June 3, 2017
Hidden Door has developed a reputation for exhibiting the most exciting and dynamic art in Edinburgh – interactive, innovative and down right fun – and this year’s Visual Art programme continues this trend. But it is not only the interactive or immersive works that offer something innovative and different for the viewer. The 2-dimensional works also deserve a wee bit of a mention, and a wee bit of time to experience during your visit.
From the moment you walk through the doors your eyeballs are rewarded with the vivid paintings of Garvald supported artists Tracy McGovern and John Hall. You are greeted by the emotive faces of Scottish folk, on the brightly painted background of Tracy’s bold works. Take a moment with these men, including the Bay City Rollers, and you’ll see they all have their own character and story (hint: read the titles of the works, they are just fantastic!).
Similarly, John Hall’s expressive paintings employ colour and mark making with such joyous abandonment, yet sophistication, that you just cannot help but be swept away in the lines and shapes of colour.
Up on the balcony, viewable from the main auditorium thanks to their shear incredible size, are the striking lithographic prints of Kristina Chan, and the grand contemporary painting by David Martin. Kristina’s massive triptych of the abandoned Leith Theatre, taking up most of the balcony wall, with their multilayered, painterly texture, draw you into the image and the history of the building pre-Hidden Door.
David’s evocative, cool painting beckons you across to the other side of the dress-circle, with a dramatic scene unfolding the more your eyes caress the layered surface.
At the top of the balcony, Camila Cavalcante’s mixed media photographic works incorporate embroidery to create texture and dimension. The wall of gridded trees stumps is visually impressive, and reminds me of driving behind a logging lorry. Searching the photographs for the hidden stitches, once you find them you want to run your fingers over the threads… but we probably shouldn’t touch the artworks though!
Similarly, Miriam Mallalieu’s gentle and subtle mixed media works taking up 2 whole walls of her wee room backstage, initially look like flies squished on ruled record cards. These delicate and beautifully assembled small pieces (I haven’t counted, but there must be over 300 of them) are so deserving of spending several quiet contemplative moments with.
On your way up to the cinema bar or performance space, you will land amongst Jenna Corcoran’s meticulous graphite drawings. Each captures the texture and tone of the streets and paths of Edinburgh and Leith – but sacrilegiously the artist has cut the subjects out of the drawings, revealing the aged wall behind.
Heading down the stairs to the basement, you will pass Ian Dodd’s paintings and photomontages. These intriguing pieces prepare you for the hidden video installation in the cupboard. This quirky installation, comprising of a pile of lost prescription glasses through which 3 small videos are projected is the kind of hidden gems, tucked away in a cupboard under the stairs, that Hidden Door has become known for.
The basement, dark and eerie, is only illuminated by the projected video pieces commanding the space. Rachel Hendry’s animation takes you on rewarding journey of ‘square’ as it discovers 1- and 3D architectural space. You can’t help but be drawn into the excursion of this immersive piece.
Off to the left is Liam McLaughlin’s serene yet sombre video is accompanied by an equally serene and sombre spoken poem, addressing isolation and religion of rural communities; the soothing Scottish accent complementing the filmic visuals – spending a few quiet moments contemplating this piece is highly recommended.
Martin Elder & Morwenna Kearsley explore the artistic notion of Horror Vacui – the fear of empty spaces – with their hypnotic installation of spray painted tessellated tiles and mesmerising film of a 19th century serpentine dance; such a fascinating and apt intervention of the dark bowels of the theatre.
Moving further into the deep dark depths of the basement is Rachel Turner’s video documentation of her ‘burning devices’ – as they sway and smoulder and fill the air of British seaside. In the same sense as the sand mandala blows away, the dissipation of the incense form and smoke offers the same ritualistic, almost religious, higher experience.
Back up on the balcony level of the theatre, Marion Ferguson & Jennifer Wicks’s installation explores the philosophical ideas of landscape – their beautifully shot video, showing close ups of local flora, geology and scenery – a sensitive and sophisticated experience.
Tucked away in what may have been originally used as a bar, is Jennifer Clews’s sleek video installation, a cerebral piece exploring the notion of space. To the other side, up the stairs to the projection room (which to our knowledge was never used as such) is Marshall De’Ath’s grand sound and video installation – a site-responsive piece drawing inspiration the chequered past and abandonment of the grand Leith Theatre.
With so much going on at Hidden Door – music, theatre, happenings – taking the time out of your packed day to spend with these generous artworks and innovative installations is well worth moving away from the bar for.
Words by Jenna