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Alexander and Susan Maris – The Potter's Field / Tim Sandys – Damocles / Kenny Watson – Last Rites

Lust and the Apple, The Old School House, Temple, near Gorebridge until April 19th
Four stars

It's all too fitting that the outside lights weren't working on the opening night of this new venture from Paul Robertson, the iconoclastic former curator of Summerhall, whose sudden departure from the former Royal Dick Veterinary School in August 2014 has yet to be explained. Situated in the former primary school of a Midlothian village fourteen miles south of Edinburgh and steeped in Knights Templar folklore, Lust and the Apple's opening triple-headed hydra of shows appears tailor-made to cope with electrical gremlins, and seeing the work in the raw and partly shrouded by the blackest of night skies enhances rather than denudes their sense of public ritual.

This is evident from the moment you enter the old school's car park to be greeted by six helium balloons suspended in mid-air, each with a wooden spike pointed firmly downwards. As indicated by the spikes already embedded in the earth, when the balloons burst, the spikes will plummet downwards without warning.

This is Damocles, a new installation by Tim Sandys, which reworks the Greek myth of power, responsibility and the constant state of dread imbued with both, for a prevailingly precarious state of twenty-first century doom. That the inflatables that hang above us are themselves in the hands of gravity gives any visual sense of party-poppers and other such fripperies a grotesque sense of foreboding flapping in the wind.

In terms of narrative thread, in the unlikely event of prosecution for any of Damocles' potential impalings, in Lust and Apple's world they may well end up Suddenoakdeath, Kenny Hunter's wooden approximation of an electric chair which sits on the schoolhouse garden in the shadows as part of his all too appropriately named 'Last Rites' compendium of sculptures and paintings.

Perhaps it was here that the nine classical Muses lined up in pretty graves all in a row in Alexander and Susan Maris' 'The Potter's Field' were shocked into submission, sizzling spiritual inspiration to a crisp before being laid to rest. But these are paupers graves, simple mounds of earth, each one candle-lit by night and marked with only a piece of white quartzite from the Knights Templar linked Perthshire based mountain, Schiehallion.

As for survivors, they're more likely to be found indoors in the schoolhouse itself, even if a less pronounced but still tangible air of (self) negation permeates throughout. This is best seen in the main room largely devoted to Watson's paintings, where, besides the window, the lid of a small metal box bears the legend, 'PERHAPS ALL PLEASURE IS ONLY RELIEF'. The quote is from novelist, junky and explorer of altered states, William S Burroughs. Inside the box is a set of works for cooking and shooting up heroin.

The rest of the room is a infinitely brighter affair, with some of Watson's drip paintings leaving patterns down the walls like candy-striped wounds making a bid for freedom. The room's centre-piece, however, is Intermission, a billboard sized splash of movie iconography in which poster girl starlets who might just be some auteur's muse are immortalised in triplicate. For the debut of Lust and the Apple, this umbilically linked three-way split of life, death, transcendence and renewal is the perfectly dark entry to a potential cult in the making.
 
The List, February 2015

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