What’s in a name? The current exhibition by cooperative Poor Art* defies easy explanation with its intentionally unhelpful title. While not confining themselves to any one theme, the artists manage a kind of unity through the funny and shocking atmosphere their works create. This collection of sculptures, combined with other mediums like illustration and photography, creates a provocative experience that is not short on whimsy.
The first room is dominated by a floor-to-ceiling sculpture by Beth Carey that affronts the viewer with its vibrant colours, varied textures, and phallus resemblance. Carey uses the large space to its best advantage: her sculpture both partially confined to the wall and equally coming out of it, creating a piece that is both two- and three-dimensional. Carey’s larger-than-life piece perhaps overshadows some of the more moderately sized works throughout the room, and unfairly so.
Nestled in the corner are newspaper clippings and scripts from YouTube videos and interviews about a mysterious ‘villain’ who attacked the Edinburgh art world in 2015. This character – dressed in a mask and three-piece suit and calling himself “Fantômas” after a French fictional villain of the same name – slyly hung tiny toe sculptures in galleries throughout Edinburgh. The texts of the videos by Fantômas himself are comedic in their egomania; he proclaims to his non-existent audience: “Soon enough you will hear the name Fantômas whispered in the halls and the streets.” The meaning of this character and his strange performance takes an even stranger spin when his relationship to the artist Harry Maberly is realised. Maberly’s elision of performance art, found documents, and visual art is both confusing and engaging.
The second room contains a similarly varied and somewhat disparate array of items, including Abi Lewis’ fantastical and detailed illustrations done in MS Paint that come to life in her equally vibrant cartoon-like sculptures. Like a colourful Tim Burton, her work gives toothy mouths and sharp claws to household objects. Also notable are Emily Dunlop’s noisy fruits and vegetables laid across a white table. Touching each causes a different sound: a banana singing, a courgette laughing, and an orange exclaiming. This interaction is playful and fun, adding a multi-sensory experience to a typically visual medium. Nearby is a crudely painted door on the wall, above which hangs an exit sign. According to one of the artists featured, Michael Kay Terence, he intended it to be funny, however also admitted that it’s “quite dark at the same time because you can’t escape through it if there was a fire. It’s just a kind of joke, a wee one, which a lot of my work is. Jokes and nostalgia.”
Terence’s other sculptures do indeed harbour a kind of nostalgia. One, a tennis racket displayed on a guitar stand with a guitar pick laced through its strings, he intends as a tribute to the young guitarist in all of us. Terence said: “When you’re younger you just pretend to be a musician. You pick up a tennis racket and pretend it’s an instrument.” He also joked: “It’s a grand stand for a pretty shitty tennis racket.” Terence’s third sculpture similarly plays with the subversion of traditional high art. His reclining teddy bear, propped on an elbow and adorned with a decadent neck-tie, gazes on the room with a blasé air. “It’s quite funny, obviously, ‘cause it’s quite a big bear,” Terence comments. “It’s sort of taking the mick out of Henry Moore and the reclining figure, like the bear saying [dramatic voice] ‘It’s my time to shine’.”
Other artists include Sam Wood, Julia Barbour, Emma Macleod, Robert Cooper, Megan Rudden, and Emily Dunlop. Pointlessly Long Undescriptive Title is an original and quirky exhibition that is well worth the visit to Stockbridge. The humour and inventiveness of each artist comes through in their work. Alhough a few elements of discordance mean the exhibition falls slightly short of seasoned professionals’ standards, it is a remarkable feat for a group of talented new artists.
Pointlessly Long Undescriptive Title by Poor Art*
Until 14 March
Photo credit: Sam Wood – artwork by Beth Carey