Friday, March 22, 2013

A moment between strangers

The street light in front of Stewart's flat in a rare moment of sun

What a week! I have walked 23 miles since last I wrote. I have seen so much art! It has been quite amazing to go from not seeing much art in recent months to suddenly in one week seeing so much art I find myself completely overwhelmed but rest assured I am not complaining!

The weather was a real mess on Saturday, with rain, wind and even some snow at times. Even with the questionable weather I am pleased to report that I made it to "art club" with Ever Dundas and her friends. I was a little nervous about going as it meant that I would have to navigate the city on my own to get there and once there I would meet new people. That was just silliness of course because everything went fine and Ever's friends were lovely. The art I made was more questionable than the weather but for me it was really more about spending time together and trying something new.

On Sunday, I took it easy mostly and then later in the afternoon we enjoyed a walk to Stewart's mom Pat's place for a visit and a wonderful pizza dinner by La Favorita. It was great to catch up and of course a little genealogy was discussed as Pat has been researching her family for a while and knows a thing or two that I, as a novice do not. I am looking forward to getting together with her again soon and visiting the Register House to do some research.

On Monday we ventured out late in the afternoon to visit the Scottish Society of Artists, Visual Arts Scotland and the Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolourannual open exhibitions at the Royal Scottish Academy galleries. Whew! So much art! Much of it was quite wonderful but after awhile art fatigue sets in no matter how great the art is. Many works stood out including Stewart Bremner’s painting, Below the Surface. Stewart’s piece gave a powerful punctuation to a rather cool and sedate wall of works with its rough texture and pop of signature orange and deep black. This is now the second painting of Stewart’s that has found its way into the RSA galleries within the year. A very impressive accomplishment and a great start to 2013. There were many other works that caught my eye in all three of these brilliant exhibitions and they were all well worth the walk in the rain, sleet, snow and wind.

On Tuesday we headed out to catch two more exhibitions, the first at Edinburgh Printmakers where we enjoyed the works works of Marilène Oliver: Confusao. It was a fascinating show. Afterwards we checked in with Alison Auldjo at Union Gallery. This is the gallery that represents Stewart’s work and showed four of my pieces in a group exhibition in December of 2011 and January 2012. It is a lovely space and it was great to see Alison again. Currently there is an Audrey Grant exhibition on show and we got to enjoy it while catching up.

After taking in all the art and finding ourselves in the neighborhood of my favorite pub, The Barony Bar, I knew I was thirsty for a pint or two of Deuchars. It was lovely to be back at the pub and sit at what I always considered my table by the window in the back corner. The warm, dark pub felt like home. I could have stayed there for hours.

On Wednesday we headed out and visited the Open Eye gallery, mainly to see the works of Paul Barnes. His works are cute and illustrative and displayed well. We then walked down the street and around the corner to The Gallery on the Corner to check out the exhibition, In Sun, Mist, Rain and Snow. This is an exhibition by Keith Salmon, a landscape painter who happens to be blind. I really enjoyed the work, his color palette was inspired and I am a sucker for an atmospheric abstracted landscape.

On Thursday we just took it easy and had a friend over for dinner. It was good to just relax, tell stories and laugh. I brought a vegan cookbook with me on the trip called "Appetite for reduction" in hopes that we would cook more and eat out less for economy as well as health. So far it is a great book and everything I have made from it has been fantastic.

Today we walked in the cold wind and sometimes snow to visit The Royal Scottish Academy, Princes Street Gardens, Fruit Market Gallery, stopped off for a coffee on the High Street, Central Library, Talbot Rice Gallery, National Library of Scotland and a visit St. Giles Cathedral. 

At the Royal Scottish Academy, I participated in Sogol Mabadi's piece Endeavour no. 7: Unbraiding. I have to say it was a moving experience and I am so glad I went behind the curtain to spend time with this artist. Learn more: It was a strangely quiet and profound experience that I will not soon forget. 

The artist is all in white and is behind a white half curtain in an alcove of the gallery. You can see her sock feet, her legs and her hands resting in her lap. She is just sitting and breathing alone behind the curtain. There is a feeling of nervousness in the room because everyone knows she is there waiting. Besides noticing her, you are also looking at the other art in the gallery that is part of the same exhibition. All the viewers know she is there just waiting and the anticipation is electric. You want to go in and experience a mystery. You are scared yet at the same time excited by the thought. What if you were one of the brave ones and not concerned with looking foolish, playful, or curious in public? What if you were willing to walk into the unknown and share a moment with a stranger? All of this is racing around your head while you are looking at the other art. Nervous giggles and gestures from the other patrons are evident as they are also thinking about going behind the curtain but few actually do. 

You know you have a choice to make. You can go in or you can just leave the room and wonder what it would have been like. I chose to go in. I lifted the curtain and there she was sitting there on a stool. I sat on the stool right across from her and let my bag fall from my shoulder and rest on the floor. She is still breathing deeply. Her face is obscured, covered by her hair braided like a protective mask around her face. She can see you through her hair and you can see where her eyes would be and you look there. You find yourself breathing deeply too and suddenly the gallery seems far away and nothing else exists. We are close and face to face. Our knees are staggered as we sit on the short stools. Suddenly yet gently you feel her knees rock back and forth with your knee in between. There is contact, staring into this face of hair as she continues to breathe deeply and rock your knee back and forth in between hers. A peace falls over you. She leans in ever slightly and gently touches your cheek with the back of her hand. This gesture seems unexpected yet also familiar. Your eyes close as you feel what it is like to be touched by a stranger in a kind yet slightly electric way. You open your eyes and her hand leaves you and returns to her lap. She slowly backs away and her shoulders drop down as you stare again into her face of hair. A smile comes to your face in remembrance of the previous shared moment and you look down, wondering if it is over and maybe even wishing it was not. However, somehow you know it is and that it is time to get up and walk away and so you do. 

It sounds so simple and it is but it is also very complex. When I left the experience I felt a bit melancholy. It seems in the 4-6 minutes spent with the artist you are put through the paces at warp speed of any intimate relationship whether with friend or lover. The anticipation of that first contact, date, meeting, then that tingle of first touch and soon enough acceptance and comfort in another followed by a type of slow withdrawal and perhaps even rejection and then a leaving. Of course we all bring ourselves and our baggage to the art piece so everyone will have a different experience but I found it exhilarating and profound. I have a new respect for this type of art and was very curious when I returned home to learn more about this talented and evocative artist. 

This world is a beautiful place. Until next week, keep fighting!



  1. Your description of the gallery and your thoughts before you went behind the curtain reminded me of the feeling at the funeral home with an open casket at the front of the room, the nervousness, the constant awareness that it is there, and the question. To go up and look or not.

  2. I had a similar experience when I was doing an Intro to Art Therapy evening class. We had a session on Dance Therapy and this doesn't sound particularly mind blowing or emotional, but I was partnered with someone I didn't know and we sat with our backs pressed together and we closed our eyes and swayed. It sounds very hippy and a bit daft, but it had a huge emotional impact, and when we discussed it with each other afterwards, we had experienced the same thing and were shocked by it. It was beautiful, that connection...