Edinburgh Escapism

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I recently moved to Edinburgh and am still configuring its layout and exploring the city almost a month later. I feel this sense of exploration will be constant the whole time I am here. Edinburgh is one of those cities where you are never stuck for things to do, or places to see, or areas to explore. For someone who enjoys long head clearing walks as much as me, it is the perfect place. Yes, during tourist and Fringe Festival season the streets were packed; people crammed against each other on the pavement unable to overtake or cut through the crowd to cross the road. It was heaving. Now that the Festival is over, it has quietened down somewhat. Much to my relief, as I am not a huge crowd fan. I am however, an architecture lover and here in Edinburgh, everywhere you look there are beautiful buildings! There’s the Castle on the hill, there is the quaint area of Stockbridge which was so picturesque I didn’t mind getting lost! There are streets filled with older buildings, the  Scottish National Galleries boasting proud pillars at their entrance, the train station even sits nestled opposite Princes Street Gardens. I feel like I am having an affair behind the back of all the other cities I have visited given Edinburgh is all so breathtaking!

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It is a truly beautiful place and having visited Berlin this summer and been so consumed by its incredible culture, I can’t help feeling that a bubbling city like this is the creative starting point for me. It’s the energy, it’s the atmosphere; both of which are infectious. I’ve visited Edinburgh for countless day trips in the past, so it’s strange having to remind myself I am now a resident needing to commit an Edinburgh postcode to memory! Although it’s going to take some adjustment and I am still settling in, I am of course very excited by it all. Who isn’t with a city move?I feel as if the city has been waiting for me. As if this was the place I was meant to come back to. It’s funny how humans can have such an affinity with a place, but I feel with the countless art exhibitions and the constant creativity, this city could not be more perfect for someone like me. It’s picturesque and it’s peaceful. I have recently spent a lot of time sat reading in the Gardens, just people watching and absorbing the city and it’s occupants.

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I think contemplation is incredibly important during times of change and transition. Fortunately I have had the time for that this summer. Usually life is so busy and consuming that we forget to stop and think. We forget to put our phones down and not check them constantly. We forget to look out the window instead of choosing a playlist. We forget to be dreamers and instead glue ourselves to screens. People in airports, people on trains, they are all frantically typing away, scrolling down their tablets. I often feel saddened by this, because with all the days in our diaries crammed full of meetings and appointments, it’s difficult to slow down and tear yourself off the rollercoaster of life. Which is why I think this move has been so good for me. I am guilty of being consumed by the pressures of modern life; of forgetting to eat lunch and running from one meeting to the next. Yet I feel Edinburgh is a place where I can still balance a crazy, wild schedule, yet also make time for myself within the city.

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I feel that the amount of greenery everywhere in Edinbrugh provides a refreshing escapism from the rooms we occupy. Glancing round, there isn’t just granite and infrastructure, but vast expanses of nature serving a reminder that our busy lives are just a tiny microcosm in the universe. Little streams that gush and flow, the roses in the Gardens, the bees humming through the trees and the squirrels tamely venturing out all exist quite happily alongside the dull thrum of traffic and trams. All of the natural elements provide a reminder that we can stop and look. We can breathe in and think. We can sit down and we can start again.

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Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

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It’s weird, but sometimes the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art is the thing that makes me feel most Scottish! That’s not because there’s a bunch of Scottish memorabilia in it – far from it! Instead there’s an impressive collection of artworks ranging from Francis Bacon, to Andy Warhol, to David Hockney, to one of my favourite artists Samuel John Peploe (part of the Scottish Colourist movement). Having lived abroad most of my life, there are moments where I struggle to find places where I feel truly at home or have a strong connection with. This Gallery has become one of those places of nostalgia. I remember visiting it for the first time when I was seventeen, living back in Scotland for the first time. Sixth Form was what I’ll call my ‘art awakening’; the period in which I realised what kind of art I wanted to be making (Barbara Kruger was a key influence at this point). So the combination of this revelation along with several art trips to this Gallery during that time have made it a very sentimental place for me. 

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This of course is partially due to the sheer beauty of the place. The gallery’s architecture in itself is stunning (I think it’s safe to say I have a crush on Edinburgh architecture!) and the lush greenery surrounding it only enhances the feelings of tranquility. As does the presence of water, which on a beautiful sunny day like last Friday, sparkles and dances in the light. 

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Walking around this landscape is an incredibly serene experience and although it is still relatively central to Edinburgh’s center, the hectic bustle of the city seems distant and far removed. Almost as if you are stood in an art filled bubble of peace. This swirling blend of land and water can’t help being viewed as an impressive Land Art piece, which for me brings to mind the works of Richard Long and Robert Smithson with his iconic ‘Spiral Jetty‘. 

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In the grounds there’s also works by Henry Moore, who in my opinion is the father of all sculpture. His ‘Reclining Figure‘ series, one of which is pictured above, was a huge inspiration to me at the time I discovered it. I was and still of course am, fascinated by the blend of abstraction and figuration; by the way in which he has designed his pieces to allow the eye to travel smoothly along the figure. Barbara Hepworth is another sculpture pioneer who I greatly admire and on my list to one day visit is the Yorkshire Sculpture Park! Although I greatly enjoy modern art, I also love stepping away from it and looking to older masters. Particularly given my interest in the human body; there is nothing more exciting than exploring how body art has evolved throughout the decades.

If Only…

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I was looking through some old photos on my laptop and came across some snaps I’d taken years back at the exhibition ‘From Death to Death and Other Small Tales: Masterpieces from the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and the D. Daskalopoulos Collection’. I could kick my younger self! If only I could go back and relive this exhibition knowing what I know now! I must have been about…seventeen when I saw this? I think. So only really starting to realise the direction my art would take. This exhibition, although I did not realise it at the some, had some really big names to it. Artists such as Paul McCarthy, Mona Hatoum, Helen Chadwick, Ernesto Neto were all part of it. I have researched and studied them all since being at uni and therefore have an entirely new found appreciation for their work. 

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It gets worse though. Other artist work included belonged to Marina Abramovic – one of THE innovators of performance art. One of the most prominent females in what had previously been a largely male dominated art form. One of my current main influences! Marcel Duchamp as well, one of the pioneers of the Dada movement which not only fueled Surrealism but was the platform for conceptual art. Joseph Beuys, again very revolutionary and brought about a whole new dimension and meaning to the word sculpture. 

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Knowing what I know now, I could not be more frustrated by the naivety of my younger self. I was looking at revolutionary artwork by revolutionary artists and I didn’t even know it! So frustrating…The absolute worst past is that the entire exhibition is centered on the human body which is of course the subject of all my work these days. If only I could see the entire exhibition again!

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I think one of the works I would be most excited to see again is the work of Ernesto Neto (above). I still remember my reaction when I walked into the room. It was not the site that struck me initially; it was the smell. He had filled his installation with a variety of spices to the point that is was almost overwhelming. Yet it was also incredibly exciting as for the first time I was experiencing multi-sensory artwork! It actually inspired me to use spices in my own work. Slight mistake given that at A Level you have to paint your final piece in two days straight. Not good when you’re using spices – I don’t think curry powder has ever given me such a headache!