As part of the 2016 Edinburgh Arts Festival, Owen created his first site specific work, transforming a 19th century sculpture of a nymph. Housed within the Burns Monument on Calton Road, the sculpture reflected the neo-classical temple surrounding it, echoing the homes of similar antique deities from long ago. Owen’s “anti-monumentalising” effect on the sculpture further echoes the history of the space: the removal of the Robert Burns sculpture that once stood in this nymph’s place effectively transformed the memorial into an anti-monument itself, mostly closed to the public, its purpose lost.
Jonathon Jones for the Guardian described the uncanniness of the sculpture: “Something is wrong. Her slender body is harmonious enough to please the most Enlightened philosopher, but her throat is missing. […] Closer up, the horror and disturbance grow.” Yet there was also a great beauty, elegance and poignancy in the nymph’s somewhat lonely position, up on that hill. The sculpture is the first female figure the artist has worked his magical defacement on, using it to subvert the traditional view of the male gaze that once weighed on her.
Read the Guardian Review of the 2016 Art festival here: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/aug/03/edinburgh-art-festival-review-jonathan-owen-douglas-gordon-joseph-beuys-scottish-endarkenment