The 2011 Edinburgh Art Festival presents two major newly-commissioned public artworks: Martin Creed’s Work No.1059 on the Scotsman Steps; and Karen Forbes’ Solar Pavilion in St. Andrew Square Gardens. Martin Creed’s Work No.1059 is a permanent addition to Edinburgh’s artistic landscape commissioned by The Fruitmarket Gallery for the Edinburgh Art Festival. The Scotsman Steps were built in 1899 as part of the ‘Scotsman Building’ and form a pedestrian link between Edinburgh’s Old and New Towns. Creed’s understated intervention has clad each of the 104 historic steps in a different colour of marble. Prior to renovation, the thoroughfare leading from the Scotsman Hotel on North Bridge to Waverley Station and The Fruitmarket Gallery on Market Street was dank and distressed. The installation forms part of a major refurbishment programme undertaken by Edinburgh City Council and Edinburgh World Heritage.
In St. Andrew Square Gardens Solar Pavilion is a temporary structure hosting a programme of events throughout the Festival, supported through the Scottish Government’s Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund. Designed by Karen Forbes, Professor of Art at Edinburgh College of Art, with structural engineers Buro Happold and RMJM architects, the glass chamber uses the latest technology in glass façade engineering to create a space that celebrates the play of light and shadow. The artist-designed pavilion refers to the city’s historical interest with optics and optical devices for viewing. Sir David Brewster invented the kaleidoscope and dedicated a life to exploring the physics of light. In 1776 the Short family of scientific instrument makers built a ‘Gothic House’ on Calton Hill to house their optical instruments and telescopes, and a ‘Popular Observatory’ in 1835 featuring a ‘great telescope’. “In a leaflet from this period, solar microscopes and achromatic telescopes were regularly included as part of optical exhibitions. One typical show at Short’s observatory in Edinburgh promised to show the eye of a fly ‘magnified into an expanse of 12 feet, each of its many hundred pupils assuming the size of a human eye'”. Today the Camera Obscura and World of Illusions is a tourist attraction.
As part of the 8th annual Edinburgh Art Festival solo exhibitions by leading British sculptors include Anish Kapoor’s first exhibition in Scotland; David Mach at City Art Centre; Tony Cragg at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art; and Thomas Houseago at the Royal Botanic Gardens. Further exhibition include land artist Chris Drury’s account of his two-day journey across the Isle of North Uist, showing at Dovecot; Nick Sargent’s A Scottish Land, includes a large-scale, painted and embroidered site-specific canvas, at Schop, an initiative of Oliver Chapman Architects to provide a place for creative thinking, learning and the exploration of architecture and art. It is dedicated to bringing the work of artists engaged in the built environment to a wider audience. www.schop.org.uk
Images: Karen Forbes, Solar Pavilion (2011) visualisation courtesy the artist & Glo; Martin Creed, Work No.1059 (Scotsman Steps), 2011, copyright the artist. Photo: Gautier Deblonde, commissioned by The Fruitmarket Gallery for Edinburgh Art Festival.