Five Easy Steps through the Edinburgh Art Festival
The Edinburgh Art Festival is the platform for the visual arts at the heart of Edinburgh’s August festivals. Each year, the Festival features leading international and UK artists alongside the best emerging talent, major survey exhibitions of historic figures, and a special programme of newly commissioned artworks that respond to public and historic sites in the city – with the vast majority of exhibitions and events are free to attend. To work your way through the programme, you just need to follow these five easy steps.
Start with the Ambitious Commissions
Every year the Festival supports artists to make new and ambitious projects which engage with the extraordinary context of Edinburgh in August. Presented principally in public spaces, these commissions allow access to overlooked or neglected parts of the city’s heritage, resulting in a growing programme of permanent works for the city including - : Bobby Niven, Palm House, 2017; Graham Fagen, A Drama in Time, 2016; and Martin Creed, Work No.1059, 2011. This year, marking the 200th anniversary of the Union Canal, the programme takes inspiration from ‘The Wave of Translation’, a scientific phenomenon discovered in Edinburgh.
- Finding Buoyancy explores ways that we can connect to the natural environment to help us stay buoyant in uncertain times - featuring a set of publicly sited sails at Bridge 8 Hub and Paddle Café; a community raft (Float For The Future ); and a canal-based performance produced with local people in collaboration with Rhubaba Choir
- Montreal-based First Nations artist Nadia Myre will present Tell Me of Your Boats and Your Waters – Where Do They Come From, Where Do They Go? exploring reference points spanning Scotland and Canada, migratory routes starting on the canal, indigenous storytelling, archival research methods, pattern, prose and song lyrics.
- The Community Wellbeing Collective present Watch this Space, a space for all to develop together and to experience what community wellbeing is and could be, hosting activities and gatherings, alongside weekend events by invited guests
Then Explore the City’s Galleries
The Edinburgh Art Festival was founded through an ambitious partnership of galleries committed to ensuring that high quality presentations of visual art remained at the core of Edinburgh’s summer festival experience. This partnership remains at the core of the Festival, and is reflected in the rich programme of exhibitions developed for the Festival each year. Presented across leading national institutions, internationally recognized contemporary art galleries and artist run spaces, it offers a chance to discover work by some of the very best historic and contemporary artists from Scotland, the UK and beyond. Amongst some of the highlights from the extensive programme for this year are:
- Representing Japan at the 2005 Venice Biennale, Ishiuchi Miyako (Stills, 29 July – 8 October) will present her first solo show of photography in Scotland
- Tracey Emin will present her second ever solo show in Scotland since 2008, featuring the unveiling of a large bronze sculpture, paintings and drawings (Jupiter Artland, 28 May – 2 October)
- Barbara Hepworth’s life work comes into focus in an exhibition brought to Edinburgh with The Hepworth Wakefield, Tate St Ives and National Galleries of Scotland (Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Modern 2, 9 April – 2 October)
- The first major survey of Céline Condorelli in the UK will take place bringing the outdoors into the gallery space (Talbot Rice Gallery, 25 June – 1 October).
- Recent acquisitions by the National Galleries of Scotland in New Arrivals: From Salvador Dalí to Jenny Saville (Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Modern 1, until Spring 2023)
Before Moving on to the Associate Artist programme
The Associate Artist Programme at Edinburgh Art Festival exists to ignite a collaboration between multiple artists working across different disciplines. This year, the Associate Artist is Glasgow-based Emmie McLuskey who will lead a programme of artists in responding to the rich site of the Union Canal between Lochrin Basin and Wester Hailes, in a series of commissions that explore environment, translation and gentrification. Featuring work from Hannan Jones, Janice Parker, Maeve Redmond, and Amanda Thomson, McLuskey has brought together Channels – a multidisciplinary programme exploring the Union Canal and its complex relationship to the people and ecosystem of Scotland. Taking in performance, print work, archival research, and audio, Channels allows this year’s attendees to garner a better understanding of the history and future of the Union Canal – which here functions as a representation of Edinburgh’s complex relationship with capitalism, community, and the natural world. Amongst the artworks are:
- An aural artwork Through which allows listeners to move through the riverbed of the canal, reassessing their understanding of the natural world’s relationship to the human world.
- A dance work whose choreography will lean into the sensory elements of the Union Canal – its smells, sounds, textures – to investigate the role movement plays in our relationship to the natural world
- A visual display of two sign paintings using a traditional technique which honours the labour which allowed for the Canal to function as a key feature of the city for centuries.
- A prontwork which explores notions of home, movement, migration, and landscape and allows visitors to navigate the Union Canal through its flowers.
Discovering the Next Generation
Since 2015 the Festival has presented an annual Platform showcase, which has supported over 30 early-career artists, selected each year from an open call by an invited panel of judges, to create new work to present in a group exhibition during the festival. At the French Institute for Scotland – the festival’s headquarters on the Royal Mile – Platform: 2022 will showcase another exciting cohort of emerging visual artists working in Scotland. Featured works include:
- In Saoirse Amira Anis’ video and textile installation, she taps into her dual heritage by using materials and plants from Moroccan and Scottish cuisines to explore rituals of sharing, and the generosity of love provided by the hands.
- Processing the complexities of illness, Emelia Kerr Beale explores the mythology surrounding an ancient oak tree through an installation of knitted garments, print work and video.
- Engaging with the materiality and physicality of paintings as objects, Lynsey MacKenzie’s work explores ideas of time, repetition, and memory, through shifting planes of colour, gesture, and scale.
- Through a series of cast lambs in varying states of partial collapse or erosion, Jonny Walker explores the multiplicity and temporality of the body.
And Finally, Joining Some of the Many Events
Most of the commissions and exhibitions are free to attend at any time during August, but every year the Festival also programmes a selection of one-off special events that often require booking and tickets. Amongst the many events this year are:
- Art Late: Each year, this unique evening showcase hosts live performance, artists’ talks and tasters, celebrating the breadth of the festival programme – and it returns this year with two special events, one in person and one online.
- Keynote Lecture: Dutch visual artist Jeanne van Heeswijk locates her commission for Wester Hailes in the context of her wider practice, and offers an insight into the Community Wellbeing Collective which presents its first iteration as part of the festival Commissions Programme.
- Union Cana Walking Tours: Taking place Every Wednesday during the festival these tours will lead you along the picturesque canal exploring Edinburgh’s industrial history and the importance of the canal to the city.
The Edinburgh Art Festival runs from 28 July to 28 August and you can browse the full programme HERE or download a PDF of the programme HERE.
Main Image Credit: Sally Jubb Photography