Covid Scotland: Edinburgh City Council buys bizarre selfies of feet in art collection inspired by the pandemic

Council chiefs are to splash out £14,000 buy up artworks inspired by the pandemic for the City Arts Centre’s collection, including 36 social distancing floor vinyls which were ‘displayed’ at a hospital.
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Members of the Committee on the Jean F Watson Bequest, which acquires contemporary Scottish art for Edinburgh’s museums and galleries, will meet on Friday (December 17) to approve the purchase of six new pieces worth a total £14,000.

Completed during the first lockdown last year, the collection – which consists of paintings, sculptural installations and photographs – was previously displayed as part of the Life Under Lockdown exhibition.

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Launched by Tonic Arts, an award-winning arts programme set up by Edinburgh and Lothians Health Foundation, the exhibition sought ‘seven visual artists across seven generations who could creatively capture living through the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown from their personal and generational perspectives’.

'Walk of Faith' by David McCulloch'Walk of Faith' by David McCulloch
'Walk of Faith' by David McCulloch

Now, curators at the City Art Centre want to purchase the artworks to collect ‘artistic responses to the current global pandemic’ to reflect the unprecedented times of the past 19 months.

One of the works, ‘Walk of Faith’ by Dundee-based artist David McCulloch, is made up of 36 floor vinyls showing the artist’s feet standing next to social distancing signage which appeared in shops, hospitals and on streets during the pandemic.

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For Life Under Lockdown, David’s vinyls went ‘on display’ along corridors in the Western General Hopital in summer this year.

'Study for a kiss #5' by Virginia Hutchison'Study for a kiss #5' by Virginia Hutchison
'Study for a kiss #5' by Virginia Hutchison

Discussing the piece, David said: “Physically my signs mimic the common ‘2m social distance’ visual signage that we now see in every building we enter. Each of my signs was a photograph taken from above showing my feet next to the shop floor signs that I encountered.

“Collectively, they form a narrative revealing my cautious entry back into society after lockdown. Each vinyl includes the date of when the photograph was taken. This indicates both the nature of my activity and my personal timeline of adjustment after an intense period of lockdown.

“The title Walk of Faith indicates both a physical and emotional encounter.Physically, it felt like every step taken when entering a shop or building couldpotentially be my last. Emotionally my trust was tested based on how much Ibelieved the instruction on the sign would keep me safe.”

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The committee is set to pay £4000 for the 36 floor vinyls plus final digital artwork.

Also mooted for the City Arts Centre’s collection is part of the ‘Study for a Kiss’ installation by Virginia Hutchison from Paisley.

Her series of copper sculptures were inspired by ideas around the sense of touch, and the fact that ‘opportunities for human contact during lockdown were much reduced,’ a report to the committee states.

It is proposed that the City Art Centre should acquire ‘Study for a Kiss #5’, one of the larger sets made up of three pairs, for £2100.

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Other pieces being put forward for purchase include two paintings by Ayrshire artist Olivia Irvine, a photographic portfolio by Norman McBeath, also from Ayrshire, and a painting unrelated to the Covid-19 collection by Donald Smith from Lewis, who died in 2014.

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