THE OPEN – SSA & VAS Together 2018 at the Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh: 29 January to 8 March, 2018

The Open is a collaborative exhibition between two of Scotland’s renowned arts organisations, the Society of Scottish Artists and Visual Arts Scotland celebrates the very best in contemporary art,  presenting commissioned work, established artists,  emerging talent and young graduates, a total of over 166 artists selected from over 2,000 submissions from around the world.

The Art School, Rebecca Bisset

The rich heritage of these two prestigious art organisations is quite extraordinary,  featuring a roll call of the most genre-busting, ground-breaking artists of the late 19th and 20th century.

Woman Running on the Beach, Picasso (1922)

The Society of Scottish Artists was founded in 1851 with the aim to show controversial and unexpected art as well as promote new artists.  In 1913 Post Impressionist paintings by Gauguin, Cezanne, Matisse and Van Gogh were on show and around a decade later, inspirational work by Picasso, Daumier and Degas.  In 1931 the SSA exhibited, for the first time in the UK, twelve canvases by the highly controversial Edvard Munch who then became a member of the Society.

Madonna, Edvard Munch (1895)

Today the SSA has a network of 800 members and continues to reflect the spirit of its founders,  showcasing innovative work at its Annual Exhibition as well as events and artists’ residencies.

Visual Arts Scotland is also a major group of national and international artists; it was originally founded in 1924 William McDougall as the Scottish Society of Women Artists to assist his daughter, Lily McDougall, a talented painter, who was not recognised in professional art circles because she was a woman.  The Society encouraged arts training and showcase work by women.

In the late 1980s it was renamed Scottish Artists and Artist Craftsmen, but then a few years later changed to the more inclusive, Visual Arts Scotland. Over the decades, artists have included Joan Eardley, Barbara Hepworth and Elizabeth Frink.

Mother and Child, Barbara Hepworth (1934)

More recently Rachel MacLean has exhibited with VAS, and who recently gained major reputation when she represented Scotland at the 2017 Venice Biennale.  (For those who weren’t able to visit Venice last year,  MacLean’s dramatic installation will be exhibited at the Talbot Rice Gallery from 24  February to 5 May 2018.)

From, “Spite Your Face”, Rachel MacLean (Venice + Scotland, 2017)

Today VAS is a multi-disciplinary organisation for painters, textile artists, sculptors, ceramicists and photographers.

“For the first time in our long histories we have joined forces, combining our expertise and experience, to create one cohesive and carefully conceived show, which we believe to be the very best in contemporary art and design. OPEN 2018 is the best possible showcase for our members, collaborators and visitors.

We believe strongly that we have created a show which everyone can be proud of: dynamic, forward thinking, courageous and beautifully presented.” 

Sharon Quigley, President SSA  and Andrew Mackenzie, President VAS

OPEN – SSA & VAS Together will draw together a most diverse range of contemporary Fine and Applied art: paintings, drawings, multimedia work, decorative design, crafts, glassware, ceramics, sculpture, jewellery, prints, photographs, video and installation projects.

Observer Cinema, Sven Werner

Highlights include OBSERVER CINEMA, the premiere of a commissioned multimedia work by international artist and filmmaker Sven Werner.  It tells the story of a man who finds he is able to recognise and inhabit the blind angles of people’s attention so he becomes an invisible man, perhaps inspired by the novel by H. G. Wells.

Concretion, architectural sculpture, William Braithwaite

This year’s Graduate Award showcase presents ten young artists from Scotland’s five leading art schools, such as sculpture by William Braithwaite, colourful kinetic jewellery by ​Isla Christie, product designs by ​Natasha Duda and Kasey Hou, painting by Annie Mulvey and printmaking by Calum Wallis. painting by Annie Mulvey and printmaking by Calum Wallis.

Funky colourful ear-rings, Isla Christie

Loch Coruisk, Alex Boyd

Làrach is a collaboration between the SSA and An Lanntair arts centre, Stornoway, a project by artists from Lewis and Harris focusing on how the landscape links closely with the language, identity, culture and history of the Hebridean islands.

This collection of artwork representing an atmospheric sense of place, is complemented by Jessica Danz’s re-scoredIcelandic documentary,  Ísland í lifandi myndum.

The inaugural Inches Carr Mentoring Award offers a valuable bursary to an artist developing their career to assist them pursue new directions, as well as providing funds for a mentor to encourage their project.

Visual Arts Scotland together with Craft Scotland, celebrates the ambitious work of three distinctive glass artists, Andrew Horsely, Carrie Fertig and Jeff Zimmer.

Decorative delicate glassware, Carrie Fertig

Glassmaker Jeff Zimmer in his studio

Engramme, an organisation in Eastern Canada promoting contemporary printmaking, works in partnership with the SSA and Andréanne Gagnon from Quebec will be featured as part of an exchange programme. “ My practice focuses on the borders between various artistic disciplines….the ambiguity.. at the limits of drawing, engraving and photography.”

Meticulous art by printmaker and photographer, Adreanne Gagnon

This showcase of Scottish and International artists offers an extraordinary opportunity to view the most imaginative, innovative and perhaps, controversial, artwork being created today.  And browsing around this carefully curated selection, you might spot a modern masterpiece akin to exciting, enlightening modern art – from Gauguin and Matisse to Eardley and Frink – exhibited by the SSA & VAS for around 170 years.

The Open – SSA & VAS Together 2018

 29 January – 8 March 2018
10am – 5pm Monday – Saturday
​12 noon – 5pm Sunday

Royal Scottish Academy
Upper Galleries
The Mound, Edinburgh EH2 2EL

N.B. Please note that a few of the images are included for illustrative purposes but may not be part of this exhibition to promote these artists – Carrie Fertig, William Braithwaite, Alex Boyd, Isla Christie, Andreanne Gagnon.


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About vivdevlin

I am an international travel writer, specialising in luxury travel, hotels, restaurants, city guides, cruises, islands, train and literary-inspired journeys. I review dance and theatre, Arts Festivals and love the visual arts. I have just experienced an epic voyage, circumnavigating the globe, following in the wake of Captain Cook, Mark Twain and Robert Louis Stevenson.

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