ESAF Visual Arts Exhibition

The Biscuit Factory: Until February 19th

The Edinburgh Student Arts Festival (ESAF) is a wonderful enterprise: a student-run series of events that unites five higher education institutions once a year within the art sector. Its advertisement promises to be vibrant and exciting, allowing the opportunity for young emerging artists to launch their work into the sphere of professionalism. With so much to offer, it is a shame that the resulting show at the Biscuit Factory lacked cohesion.

It must be said that the derelict factory is in a particularly obscure location. From the outset it is hard to find and less than inviting. Though it is likely that the opening night for the Visual Arts Exhibition was a dynamic event with live performances and talks, the exhibition that stands in its wake for the duration of this week is minimal to say the least.

Dilapidated buildings have seen a surge in popularity in recent history as venues for exhibitions. The Biscuit Factory is no different, with its exposed walls offering sufficient aesthetic possibilities. It was therefore unfortunate that upon arrival to the gallery the viewer is confronted with, well, nothing. No signage. No pamphlets. No people. Finding the work was achieved only by scouting around, finally to be confronted by a torn piece of cardboard with the word ‘Art’ and an arrow scratched in sharpie pens above a door.

Once found, the exhibition was actually littered with work of high quality, though this perhaps makes it more unfortunate. A sculpture of a figure that appears squashed under a piano, a hanging rope installation, a hyper realistic painting, a beautiful selection of photography and several others could all be compared to works by professional artists situated in real shows.

Sadly the young people whose works were most promising cannot be named due to the lack of signage. This was a great shame as it defeats the entire point of the festival – to promote new talent. Worse still was the abundance of works, predominantly ones that required electrical power, which were not switched on.

It is important to acknowledge that the ESAF initiative is an exciting and significant movement. It is equally essential to state that many of the works included were of genuinely high quality. However the poor curating, lack of essential communication – including whom the works were by and which institution their work was from – left an altogether dull taste in the mouth, leaving a lot to be desired. The shows potential significance is sadly what makes it the most disappointing.

Image Credit: Ellis Main

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