Art to get us all fired up

Rebecca Wilson's work will feature at the show
Rebecca Wilson's work will feature at the show
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THEY’VE gone on to success in the likes of the Saatchi Gallery, their work has gone viral in blogs, they’ve had giant sculptures across Britain and they have won awards and exhibited internationally.

But the 50 artists in the latest exhibition at the City Art Centre all received an early career boost thanks to cash from an Edinburgh-based scheme.

Rebecca Wilson's Dirty Rotten Peaches piece

Rebecca Wilson's Dirty Rotten Peaches piece

The Visual Arts Awards and Craft Maker Awards have helped more than 200 artists since 2000, but it was as the fund passed its decade mark that organisers decided to invite all the past beneficiaries to submit work for a celebratory show.

The result is Reflection, which opens at the Market Street gallery next Saturday, and which features painting, sculpture, photography, ceramics, glassmaking and jewellery, all from artists with a strong Edinburgh connection.

Joint curator Maeve Toal explains: “We wanted to show the breadth of different disciplines in Edinburgh.”

Perhaps one of the highlights of the show will be ceramicist Rebecca Wilson’s pieces, including her cheeky Dirty Rotten Peaches, and a stunning chandelier made up of 100 tiny teacups with wings, on sale for £5950.

“There’s a smashed teapot on the ground below them and the idea is that these are all the souls of cups of tea which will now never be made,” explains the 29-year-old.

The piece is a revisitation of an installation from 2007 for the RSA. “My work is always about giving new life to forgotten objects, the sadness of a lost object which won’t now realise its potential,” she says.

But it is her peaches with legs which have received the most attention globally.

“They went a bit viral online,” she admits. The saucy ceramics, which are from a body of work about food and sex, have gained interest from as far away as South Korea and Hong Kong and are about to feature in a new book, Desire Behind Design.

Rebecca, who lives in Leith with husband Adam, received funding from the scheme in 2007. She moved to the city seven years ago and works at Coburg House Studios, sharing a workspace with several other ceramicists. Despite its cultural reputation and her affection for the city, Edinburgh, she says, can be a tough place to flourish in as an artist and she has often exhibited outside the Capital, including three times at the Saatchi Gallery.

“It can be difficult because they are so many artists here and such an established arts scene can be hard to break into.”

And photographer Paul Gray, another of the artists featured in the show, says the fund has been invaluable, both for himself and others. “It’s a wonderful opportunity and it’s very important for artists to have this. There’s not much money out there for artists.”

The 39-year-old, who lives in Slateford, received funding from the scheme to help with a part-time, year-long residency at Tynecastle Stadium in 2005.

“At that time we weren’t sure if Tynecastle was going to be around for much longer and there was an element of documentation there.

“It was a very different time at Tynecastle, no less turbulent but different. Having that access was just wonderful. I don’t think we would get that now.”

Two of his photographs from the residency, one pictured left, are featured in the show.

The residency opened doors for Paul, who teaches film and photography at Napier University, into a new medium. “I did a lot of video work while I was there, interviewing fans about their predictions for games. It spurred me on to work on the film side and since then I have made a few wee documentaries.” In fact, his “wee” documentaries have been featured at the Edinburgh Film Festival.

All the artists had to be working in Edinburgh to qualify for funding, which originally was for grants of up to £500, then up to £1000. But many have since spread their wings, including painter Alan Kilpatrick, who has been working at the Rabindra Bharati University in India, and who has a painting in the show.

And many of those who still live and work in Edinburgh now have a global profile, including Keiko Mukaide, well known for her giant installations such as Light of the North at Tate St Ives in 2006 and the stunning Memory of Place at St Mary’s Church in York in 2007 and 2008 – two of her glass works feature in Reflection.

Curator Maeve says: “It’s really nice to see how these people have grown and the projects that they are doing now.”

• Reflection is at the City Art Centre on Market Street from November 19 to February 12. Admission is free.