Whilst all artists would say that they express themselves through their work, for the members of smART CRAFT art is a special way of communicating. smART Craft, which meets at WHALE Arts Agency in Wester Hailes, is a fully inclusive group for adults with mental health issues, learning disabilities or complex or additional support needs, led by a professional artist – and they are now staging their second exhibition at The Gallery on the Corner in Northumberland Street. Creative Release, says WHALE Arts Project Coordinator Sarah Walker, is ‘about expression, enjoyment and freedom. Each artist’s individuality is celebrated’.
The exhibition unveils new work by the group, and is as diverse and colourful a show as you could wish to see. From Gary Stewart’s acrylics with their expressive streams of textured greens, blues, pinks and yellows to Gavin Hendry’s stunning clay tiles reminiscent of Egyptian hieroglyphics, the pieces on show are fascinating. Where else would you see a pom-pom rug?
This one, the creation of Tommy Hall and John Wireko, is both a work of art and a covetable soft furnishing, complemented by the suspended orbs of Pom Poms – A Collective. The purples and greens of Damien McLean’s acrylic echo the colours in the pom poms, but here they are blocks of colour, fans and triangles – the latter mountain-like, with dark pink strokes suggesting the evening sun, or perhaps even the descent of lava.
Andrew Veitch’s contributions are two highly effective pen and acetate drawings of figures; both suggest an inner life and make the viewer wonder, whilst Miranda Pender’s striking acrylic brings to mind Edvard Munch’s iconic The Scream, as the figure covers its ears with its hands. Sarah Maloney’s precise, almost architectural drawing is a complete contrast; it could be the bare bones of a car park – or even one of the futuristic buildings from The Minority Report.
In Gary Stewart’s pen and perspex work we again see waves of colour, but here there are sharp shapes which, on closer inspection, could be weird distorted faces or perhaps a strange, long-beaked bird. Two mixed media pieces by Stewart Dalziel bring to mind the work of Jean Dubuffet or even Jackson Pollock, whilst Kevin Liston has used orange, brown and white wools to create a most interesting, tapestry-like picture.
Another face is seen in Betty Merritt’s acrylic piece, and again the viewer is drawn in, wanting to know more about the subject with its enigmatic, startled blue/black face. The bold primary colours of Wai Yin Chan’s dazzling pen and pencil work fill equally mysterious shapes – could they be ice creams? Drinks? Or faces? Debbie Muir’s acrylic features vibrant pinks and oranges that appear almost tactile, like scrunched up tissue paper.
This small exhibition is more thought-provoking than many you might see by established artists; do call in to the gallery to see it. Gallery acting manager Paul Penrice rightly describes smART CRAFT as a ‘creative fountain’.
The Gallery on the Corner is also showing some fabulous mixed media work by Michael Dawson, who describes his work as ‘a universal experience filtered through my life’ and neo-expressionist in style; ‘(it) is often mistaken as ‘outsider’ but I take that as a compliment’. A stunning landscape Ardroil Bay, Harris by celebrated Edinburgh artist and photographer Erik Petrie, ‘an artist in the true sense of the word’ (Lux Lit), has also just arrived and is for sale.
Creative Release is at The Gallery on the Corner until 28th February 2015. The Gallery on the Corner is a commercial art gallery and studio providing a platform to exhibit and sell artwork produced by artists who have a physical or mental health condition: it was the first social firm developed by Autism Ventures Scotland, which was established by Autism Initiatives UK. AVS also runs the lovely Cafe on the Corner in Hill Street (which exhibits art too) and The Hermitage, a 9-hole golf course and cafe in The Braid Hills.
WHALE Arts Agency is a community arts centre providing opportunities for the people of Wester Hailes and South West Edinburgh to access and take part in a range of arts activities.