A classical figure rotates atop a vintage television, wielding a comically tall flag delicately jerking from side to side as she swerves. This flag is fixed to the figure by fleshy pink foam, more of which can be found at the base of the sculpture. ‘Totem’ is candid and stoic, a dramatic confrontation when turning into the second gallery room. This is, of course, one of The Benefits of Being Under the Weather currently on display at Patriothall Gallery – at least, I think it is.
Showcasing the work of four Edinburgh-based artists – Matthew Bainbridge, Rachel Turner, Thomas Anderson and Morwenna Potter – two rooms house a sparing collection of paintings, sculptures and a video installation. A constructed loop of found wood in ‘Erratic Tay’ greets the viewer, it seems carefully varnished to give the illusion of one entire tree branch caught in an infinite circle, sprawled like a natural cadaver facing the entrance of the gallery.
But aside from consulting the small paper plan of the exhibition space, there is little other way of knowing to which artist each work belonged. Customary name plaques are nowhere to be seen – uncharacteristic for works supposedly on sale.
Nor is there a way of deciphering the thinking behind the title The Benefits of Being Under the Weather, in accordance with the advertisement’s jarring image of a dirty window; Potter’s charred tree branches sit beside plush pastel canvases of fish and nostalgic videogame references in Bainbridge’s work. The pieces seem to cohabit with no clear link, their only shared commonality the space in which they’ve all been housed.
That is not to say that the works themselves are bad; Bainbridge’s paintings are one of the highlights of this modest exhibition. The sprightly, almost infantile use of soft pinks and blues counterpoints the show as a moment of plush happiness against the singeing of tree branches and marred black canvasses – perhaps this is one of such benefits of being trapped in a sombre mood. Surmounted on a cloud-like motif of disjunct black lines painted directly onto the gallery wall, there was the slightest parallel to Potter’s opposite sculptures.
Furthermore, this exhibition does attempt to delineate certain themes that, albeit tenuously, interrelate the works. Opposite Anderson’s ‘Totem’, Turner’s delicate branches have been discarded on the floor, with taut metal rods intertwining them; contrasts with the manmade against the naturally ephemeral occur frequently, as in ‘Explosive Percussive’ where footage of a lit fuse snaking its way around the body of a tree brings an unnerving ambience to the gallery space.
On display until 18 February, The Benefits of Being Under the Weather exercises the mind’s ability to read the conceptual. Considering this gallery space as a saleroom, the four artists on display are given great exposure. But as an exhibition, Patriothall has merged individually stirring pieces into one peculiar space, and one which may better be left unread.
Until 18 February
Photo credit: Carlos Finlay