PAPERWORK 5 REVIEWED

Paperwork 5 is the fifth, annual, joint exhibition by three artists with quite different but complementary styles. 

It’s an independently minded collaboration marked by thoughtful attention and skilled application. Mounted in a Howe Street basement, it remains a space for quiet consideration, a satisfying respite from the clamour uphill. 

Ruth Thomas produces drawings, paintings, textiles, books, and prints. Her ‘Forth Memory’ (mixed media with collage, above) was, I thought, a particularly successful evocation of place. I enjoyed its foreshore horizontality; its northern seaweed, grey and azure; the smeared traces of Barnbougle Castle and the Cramond causeway. 

Meanwhile, ‘Entwined’ (monotype, detail below) is a sinuous form whose scale is difficult to nail down. A sea monster? A sandworm’s traces? Some microscopic complexity? Or a floater glimpsed in the eye?

And what is the meaning of these writhing intimacies? Are they purposeful or accidental encounters, sentient or inanimate, loving or hostile? Do they exist between one or more entities? Why do we project values onto things we do not understand?

Perhaps this is what Thomas means by ‘nature’s calligraphy’ – fascinating letters in an unknown language.

Words – legible but not wholly readable – feature also in Trevor Davies’s ‘Memorial’, where scrolls – tightly bound with thread – are set against what seems to be a page from a book of sample fonts.

The informality of the scrolls, in a variety of patterned papers, handwritten scripts, typewritten letters, suggests personal fragments of communication, recollection. Against the formality of 90-point Old Face, the serif grandeur of print and the official record, these paper memories are beautiful little mysteries, touchingly fragile, unlikely to last.

Relationships between permanence and passage, separate and shared presences are at play again in Davies’s ‘Pairs’ (sandpaper, cardboard, acrylic, oil, graphite).

These transparent shapes recall organic, synthetic and geological origins, but their interest for me lies in their shifting proximities, commonalities, and the cleft between the left and right-hand portions of the work. 

‘Pairs’ is a visual contemplation, an ongoing invitation to actively view without, I suspect, any hope or expectation of reaching a conclusion. I found it a very satisfying experience.

Marion Barron’s works are perhaps the most abstract and challenging on display here.

There is a strict economy of line and colour in her distillations, which she says are inspired by ‘empty spaces, the detailed fabric of buildings and the random features and surfaces to be found there’. 

In some cases, she examines the lines of sea defences and their corrosion, I think as seen from above. In others, she seems enthralled by structural decay. ‘Derelict’ (ink, oil) …

and ‘Sky Wire’ (ink) …

have a kind of elegant choreography that requires no further explanation. However, both reminded me of the St James Centre’s revelatory demolition, the way apparently strong coherent structures wear down or fall apart, how new forms emerge out of their fragmentation like shoots from a charcoal forest.

This is an exhibition of multiple and intriguing circles – and one I'm sure is worth a second visit. All the works here are for sale, with prices ranging between £100 and £520.AM

Paperwork 5 continues at the Edinburgh Ski Club (2 Howe Street) until 27 August.  

2 Howe Street
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