Art’s Complex is a gallery and studio space for over 300 artists in Edinburgh. Opening today, the studio’s first Summer Show will showcase some of the most exciting works being produced in the space, which have been selected from a huge volume of artistic activity taking place within the distinctive red brick walls. This group exhibition has been curated by resident artists Sophia Lindsay Burns and Trina Bohan Tyrie, with support from Art Director Derek Gray. We spoke to Sophia ahead of the opening to find out more.
A. For those of us unfamiliar with the space, could you tell us a bit more about Art’s Complex?
SB: Art’s Complex is a fantastic factory-esque building located on London Roundabout 15 minutes from the city centre. It was started a few years ago by Derek Gray and Dale Gibson, and the building now contains approximately 200 studios and three large gallery spaces on the 3rd floor.
It’s a buzzing centre with an amazing array of talents and trades – fine art, jewellery, design, textiles, and a few charities such as Outward Mobility and Impact Arts.
A: The Summer Show features work from 20 artists. Could you talk us through your own personal highlights?
SB: The whole show is designed to highlight works from talented and promising artists. All of them have a special world or a specific obsession to share, and putting them in the same space has triggered some collaborations that might just happen this one time, so it might be worth highlighting the events that will take place on the opening night such as the musicians, poets and visual artists invited by videoLaB. The exhibition is a real opportunity for experiment and discovery.
A: Is this your first foray into curating? What has the experience been like?
SB: No this isn’t my first experience curating – for three years I worked as director’s assistant for the V.A.C (Ventabren Art Contemporain), an art centre in the south of France, run by visual poet Julien Blaine. It was fantastic and I’m very grateful to Julien for the way I learnt how to collaborate and negociate with young and senior artists alike, taking care of their space and their needs to perform and show their art.
Then from 2005 to 2008 I was running a small art gallery in Lodeve, Art en Cours, where we showed various artists all year long, our highlight being at the same time as the poetry festival (Les Voies de la Méditerranée) with poets and visual artists from all over France. This time the artists, musicians and poets where more involved, staying in the space for a week interacting and giving performances every night. A true adventure and delight each time and well worth all the shared effort and energy.
Part of my pleasure in curating comes from giving a space to artists to experiment and collaborate, but also creating opportunities for artists whose work I find stimulating, enriching and original, a selfish pleasure where I can indulge in art and observe art in its making process.
A: Have you noticed any specific themes emerging in this body of work?
SB: After three weeks visiting the studios and discovering the recent works of all 20 artists, I’d say that the body is a recurrent theme. Representation, corporality and identity, mapping the mind, space and scale or simply a trigger to sensations or social interaction. Even with formal painting, there seems to still be a sense of corporality.
A: Could you expand on this idea of the move away from abstraction?
SB: I started noticing less abstraction after two years of exhibiting at contemporary art fairs in France and in theUK. Representation, or “figuration” seems to have a strong resonance at the moment, and I would link part of it to the social and political context, where often when taken in times of loss, humanity seems to hold on to its own representation, maybe to make more sense of what is happening around, an image to hold onto. Who knows?
Informal Art, abstraction had its high peaks after the horrors of the war, no representation being humanly possible to describe what had happened. Maybe this is a new emergence of meaning? An attempt to find meaning via the human body, sensations, experimentation, nature?
A: Do you have any of your own work in the show?
SB: I will be showing my latest visual explorations on figure, paintings using oil and glazing techniques where I’ve been trying to combine the freshness and purity of abstraction with the looseness and sharpness of continuous-line drawings.
Summer Show, 3rd August until 19th August, Art’s Complex, St. Margaret’s House, 151 London Road, Edinburgh, EH7 6AE www.artscomplex.org
Emma Macleod Platform