Street Hermit at Summerhall

Showing at Summerhall, Street Hermit is Graeme Todd’s long-awaited arrival back to Edinburgh since his last solo show in 2000 at the Edinburgh Fruitmarket Gallery.

While including paintings from the artist’s ‘Street Hermit’ series which was inspired by his residency in 2016 to the Apennine mountains in Umbria as well as the Sol Lewitt studio in Connecticut, this exhibition also showcases other pieces of artwork from different phases in Todd’s career. The sheer range of this collection brings about a greater appreciation of the artist’s development and how his technique has evolved over time. Likewise, by inviting fellow artists Dr Norman Shaw, Eddie Summerton, and Liz Adamson to exhibit their work in one of the rooms, Todd also offers an insight into the development achieved through collaboration and dialogue with long-term colleagues and how they have shaped his art.

Despite being a modern art show, it is easy to see that Todd has taken inspiration from an array of periods in art history, and from an even bigger range of geographical locations, varying from Northern European romantic painting to Japanese prints. In this sense, the artist invites the eye to see how varying cultures can merge to create a new earthly identity while also being beyond all earthly possibilities. Helpful in transmitting this message is the artist’s use of different media merged together in a frenzy of striking colours. When viewing an image up close it feels like you are experiencing an optical illusion. You fixate yourself on one line and are taken on a journey gliding from one curve to the next all while paradoxically being bombarded by bright and bold colours. The contrast between line and colour as well as the use of different media soothes yet unnerves the mind. And upon stepping back to see the image as a whole, all the contrasting elements somehow come together as one in a surprisingly harmonious way.

The layout of the gallery further assists in fully comprehending Todd’s artistic process. Rooms of white and purely linear techniques are starkly contrasted by rooms which inhabit darker and more reckless compositions. Until you see the full exhibition, it is confusing trying to understand how such diverse elements can come together; but this only leads to truly appreciating the significance of his later pieces which by some defying element manage to bring all his techniques to one board.

While Todd is ultimately a landscape artist, his aim is not to simply portray a land’s physical appearance. By scrutinising the material world, he unearths a surreal reality in which one finds themselves in a loosely recognisable setting while also being lost in the personal dialogue which Todd is having with his surroundings. Titles of pieces such as ‘Mount Neverclimbed’ and ‘Crypto Street’ allow the viewer to make sense of Todd’s thoughts. Nonetheless, two-worded titles can only reveal so much about a painter’s experience, thus leaving unexplained aspects open for the viewer to have their own conversation with Todd’s mystic world.

Image: Shannen Tioniwar

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