For further proof that contemporary Scottish painting is alive and well, you could do little better than walk down the hill to Cumberland Street where in its brave little outpost of contemporary art, Amber Roome is showing the work of Andrew Mackenzie.
Roome’s stable of artists falls somewhere between the Ingleby’s big names and doggerfisher’s cutting edge, readily filling a gap in the Edinburgh art scene. Mackenzie’s work is typical of its quality and for further evidence you might wander downstairs for a group show by other gallery artists.
Mackenzie paints landscapes, but he does so in a highly original way. Like Rae, he is concerned with the intervention of man, although in Mackenzie’s case these are not the archaeological accretions of past civilisations but the more mundane, less welcome evidence of contemporary society. At first glance his images appear as nothing more than calm, sparsely evocative portrayals of single trees against a ghosted ground. Look more closely, though, and you become aware of other, more regular lines tracing a path through this wilderness. In works bearing such revealing titles as Underpass and Artificial Paradise, Mackenzie scars his landscapes with suggestions of a human presence, employing the callous precision of an architect’s blueprint. Then, with some delicacy of touch he retraces the outline of a tree with a blue line suggestive perhaps of some manufactured, creeping virus and inscribes in fine, period script the single, sinister and subversive word ‘Transmission.’
Sparsely hung to encourage our contemplation, Mackenzie’s thoughtful paintings demonstrate, like Ford’s knights, that at Festival time, as always, often the most modest of shows can yield unexpected, welcome surprises.
Scotland on Sunday, 20th August 2006