Hung in the austere space of The Old Ambulance Depot, Andy Cumming’s exhibition ‘Reality and the Prescribed Alternative’ effectively incorporates sinister undertones in his work to create a visual critique of the power that mass media has over society today.
The minimalist aesthetic of The Old Ambulance Depot itself allows complete focus to be placed upon the works. Moreover, the ambient light which streams into the large space contrasts well with the dark undercurrent of the work, making for an interesting play upon the subject matter. Cumming himself cites psychology as one of the major influences on his work. This becomes apparent when you stand before one of his pieces; the bright swirling mass before you arguably feels like a form of psychoanalysis. Each piece in the exhibition invites a contribution from your own personal perspective on the place media and propaganda occupy in modern times. In the official description for the exhibition, Cumming’s work is described as art that will ‘inoculate’ the viewer against the powers at work in everyday life. This also reinforces the notion that psychoanalysis is at work beneath the brightly coloured layers of paint and other mixed media. You walk away from the exhibition at least dimly aware of the darker powers which could be at work far beyond your comprehension.
Previously, local artist Cumming has exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy, he was chosen to be a part of their ‘New Contemporaries Exhibition 2010’, as well as having numerous shows at the Edinburgh College of Art and others at The Old Ambulance Depot itself. He was also shortlisted this year for the RSA Residencies for Scotland 2013. This exhibition, however, is one of the first he has produced since travelling through Asia and America whilst studying for his MA in printmaking in Edinburgh. The exhibition also includes a recently completed short film entitled ‘Culture Reboot’ which is projected continuously and demonstrates the versatility of Cumming’s artistic view.
What Cumming attempts is undoubtedly extremely impressive. By using colour theory, each of the works have, in theory, an almost medicinal purpose. His multi-layered paintings attempt to get into the subconscious and ‘inoculate’ it against harmful influences – a concept that is in itself a draw. What he achieves may not be the full force of this initial statement, however it is instead a highly recommended and impressive exhibition by a recent graduate of the Edinburgh College of Art.