Three female artists star in a trio of shows at The Scottish Gallery this summer, as it takes part in the annual Edinburgh Art Festival.
The festival from August 11-27 comprises 55 projects around the city, counting among its participants Ingleby Gallery and Talbot Rice Gallery as well as the National Galleries of Scotland and Edinburgh College of Art. It is now in its 19th year.
The Scottish Gallery, however, is kicking proceedings off early on July 27 with the opening of Wonder Women, a triple celebration of artist Elizabeth Blackadder (1931-2021), jeweller and sculptor Wendy Ramshaw (1939-2018) and Contemporary ceramicist Bodil Manz.
Popular and widely exhibited, Falkirk-born artist Blackadder was represented by the gallery from the late 1950s. Her success in the 20th century was not born from a commitment to abstract avant-garde compositions (compare her work, for example, to that of Bridget Riley who was born in the same year).
Blackadder’s pictures tend towards delicate domestic still-lifes, dreamy landscapes and interiors, all of which are often populated by cats. However, there is a modern flair to her pictures in their flattening of form and use of white space.
She was an elusive figure and later in her career refused to discuss her work except in the broadest terms. Even so, she was embraced by the establishment.
Elected to both the Royal Academy and the Royal Scottish Academy, she also became a dame and was made the first female Artist Limner by the queen in 2001, a position within the Royal Household unique to Scotland.
The Dundas Street gallery offers works spanning her career including prints, works on paper and oils. The firm is partnering with Dovecot Studios, also in Edinburgh, which worked with Blackadder for three decades on the production of more than 30 tapestries and rugs.
A new tapestry from the studio goes on display at the Scottish Gallery, while Dovecot Studios hosts its own display of commemorative tapestries until October 7.
The Scottish Gallery takes pride in its role as a longtime representative of Blackadder. However, its impact can be seen even more clearly on the career of jewellery designer and sculptor Wendy Ramshaw, who used the gallery to launch several of her high-concept projects.
It was at Pace Gallery that Ramshaw first rose to prominence in the 1970s. There in a solo exhibition she displayed a series of sculptural ring sets, which could be worn together or divided up according to the user’s taste, an early indication of her tendency to blur the lines between jewellery, sculpture and design.
But it was at The Scottish Gallery that she first unveiled several of her jewellery showcase-cum-installation displays, such as Picasso’s Ladies. This positioned a series of original necklaces, rings and headpieces shown alongside images of the women in the artist’s life. It was later shown in full at the V&A and in New York. Among later installations at the Edinburgh gallery was Rooms of Dreams in 2002, a theatrical stage set for jewellery, which included anything from jewellery in frames to freestanding furniture.
During The Early Years, the gallery celebrates some of her formative works as well as later pieces.
The final show focuses on Danish ceramicist Bodil Manz, who is now 80 and has been exhibiting at the gallery for 30 years. It focuses on her slipcast porcelain cylinders decorated in abstract or geometric patterns.
Art lovers can find much to enjoy in a trip to Scotland this summer. Fine Art Society in Edinburgh holds a pair of shows until July 29: Portrait Mode, held to coincide with the reopening of the National Portrait Gallery in London and History of the New, which was part of the programming for the inaugural NT Art Month that took place in Edinburgh last month.
From July 15-August 6, an exhibition and festival celebrating contemporary photography takes place in Bowhouse in Fife. Many more shows and auctions are to be found, as highlighted in ATG’s summer supplement (ATG No 2598).
One more to add to this list is another Edinburgh exhibition from Open Eye Gallery, showcasing the works of Scottish artist John Bellany (1942-2013) on the 10th anniversary of his death. Also part of Edinburgh Art Festival, this show dubbed The Italian Connection comprises works held by the Bellany family ranging from his student days until his final years in the Serchio valley in Italy. Many have never been displayed.
Like Blackadder, Bellany worked outside the expected aesthetics of the 20th century. His pictures focused on the lives of Scottish fishing communities, in a figurative style influenced by Gustave Courbet.
However, unlike Blackadder, he made his early outsider status part of his persona. During the 1960s, for example, he displayed his work outside the buildings of the Scottish National Gallery and Royal Scottish Academy, and one year did so on the railings of Castle Terrace during the Edinburgh Festival. Over the years this changed, and in 2012 he was the subject of a major exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery. His Bellany at 70 portrait, produced for that show, is included at Open Eye.