Jim McCutcheon’s Separate reviewed by A.J. McIntosh
"The title of Jim McCutcheon’s new collection is ambivalent. Separate works as both a verb and an adjective. It suggests the Edinburgh-based artist’s active intentions (to investigate, to separate the wood from the trees). And it suggests paradoxically that some quality of apartness or difference links the pieces within a coherent vision.
The artworks offered express a concentrated self-contained rumination on themes I take to include: what it means to be a solitary or social human, a man or a woman, a determined or determining physical entity, perhaps even a discerning viewer or creative artist.
A good place to begin is ‘Neutrois’, an arresting triptych featuring life-size but disturbingly unlifelike figures with unblinking glass eyes. All three are thin, pallid and hairless. A man stands on the left, a woman on the right. Both cover their genitals. Between them is a third figure, not obviously male or female and with genitals obscured behind a floating shroud or perizoma.
There are allusions here to Cranach the Elder’s ‘Adam and Eve’, in the shielded genitals, the woman’s gesture with proffered fruit and the flowering tree. But what are we to make of McCutcheon’s unEdenic, dark and unpopulated background, or of the oddly Christlike person at the centre?
The website neutrois.com does not define its subject matter with absolute finality. The term ‘Neutrois’ can describe people who self-identify as experiencing no inner sense of gender, or neither maleness nor femaleness but some other kind of gender that may be neutral or fluid.
Neutrois refuse external fixity and categorisation. They choose to be true to themselves, some taking more or less radical measures to adjust their outward appearance to match an inner reality. Such beautiful nuances and complexities of the human condition are important and of interest in their own right, and in the precise social contexts in which Neutrois find themselves today. But such questions also vividly embody Everyperson’s struggle at the interface of inner and outer being, artistic integrity and incoherence.
In this sense, McCutcheon’s attention and responses here are of universal interest. And perhaps this is where we find a clue to understanding the third figure in the ‘Neutrois’ triptych. Could it be the welcome and mysterious incarnation of a genderless and transcendent perfection?
Such mind, heart and gender-bending reassessment of our preconceptions, that ‘commonsense normality’ to which we tend to unquestioningly adhere, is evident everywhere in Separate. A kind of optimism pervades ‘Another Eden, The Broken Chain’ where the prospect of new life, a new life form emerging from the cocoon resonates with older Christian symbolism.
In ‘Masked Innocence’ the mood is more sombre. The statue of a boylike prepubescent girl stands foursquare before us, her apparent confidence belied by the deathlike blue mottling of her flesh, the disturbing addition of a mask. Has she disguised herself? Concealed herself? Or been concealed because she won’t conform? The questions multiply.
A similar child appears in ‘Let Go’, only this time bound at the waist by a rope whose other end is held by her two-dimensional painted mother. Perhaps the mother must accept her daughter’s departure from her, her emergence into three-dimensionality. Perhaps it is the child who commands the adult to let go. Or perhaps it is the mother who speaks, advises her daughter to abandon difference and separation, offers her a lifeline home.
In the series ‘Heads’, McCutcheon plays with repetition and originality, the essentially similar busts evolving in the interplay of background colours, skin tones, and mostly unexplained additions to their heads. Some of these are playful, as ‘in Yankee Doodle Dandy’. Others less so: the spread-legged woman in ‘The Morning After’ may be a crowning glory, but the smeared lipstick suggests violence as much as passion.
The drawings in this collection explore other areas of personal separation: the unnerving, otherworldly realm of ‘Sun Deity’ and ‘Night Terror’, the dreamlike destructive power of a ‘I hear a scream’. And in ‘Sshhhh’ we encounter yet another of McCutcheon’s strangely expressionless, multiply interpretable, genderless figures. This time, the person is crouched awkwardly, as if for execution. The figure enjoins us with a finger to be silent. To witness some critical cut. What will be added? What will be lost? We must all seek our own answers.
Dominating the exhibition is a second triptych, the imposing ‘Family’, which combines mythic generality and – with its sometimes heavily scored surfaces – a stark contemporary relevance. This social unit is fractured, the parents separated from each other and their child. Each appears to be the product of a dark history, the backgrounds suggesting fire, smoke-choked skies, parched landscapes traversed. The figures seem at first withdrawn, isolated, internalised refugees from trauma.
And yet read again as a whole, as a continuous narrative, then perhaps there are grounds for hope. The exhausted, perhaps violated or dead ‘Mother’ shocks and saddens at first, but appears also to reference a Deposition. Her curiously turned palms may hold stigmata, her wounded chest recalls Christ’s final piercing. And if we follow this reading from left to right, then the grieving ‘Father’ wrapped in his own lonely embrace may convey a stage of hopeless human loss and lamentation. But his journey is incomplete. The ‘Daughter’ is already at the next stage. Her life isn’t easy, she is buffeted by the wind, but she is standing. With a backward glance she seems to recognise that the sacrifice of another has made possible her rise, the opportunity for forward motion, a fresh start.
In ‘Family’ McCutcheon doesn’t flinch from modern realities, from separation as a consequence of violence and heartache. But he offers too some prospect of an overarching narrative, a hope that suffering is not meaningless even if we cannot always understand its context, that greater bonds of love and belonging may ultimately heal our wounds.
Jim McCutcheon’s Separate will show at the UNIONgallery (4 Drumsheugh Place, Edinburgh) from 5–30 April 2018, 10:30–17.30 (Mon-Sat)."
Born in Greenock, Scotland 1963.
Dundee, Scotland. BA 1st class in Fine art
The Art institute of Chicago, Illinois USA
The University of Ulster at Belfast, MA in Fine Art.
2011 – DreamWorks Design, Stills Gallery, Edinburgh.
1996-97 Digital Technology and Image Making, Tower Hamlets College, London.
1994 – City & Guilds of London Institute in Construction Services Welding Advanced.
1994 – Visiting Lecturer at the University of Ulster, MA course in Fine Art.
2013 - SSA, The Mound Edinburgh.
2012 - Studio 5, Beaverhall Edinburgh.
2011 - ‘The Scottish are Coming’, an exhibition of sculpture at the Treadwell Gallery, Aigen, Austria.
2011 - ‘Arc’, Guthrie Street, Edinburgh.
2010 - SSA Open. The National Gallery, Edinburgh.
2008 - ‘Peer Esteem’, artworks selected by artists & exhibited at the Five Years Gallery, London.
2007 - Deutsche Bank, group exhibition of 5 artists at the Banks London Headquarters.
2006 - ‘Technology of Enchantment’, Meniere Gallery, London.
2004 - ‘Granville House’, Performance & exhibition in a block of 8 residential flats, Brixton, London.
2004 – Warrior Open, warrior artist collective, Camberwell, London.
2003 – Urban Arts Project, street Installations, Lambeth, London.
2003 – ‘0-2’, site specific installation, Cellar Gallery, The Mall, London.
2002 – ‘Static’, group exhibition in disused Government building, Whitehall, London.
2001 – Neilson & Wuethrich International Fine Art, Thun, Switzerland. Exhibition of 6 European Artists.
2001 – Warrior Open, warrior artist collective, Camberwell, London.
2000 – Solo exhibition at Alba Art Space, Hackney, London.
1999 – ‘Add’, group exhibition at Catherine Grove, New cross, London.
1997 – ‘Rant’, with performance artist Jack Blackburn, Brixton, London.
1997 – Lighthouse, Docklands,London
1996 – ‘Logo’, solo exhibition of installation works in Belfast city centre. Sponsored by Flax Arts, Belfast, N.Ireland.
1995 – Underwood Street Gallery, London.
1995 – ‘Passages’, installation work at Castlefield Market, Manchester.
1995 – ‘Accorochage’,Gallerie zur alten deutschen Schule, Thun, Switzerland.
1994 – ‘Reclaim’, Sculpture project in Manchester sponsored by SIGMA Arts.
1994 – ‘Flicker’, Artists Happening with Exploding Cinema, Disused swimming pool, Brixton, London.
1993 – Whitechapel Open, Whitechapel gallery, London.
1992 – ‘Network’, Group exhibition at Grants Arts Space, Chicago, USA.
1991 – Catalyst Arts, Group exhibition, Belfast N. Ireland.
1990 – ‘Nine’, Slaughterhouse Gallery, London & Irish Life Gallery Dublin, Ireland.
William Armstrong Davidson Prize
Scottish Education Travelling Award
Duncan of Drimfork Travelling Scholarship
Elizabeth Greenshield Award.
Pat Holmes Memorial Prize
University of Ulster Travelling Award
London Arts Council Grant
Digital Technology & Image Making Award
Westminster Council Sponsorship Grant
2013 Jim McCutcheon - Vessels & Linda Downie -Vital (Book)
2011 – Interview by LT1 television News, art and culture, Austria.
2003 – Variant Arts Magazine
1996-2000 Territories Magazine. London arts & Literature publication, contributing articles and art work in all issues.
1992-96 My Prime, arts & Literature zine. Contributing articles and co-illustrator.
1996 – Interview by BBC radio Ireland.
1990 – BBC News, N.Ireland.
Chicago Art Institute, print room, public collection, USA.
369 Gallery Edinburgh.
Private collections in Austria, Ireland, U.K, USA, Mexico & Denmark.
Sweden and Austria in 2014 & 2015.
Established to bring the very best of the contemporary art scene to the public view, and to offer the finest service to buyer and artist alike, UNIONgallery is a gallery with a...
These are just a few of our forthcoming exhibitions. Click on the titles to find out more, or visit the Exhibitions page to see what else is coming soon.
Henry Jabbour at the UNIONgallery
12 March 2017
Like many others locally, we’ve missed the Union Gallery since its removal from Broughton Street to larger premises on Drumsheugh Place.
A visit to the West End on Friday showed that Union’s owner Alison Auldjo has lost none of her knack for finding and nurturing great new talent, most recently that of Henry Jabbour.
Jabbour came late to painting, and was already a successful scientist with the Medical Research Council by the time he joined Leith School of Art in 2005. Consumed by this new calling, he became a full-time artist two years later.
This Life to Me is his first solo exhibition, and it’s a phenomenally successful debut.
By Eleanor Duffy
Photo - Colin Hattersley
An Edinburgh scientist is to open his first solo art exhibition after leaving behind his career to follow his dream.
Henry Jabbour worked for nearly 20 years in the Medical School at Edinburgh University but quit in 2010 to pursue his love of art full-time.
Despite training to be a biologist, Henry found his true calling in painting and has since studied at Leith School of Art in Edinburgh and the New York Academy of Art.
His prints and portraiture work have won praise in the art world and he is now preparing for the launch of his first solo exhibition this weekend.
A solo exhibition by Jenny Matthews: UNIONgallery – a bouquet of fragrant flowers
6 September 2016
UNIONgallery is owned and managed by contemporary artist Alison Auldjo. Originally opening on Broughton Street in 2009, the stylish new premises at the West End has the ideal space and design over two floors to show solo exhibitions, mixed collections, crafts and sculpture. The emphasis is on showing work from established painters who do not exhibit in Scotland, to exciting new Scottish and international talent.
Jenny Matthews studied at Edinburgh College of Art under Elizabeth Blackadder DBE, John Houston and Ann Oran, graduating in 1986. Since then, she has earned a fine reputation as an accomplished watercolourist, exhibiting in the UK and abroad.
Stepping into the Uniongallery to see her new solo exhibition, ‘Sapphire Skies,’ is like taking a stroll across country meadows and along the seashore, so tangible that you can almost smell the fragrant flowers. The soft shades of pinks, mauve, coral red and corn yellow, capture their natural beauty and texture, from beautifully arranged vases and bouquets to land and seacapes and decorative still life compositions.
Here are the first buds of Spring and Summer gardens, a flourish of sweet peas, irises and parrot tulips, as well as pretty thrift and lichen sprouting along the rocky shore at St. Abbs. The artistry is exquisite, meticulous botanical drawings, detailing each petal, stamen, puffs of pollen and green leaf, enhanced through the subtle tone and translucent quality of watercolour.
16 August 2016 Adam Barclay
UNIONGallery, 4 Drumsheugh Pl, Edinburgh
Exhibition continues until September 12
Open Monday to Saturday 10.30am – 5.30pm
The UNION Gallery had their first solo exhibition launch at their new premises on Drumsheugh Place this week, and what a strong first impression it was! The new space, previously a low ceilinged charity shop, is unrecognisable as a classic Edinburgh gallery, resplendent with cornicing and high ceilings! It makes for a fantastic space to show off the works of award-winning water-colourist Jenny Mathews in her third solo exhibition.
The pieces on display are varied in style and dimension but all share a distinctly high quality and impressive artistic feel. With several pieces having been reserved even as they were being hung, it was obvious that Jenny’s work is in high demand. Large works to tie whole rooms together were displayed, alongside horizontal sets, unusual for the artist, and smaller high-detail pieces. Jenny studied botanical illustration under Dame Elizabeth Blackadder and the inspiration is clear in her work, supremely detailed botanical images but with a clear style of her own.
17 July 2016
When Alison Auldjo began converting a former charity shop into the second incarnation of the Union Gallery, removing a lowered ceiling and turning a pokey back storage room into a well-lit stairwell, she knew exactly the picture she wanted in the space. It was Phil Braham’s Ophelia Bathing, a painting she had seen in the Scottish Gallery a few years ago, when it was ‘best in show’ but went unsold. “I went to see him to tell him about the new place, ‘Phil, come and see the space, you will see exactly what I mean about your painting’,” she said. The work uses a backdrop from the Water of Leith; Ophelia is bathing, not drowning, It is unobtrusively thought-provoking: the bather’s shoulders above smooth water, calmly swimming a ladylike breast-stroke, in a moment of reflection, before Hamlet stirs things up.
Auldjo put a second considerable picture by Braham in the window of her gallery for its reopening a few weeks back. The work, 21st Century Sublime, shows rolling hills around a Scottish valley cloaked in misty skies, the kind of view you’d find coming down from a Munro, but Graham’s last touch was to put a fighter jet flicking across it. “We have all seen scenes like that in the Highlands. It’s eery, it’s quite bleak, but it’s beautiful,” said Auldjo. My first ill-thought guess is Glencoe; but it’s more the gentler landscape of Aviemore, where two low-flying planes roared past on a recent walk, their sound gathering behind them.
When Auldjo closed the Union Gallery in Broughton Street, after seven years on a wonderfully prominent corner of one of Edinburgh’s couthiest streets, I had wondered if she would really be back. There are too many stories of galleries that seem to wilt under pressure: in Edinburgh the old Doggerfisher, the recently downsized Ingleby Gallery, in London the impact of skyrocketing real estate. I’ve heard old dealers lately saying traditional Scottish art markets are dead, and artists facing hard times, though that is not exactly new.
16th August 2017
Kevin Low is an artist living and working in Glasgow, his new exhibition Women & Men is currently on show at the Union Gallery in Edinburgh.
What drives your passion – when did you know that art is what you wanted to do?
It’s an obsession. It’s something I have to do, or I get sick. I hesitate to say that because I think that’s how most artists feel. I don’t have a choice. That makes it sound like it’s a chore, like being bullied by the subconscious, but nah, it’s a bloody thrill, every time. There is nothing better in the world than creating stuff.
As a kid, I grew up on a farm. I expected to become a cattleman, I really did. It was a very small world. I think it was pop music that gave me that first buzz in my gut, that invitation to step away from the ‘real world’. Mr David Bowie, I owe you a lot.
You trained initially as a biologist and worked as a scientist, has this part of your past influenced your current art practice of painting people?
I am sure it has but sometimes it is very difficult to pinpoint how.
I firmly believe that the way I look at, and my empathy towards, the human figure is hugely influenced and informed by my past experiences (being brought up in Lebanon at the time of the civil war) and my subsequent education.
Photo - Colin Hattersley
Dennis the Dog and his new best friend, artist Henry Jabbour, would like you to have a look at the Scots Magazine's website. There's a tremendous photo of Dennis there, and something about a great new exhibition. But the photo of Dennis is just the bestest thing ever!
While we admit we're a little biased, we have to agree with the Scots magazine (and Dennis) - this is a great exhibition of exquisite works by Henry Jabbour, and you really shouldn't miss it!
Read the full article at the Scots Magazine website
The exhibition will open on September 4th at the Union Gallery in Edinburgh. With a selection of new paintings and wrought iron sculpture, James invites viewers to look and, as the show’s title suggests, see, through the eyes of the characters in his created world. Using his distinctive and very direct style, the artist reflects on his own experience of life in the Highlands and Islands.