sat 20/07/2024

Laura Aldridge / Andrew Sim, Jupiter Artland, Edinburgh review - lightness and joy | reviews, news & interviews

Laura Aldridge / Andrew Sim, Jupiter Artland, Edinburgh review - lightness and joy

Laura Aldridge / Andrew Sim, Jupiter Artland, Edinburgh review - lightness and joy

Two Scottish artists explore childhood and play

'Supremely strange wall-mounted objects': part of Laura Aldridge's installation at Jupiter Artland

Two shows at Jupiter Artland, one in a barn, one in a ballroom, showcase two Scottish artists, whose work shares a sense of lightness and joy. The sun was out, there was happiness all round. Laura Aldridge had painted the walls of her barn space a buttercup yellow and applied translucent film to the windows so that to spend time in her bijou show was like being in a solarium.

Andrew Sim, on the other hand, offered a suite of cheery pastel works depicting plants, which echoed the decorative plasterwork of his ballroom ceiling to create another totalising space.

Whereas Aldridge bathes her work in a warm glow, even building a shallow yellow ramp to take visitors between two levels of her exhibition space, the nearby environment Sim offers benefits from a flood of natural light and the petrified forms of leaves and tendrils which climb across that ceiling. These differences illustrate at once how divergent positive emotions can be. In the former, the mood is syrupy sweetness and the pleasure of being enveloped. In the latter show, the feeling was more akin to goofy amusement with a touch of wonder. A great deal of complementarity has been achieved.

 Laura Aldridge, The Inside of Aliveness, 2023. Glazed stoneware, plant dyed fabric (weld and indigo), green bulb, wood, and lighting components. Photo: Caro Weiss. Courtesy of the artist and Kendall Koppe, Glasgow.But it may prove necessary to lose oneself in each show individually to get the best from either. Aldridge makes this easy by including three sculptural benches where you are invited to loiter. This wooden seating arrangement is both mobile (the benches have wheels) and fragile (glass orbs of various colours and shapes are fixed all around the frame). In their usual figuration, if sat facing the room’s projection screen, you can hardly not engage with a neighbour sitting opposite the ramp. Together you can discuss the strangeness of the baubles, which protrude on all sides.

You can also contemplate the supremely strange wall-mounted objects of which there are more than a dozen (main picture). The template for these is something like this: a lightbulb, in a ceramic mount, framed by a ruff of coloured fabric, trailing an ornamented tail. Each one is different but any one could put you in mind of the underside of a ray or even a trilobite. Light glows from these bellies as if with some deep-sea phosphorescence. Aldridge has drawn inspiration from a doll in a "secret collection" at Paisley Museum. In more than one way she has brought all these playthings to light (pictured above right:
Laura Aldridge, The Inside of Aliveness, 2023).

As with the loveseats, there is an intimacy in these sculptures which, after all, look like legless can-can dancers. In this way the show invites imaginative play and offers a wide range of different bulbs, mounts, glazes, fabrics, and trailing tails – from fishing floats to carabiners. Without wanting to be too prurient, it also reflects the childish habit of undressing, as much as dressing, dolls. These skirts have been lifted to reveal a sun, or an eye, or a jewel of many colours. They are much more surprising, in this respect, than your average Barbie.

Some 300 yards away childhood and play are equally evoked by the decorous gallery given over to paintings by Andrew Sim. Their (they/them) fun subjects include rainbows, stars, a comic book werewolf, and above all plants. The most prominent of these is a monkey puzzle tree, the most amusing tree there is (pictured below). Working on a background of pitch black night, their plants are verdant, blooming and lit by some mysterious source. Get up close and you can see how the artist has patiently built up short, green, unidirectional marks to give the appearance of life and ongoing growth.

That example tells you there is a level of sophistication which is not, at first, apparent. To begin with, their toon-like vision clashes with the refinement of a space in which it is still easy to imagine a harpsichord in the corner and a fine set of local gentry gracing the floor with a quadrille or two. Sim underlines their contextual incongruity with a salon-style hang that finds canvases badly misaligned above the fireplace and extending part way across the French windows. They are no great respecter of 19th century decorum.

Andrew Sim  portrait of two monkey puzzle trees (with spring growth), 2023  Pastel on canvas  163.6 x 183.6 x 5.4 cm, 64 3/8 x 72 1/4 x 2 1/8 in framed  Courtesy of the Artist, The Modern Institute/Toby Webster Ltd., Glasgow  Photo: Patrick JamesonCreation often begins with destruction. By repeating such bold pictorial elements as rainbows and the night sky, the artist reimagines this ballroom as a walk-in comic book, where the flora on the walls eclipses the flora on the ceiling, and we step into the 21st century where the gender-normativity of a debutants’ ball is thoroughly subverted, until only the wolfish gaze remains.

Just as the most serious and trenchant contemporary artwork can give the serious and trenchant viewer a dopamine surge, one admits that, even with a theoretical underpinning, beaming shows like these two can appear to ignore the injustices and vicissitudes of the world beyond the gallery. I am sure that Aldridge, Sim and the curatorial team are well aware of this paradox. It is inherent in the complexity of designing a rewarding gallery visit. Although I enjoyed both shows, they bore little reflection of the state of the nation or the affairs of the day. It was a bright day, when I visited. Had it been raining, the escapism might have worked less well.

  •  Laura Aldridge: LAWNMOWER, and Andrew Sim at Jupiter Artland until September 29 2024. Both shows are part of Edinburgh Art Festival
  • More visual arts reviews on theartsdesk
Their toon-like vision clashes with a space in which it is still easy to imagine a harpsichord in the corner


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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