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Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh until April 28th 2019

All creatures great and small are everywhere throughout the fourth edition of NOW, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art’s six-part series of exhibitions designed to show off the wealth of living artists from Scotland’s creative diaspora alongside others beyond it. They’re roaming the hills in The Bedfords (2009), Henry Coombes’ feature film in progress about landscapist Henry Landseer, excerpts of which are screened in a room surrounded by storyboard prints covering the walls. Human creatures, meanwhile, are alive and kicking in Moyna Flanagan’s cut-out shapes of women in motion drawn from Flanagan’s Tear series made between 2016 and 2018.

Most of all, though, an animal mentality is at the heart of Monster Chetwynd’s expansive trophy-like menagerie that forms the heart of the show. The stand-up large-scale collage of Crazy Bat Lady 5 (2018) at one end of what Chetwynd styles as Revenent Corridor seems to come from the same mad scientist’s lab as both Flanagan’s cartoon-paint collages and the man-beasts lurking in Coombes’ film. The corridor itself is redecorated as Reverent Wallpaper (2018), a wall-consuming mash-up of collages, prints and photo-copies drawn from the Crazy Bat Lady series alongside the dark grotesquerie of Goya’s Los Disparates or Los Proverbios (The Follies or The Proverbs) series of prints.

In other rooms, bugs of a different kind infiltrate Mojotech (1987), Betye Saar’s wall-sized circuit board mix of wired-up voodoo that becomes an altar to the machine that fires up the throbbing heart of the city it maps while inviting offerings to its shrine of hi-tech alchemy.

Wael Shawky’s The Cabaret Crusades Trilogy is an epic filmic telling of the holy crusades of the eleventh and twelfth century seen from an Arab perspective. Shawky’s three films, The Horror Show File (2010), The Path to Cairo (20120 and The Secrets of Karbala (2015), feature a cast of marionettes, the strings of which are visible, though who is pulling them isn’t.

In the main rooms, Chetwynd’s array of giant bugs, salamanders and cat people all but burst through the walls. Film archives of performances between 2003 and 2018 are playful rituals in which B-movie monsters come to messily choreographed life.

Back in the corridor, The Scottish Bestiary (1986), is a rare appearance of a construction instigated by Charles Booth-Clibbon’s Paragon Press, and which sees the likes of Steven Campbell, John Bellany and Bruce McLean bring texts on nineteen animals both real and imagined by the late Orcadian poet George Mackay Brown to life. Captured alongside Chetwynd’s creations, unicorn and dragon are a breed apart in this wildest of shows.

Scottish Art News, Autumn 2018/December 2018



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