Art Exhibition Review: Edinburgh Art Festival 2022

In its 18th edition, the Edinburgh Art Festival is, as usual, an “eclectic” affair, “ranging from the historic to the ultra-contemporary”, Gabrielle Schwarz told The Daily Telegraph. A loose grouping of the many exhibitions crossing the city at the same time as the wider Edinburgh Fringe, the festival features everything from a scholarly exhibition of Impressionist paintings at the Scottish National Gallery to a show at Inverleith House, where the artist duo Cooking Sections offers visitors’ fortune telling through ‘oyster readings’.

Between these two poles, we are treated to post-war photography, contemporary sculpture and video pieces, and even a former bottle store that the Dutch artist Jeanne van Heeswijk has transformed into a space for ” a month-long program of restorative activities such as juice-making, yoga and mindfulness”.

At best, the festival is thrilling, Laura Freeman told The Times. Jupiter Artland, a ‘sublimely eerie’ sculpture park outside Edinburgh, exhibits I lay here for you, a huge bronze of a female body lying on her stomach, by Tracey Emin. “If you still have Emin as the Woman in the Messy Bed, this monumental bronze should convince you that when it comes to depicting the human body, Emin is Rodin’s heir.” Better still is A taste for impressionism at the Scottish National Gallery, a “delightful” exhibition which presents the works of Gauguin Vision of the Sermon and the magnificent of Matisse Jazz sequence, passing through Monet, Vuillard and many of Degas’ “dancers with absinthe limbs”.

The “big reveal” of the exhibition is a probable van Gogh self-portrait, discovered beneath the artist’s surface. Peasant head when the curators were researching the exhibition. Elsewhere, however, the program is often “infuriating”: many shows are heavy with convoluted artistic language. Expect pretentious work exploring “the current neoliberal capitalist landscape” and the like.

There are some laughable things here, Jonathan Jones agreed in The Guardian. The nadir is probably in the Collective Gallery in Calton Hill, where we are treated to a ‘Marxist cartoon’ in which Scottish-born tycoon and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie is ‘reprimanded’ for his ‘ruthless capitalism’ by Dippy, the Diplodocus whose skeleton he famously bought; the animation, created by artist Ruth Ewan, is “as shitty as the argument is one-sided”. Fortunately, things are looking up: at the Stills photography center, a “moving” exhibition is devoted to the “surprisingly intimate” work of Japanese photographer Ishiuchi Miyako. Among the highlights is a series of images documenting the charred and torn clothes worn by victims of the 1945 Hiroshima bombing, a set of ‘strangely beautiful’ works that cast a ‘genuinely new perspective’ on a well-documented tragedy.

Almost as moving is a retrospective devoted to the Scottish modernist Alan Davie, presented at Dovecot Studios. Although considered somewhat backward at the time of his death in 2014, his ‘rough’, ‘splattered’ paintings confirm him as ‘an artist of biting power’ – ‘the Jackson Pollock of Scotland’. For all its flaws – and there are many – there is a “real depth” to parts of this art festival. If nothing else, it presents a fantastic “excuse to explore one of Europe’s most remarkable cities”.

Various locations, Edinburgh and vicinity. (0131-226 6558, Until August 28

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