Edinburgh Art Festival 2015 gave us the perfect opportunity to meet some of the most interesting artists featured in this year’s programme. After we presented you the work of Canadian artist Derek Besant, we now want to introduce you to Toby Paterson’s world of art. His “Thresholds” exhibition is a major part of the festival, so this gave us the perfect reason to talk to him in more detail about his work and experience. Here is what he shared with us…
Love them or loathe them, public sculptures are a key feature of most modern cities. Whether it’s to commemorate a historic event, add some aesthetic merit to a public square, or make an open space more appealing, successful public sculptures play a significant role in injecting a bit of character into their surroundings. Their importance means that getting them right is a daunting task for any artist involved in their creation.
As a species, we have a tendency towards compartmentalisation. I suspect this is due to our desire to tidy up our increasingly complicated lives; by reducing each element to easily quantifiable and therefore more readily understood parts, we exercise a greater degree of control – in theory. This trait manifests itself in our love of boxes, the squares and rectangles through which we choose to view, store, catalogue and communicate with our own, ordered version of the world; hence the expressions, “squared away”, “boxed up” and conversely, “thinking out of the box”.
The renowned surrealist artist, Rene Magritte, painted in a suit; complete with cuff links, collar and tie. He did this because he reckoned that appearing to be at one with the establishment enabled the artist to subvert society from the inside, as the cuckoo in the nest. Magritte’s approach, like that of many of his contemporaries within the Dadaist and Surrealist movements, forms an inherent part of what the modern artist does as a matter of course. The balance of power has most definitely shifted since the 19th century when gaining state approval was essential to the success of all artists; consider the struggles of Courbet, Manet et al when faced with the Academy’s selection process, for example. Art which was not approved was simply not accepted for exhibition and therefore those artists whose work was considered too radical were ostracised and thus doomed to commercial failure. Consequently, mainstream art was determined by what was considered acceptable, typically that which complied with and reinforced societal norms.
Many, many years ago I came across a recipe suggestion in a magazine that advised thrifty cooks about how they could put an out of date packet of digestive biscuits to good use; the hook being that rather than bin the soft and soggy items, the savvy chef could convert them into an economical but tasty treat. However further inspection revealed that several truffles, a specific and exclusive brand of Belgian chocolate and a couple of shots of liqueur were also involved thus elevating the cost of the recipe to that of a luxury dessert.
Sorry, but it’s a bit of a modern conceit to suggest that the concept of recycling is a contemporary invention. It isn’t. Many societies have a culture that traditionally embraces a “make do and mend “mentality. Perhaps it’s only relatively recently that we’ve allowed ourselves to slip into the belief that only the newest versions of the latest products hold any value; that second hand is second best. Could be that this was a backlash against the austerity of post war Britain that manifested itself in the economic boom of the 1960’s and then again in the early 1980’s following the economic recession in the 1970’s.