Nathan COLEY (b. 1967), The Lamp of Sacrifice, 286 Places of Worship, Edinburgh 2004. Sculpture, 286 cardboard models; 2 photocopied and annotated pages from Yellow Pages (Edinburgh). Cardboard models: dimensions variable; pages: 42.00 x 29.50 cm each. Collection: Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Bequest 2004. A Fruitmarket Gallery / Bloomberg Commission: purchased with funds from the Cecil and Mary Gibson © Studio Nathan Coley

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A dynamic new three-year programme of contemporary art exhibitions is to open at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (SNGMA) in Edinburgh this spring. Between March 2017 and March 2020 the entire ground floor of the Gallery’s Modern One building will be given over to NOW – a series of six major exhibitions, showcasing the work of some of the most compelling and influential artists working today.

This extensive programme reflects the Gallery’s ambition to share contemporary art with a wide audience, and will shine a light on the extraordinary quality and range of work being made by artists working in Scotland today, from those at the beginning of their career to established talents with an international standing. It will also feature the work of artists from across the globe, placing art created in Scotland in an international context, and demonstrating the crucial exchange between artistic communities around the world. The programme will evolve in collaboration with a range of partners in order to reach new audiences and to support the development of new commissions. NOW will highlight the diversity of contemporary artistic practice, and the unique role of artists, who, through their work can offer alternative ways of seeing and understanding the world around us.

At the heart of each exhibition in NOW will be a significant presentation devoted to the work of a single artist, around which group displays and room-sized installations by a range of other artists will be selected to explore common themes and ideas. As well as new commissions and loans from private and public collections, NOW offers the chance to see recently acquired additions to the Gallery’s collection for the first time, and will offer fresh perspectives on familiar, much-loved works.

The opening exhibition, which will be on show from 25 March, will bring together a fascinating and diverse selection of work, including a major three-room exhibition by Glasgow-based, Turner Prize-shortlisted artist Nathan Coley. The exhibition will also include significant works by world-renowned Lebanese-born artist Mona Hatoum and the influential Brazilian artist Rivane Neuenschwander, a recent installation by Glasgow-based artist Tessa Lynch, and a display pairing the work of painters Louise Hopkins and Tony Swain.

Central to the exhibition will be The Lamp of Sacrifice, 286 Places of Worship, Edinburgh 2004 by Nathan Coley, which will be on show for the first time since it underwent a major restoration by the artist in 2016. This iconic installation comprises 286 scaled-down cardboard replicas of every building listed as a place of worship in the 2004 Yellow Pages telephone directory for Edinburgh. Coley is fascinated by the ways in which architecture and urban spaces reflect and impact upon our social relationships, and how they become invested with layers of meaning over time; this installation offers a unique snapshot of the city through its places of religious meeting: churches, cathedrals, synagogues, mosques, Salvation Army halls and temples.

The Lamp of Sacrifice sustained accidental water damage when it was on show in Glasgow in 2015. As part of the process of restoration, a new replica was made for every building, and the original replicas recycled. Revisiting one of the key works of his career after 13 years has been an extraordinary experience for Coley. A new book, to be published in summer 2017 to accompany Coley’s presentation will include a new essay on The Lamp of Sacrifice by the author Ewan Morrison.

Coley’s exhibition will also feature two recent large-scale sculptural works by the artist, being shown in Scotland for the first time as part of NOW – a depiction of St Paul’s Cathedral in London, titled Paul (2015), and Tate Modern on Fire (2017). Both works take the form of an architectural scale model, and in each, the back is left open to reveal a cabinet of curiosities. Located either side of the river Thames in London, these two monumental buildings – one sacred, one secular – are each invested with particular symbolic meaning and are representative of different kinds of institutional power. In Tate Modern on Fire Coley has drawn upon a range of sources, memories and ideas to produce an artwork that reflects the ambiguity, ambition and complexity of his practice.

Over the series of exhibitions, NOW will also bring together pairings of artists’ works to highlight areas of affinity, or divergence in artistic approaches. The first exhibition will pair Louise Hopkins and Tony Swain, who both use found paper as the surface for their paintings. Swain is known for the paintings he makes on newspaper, while Hopkins uses a range of materials, from maps, fabric, mail order catalogue pages and photographs. In very different ways, both artists use the existing imagery on these surfaces as a starting point for their compositions to produce works that suggest landscapes, explore boundaries and create new pictorial spaces.

Also in the first exhibition will be Mona Hatoum’s complete Performance Documents 1980-1987/2013, which presents rarely seen texts, photographs and videos, highlighting the significance of performance and actions in the artist’s early career. Hatoum’s one-off performances often involved radical bodily actions and have a strong relationship to her experiences as a displaced person, forced to flee Lebanon with her parents during the 1970s.

Large-scale oil paintings by two of Scotland’s most established painters will also be paired together in the opening NOW exhibition. Peter Doig’s Milky Way (1990) and Jock McFadyen’s Calton Hill (2014) are both night scenes, but while Doig composes an imaginary scene drawn from memory, McFadyen presents us with a real place, painting a vast, highly textured moon that dwarfs the iconic neo-classical structures that form part of Edinburgh’s famous skyline.

The first instalment of NOW will include two major works by Rivane Neuenschwander. This major international artist is renowned using ephemeral, mundane objects to create elegiac works that reflect on the deeper significance of seemingly trivial actions and the transience of human existence. The installation Harvest (2013-14), which will be shown in the UK for the first time, is a compendium of discarded shopping lists, collected from trolleys and baskets in London supermarkets. Displayed in rows, they form a calendar that reflects upon the daily actions ideas about place, and the passing of time. Also on show will be Neuenschwander’s beautiful film, The Tenant (2010), made in collaboration with Cao Guimaraes, which follows the perilous journey of a simple soap bubble as it moves slowly through an empty apartment.

NOW will highlight the work of a younger generation of artists such as Tessa Lynch, whose installation Wave Machine, which is composed of photographs, floor-based sculptures, and a projected text, was created for a solo presentation at David Dale Gallery in Glasgow in 2016. The first exhibition will also feature the work of the artist known sometimes as Peter Haining, who has created a series of changing identities throughout his career, operating outside the artistic, commercial and political mainstream for more than four decades. A significant part of the artist’s vast archive of documentation, artworks and videos was acquired by the National Galleries of Scotland in 2010, and a selection will be on show here for the first time.

Related Events: 

Children & Families: NOW BUILD! Family Days (Ages 2-12) 


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