposes its pearly white doppelganger; drawing on ideas of yin and yang, of the alter-ego you want no-one to meet. However, they are lying on the floor in front of you. Tapping into ideas of the self, of the Other; with fragments of beauty in shimmering granite. Gordon’s piece is a brutalisation of innocence, often ignored.

Fagan and Gordon’s work will be shown at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery until the 29th of October.


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