Art Festival Fringe

Call it ‘beyond the art festival’, or the Edinburgh Art Festival Fringe.

Within Edinburgh, there are several  private galleries with significant exhibitions, particularly for the collector in various budget ranges,   that  are not in the line-up of this year’s festival.

Outwith the city, there are also several promising shows, perhaps for mid-August, when you need a day out and some peace and greenery after madly chasing those Fringe discoveries.   They span from North Berwick, to Dollar, to Hawick deep in the borders or Campbelltown jail; in furthest Argyll and Bute, which might be a stretch too far for festival aficionados but is surely worth a mention….

I’ll start at the top.  The Scottish Gallery’s festival programmes  include  the ceramics of Paul Scott.   His exhibition Cuttings, Ruins, Refugees and Wild Roses with plenty of images at the Scottish Gallery’s site raised a lot of interested eyebrows the moment the catalogue came out.    It seems a distinctly quirky spin on your mum’s collection of Willow pattern porcelain.

This maybe the Scottish Gallery’s ‘festival programme’ but the gallery is not in the art festival this year.     Neither is its near neighbour the Fine Art Society – they are the two oldest galleries in the Edinburgh art establishment.  Price and approach has been an issue in the past,  but  it seems a missed opportunity that there’s no “festival masters” strand that could include them.

Since I first wrote this piece I’ve had more details from the FAS and the up-and-coming Arusha Gallery, which failed to pass muster for the festival.   Rather than extend this piece I have  added a follow-up blog here.

Also missing is the Union Gallery, newly rehoused in the West End, whose reopening show I punted on my blog here.     While the Scottish Gallery will also celebrate the 85th birthday of the quintessential Edinburgh painter Dame Elizabeth Blackadder, famous for black cats and flowers but of course much beyond, the Union Gallery’s festival exhibition also has a the flower theme with the work of Jenny Matthews.

Union Gallery Scottish art Edinburgh Mathews

Jenny Mathews

Autumn Leaves and Seed Heads, watercolour, by Elizabeth Blackadder, 64 x 97 cms

Autumn Leaves and Seed Heads, watercolour, by Elizabeth Blackadder, 64 x 97 cms

Branching further off the beaten pavements of the New Town, which is the point of this brief round-up…North Berwick is just a half-hour or so from Edinburgh by train and will also host the Fringe By the Sea again this year.

Themed exhibitions are one way for an enterprising gallery to take an interesting turn.  Director Alan Rae, with Ya Bass!  at Fidra Fine Art has arguably picked the obvious subject but it has provoked some interesting work, as often seems the case at Fidra.   You can’t exactly miss the Bass Rock from East Lothian but the place is steeped in rich Scottish history, not to mention gannet guano.

There’s a growing selection on his website but the small, eye-grabbing etchings from June Carey stood out among other quirky offerings.

  • North Berwick Fidra Scottish art
    (2) by digital artist Mark Bannerman for Ya Bass! at Fidra Fine Art

The town of Hawick is a memorable place though quite often just off the usual Borders trail and so far the reach of the Borders rail line.   But the admirable Tommy Zyw, a newly appointed director at the Scottish Gallery (small country syndrome here), flags up the exhibition of the Zyw family of artists – his grandfather, father, and uncle – at the Hawick Museum (which could use a new website…).

The Zyw Family,   an exhibition of painting, sculpture and glasswork, runs from the 14th August to 2 October so there’s a chance to revisit after the summer.  It is immediately evocative of the stories of high hopes, courage and tragedy or betrayal of Poles who arrived in Britain during World War II.   Aleksander Zyw came with that wave of Polish emigres while  Michael, painter and sculptor, and Adam, painter and glass artist,  were born in 1949 and 1951.

And so to Dollar.   Fellow art writer Jan Patience writes up here work by Arbroath’s Jackie Gardiner at the new Green Gallery 2 space in Dollar, Clackmannanshire.   (There are fine walks to be had in the Ochils while there’s also the Tower Trail in “the Wee County”.)

The Green Gallery has been based in Buchlyvie for twenty years (I don’t know where it is either) but has opened a new space at Dollar with this show.   Patience picks out Shore Leave as one example of this promising show.

Shore Leave, by Jackie Gardener

Shore Leave, by Jackie Gardener


Finally…We’re talking a four hour drive here, which is either not for the faint-hearted or for those already on a West Coast jaunt.   Confined Spaces is a  group exhibition of contemporary visual art in the cells of a disused Victorian prison in Campbelltown, kicking off on August 17th for four days, with 12 established and emerging artists.

The building was built as a prison in 1847 and served as the town’s police station until 2009.  One example of this themed show are two sculptures exploring child imprisonment commissioned by Helena Koumbouzis, inspired on the memories of her father-in-law, who lived in the prison as a child when his father was the custody officer there.