Impulses Towards Life

Talbot Rice Gallery: Until December 19th

‘Impulses Towards Life’ brings together art from the Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) collection. For the last three years the art collection has undergone a period of rediscovery after the ECA merged with the University. This brought to the surface works by accomplished artists such as Henry Moore, John Bellany and Anne Redpath. These works are now being shown to the public again for the first time in many decades. In the display they reveal the importance of life-drawing classes during the 1950s and ‘60s.

The collection ranges from quick charcoal drawings to detailed pen and pencil works, as well as more laborious oil paintings. The artwork on show by Henry Moore reveals his fascination with African and Oceanic sculpture as collections began to appear in British museums at the time. This is evident from the sculptural way with which he draws the model. John Bellany’s upside down figure is coarsely and almost clumsily executed, reminding the viewer of figurative works of Egon Schiele. A curatorial note, helping the viewer gain better understanding, accompanies each piece in the exhibition.

Additionally, the exhibition offers two chests of drawers that can be opened and explored to view more drawings from the collection that are not framed and presented on the walls. This element of interaction adds something different to the usual way of seeing art. Yet the walls of the Georgian gallery are the most suitable space for exhibiting such a traditional and delicate collection of works.

Today students in the ECA are not strictly taught how to draw from life, as art institutions have changed in their way of teaching through the years. To see this exhibition is a very interesting insight into the history of art tuition. It seems very traditional now that art students had to be able to observe and create realistic interpretations of the human form, while also responding to the contravening imperatives of modernism.

Looking at the works in the collection one can observe the different and unique approaches that artists develop when drawing the same form: it is a very pleasing show.

Image: Stew Dean

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