Between poles and tides, Kate V Robertson: Object (hood), Michael Barr: HOSTIPITALIDADE and The Torrie Collection, all coming to a close this week, have each used, appropriated and explored various facets of the University of Edinburgh’s art collection.

We spoke to Edinburgh University’s Art Collections Curator Neil Lebeter to understand the process behind building a public facing, contemporary, university collection.


The ECA final year degree show happens every summer, around the beginning of June. This is an opportunity for graduating art and design students to show case their new work, often as an amalgamation of their research and practice throughout their degree.

It is also an opportunity to get their name and practice recognised and to (hopefully) sell a few pieces. Since Edinburgh University began building a contemporary art collection, the degree show has been the first port of a call when purchasing new artworks.

Each year, a group of four to five academics attend the degree show in the hopes of scouting out exactly what they need to build upon and diversify the growing collection. This group of individuals includes both Neil Lebeter and the academic honorary curator, Gordon Brennan ever year, after that a selection of academics from across disciplines are asked to attend to help decide which artists to pick.


Introduction | JL Williams

about, Introduction, JL Williams

Originally from New Jersey, US, artist, poet and performer, JL Williams studied for an MLitt in Creative Writing from Glasgow University. Throughout her career Williams has worked across a vast array of cultural projects, from the writing of an Opera to creating workshops and performing at live poetry events.

Collaboration and performance play an important role in the development of both poetry and language within her practice. Williams has collaborated with numerous artists, poets and musicians, Iain Morris, James Iremonger, Anna Chapman and Alastair Cook to name a few. One of Williams’ most prominent collaborations throughout her career has been with artist and friend, Catherine Street, performing and writing together throughout several exhibitions and sound-performances.

This collaboration is ever-present within Between poles and tides. Whilst walking through the exhibition, visitors can listen to an emotive audio recording of Williams in an abstract and imagined dialogue with Street. This dialogue became a reality at the end of last month when the two women performed the piece in the gallery space, creating a live, poetic environment.

Lauren Hawkins, Talbot Rice Gallery Intern

The Importance of the Garden

Ian Hamilton Finlay

The following writers have focused on the importance of Finlay’s conception of the garden and the experience a viewer has within Little Sparta.

Prudence Carlson revisiting nature for Flash Art

“At every turn along Little Sparta’s paths or in its woods, language — now plaintively, now aggressively — waylays the visitor. Plaques and tablets, benches, bridges, planters, column bases or capitals, urns and more all carry words or other signage.  This language, in relation to the objects upon which it is inscribed and the landscape in which it is positioned, functions in the end metaphorically to conjure up a radical space of the mind beyond sight or touch — a space stretching, in Finlay’s poetics, as far both as the Ocean, in all its possible meanings, and as Classicism’s mythical Golden Age.”

Fiona Watson (a hopeful Little Sparta gardener) for Harper’s Bazaar

“It’s an unsettling place, both protective and disruptive. One moment you move among the birch-trees where a set of pan pipes, half hidden in leaves, tells you: ‘When the wind blows/ venerate the sound’; the next moment you meet a stone tortoise on whose shell is written ‘panzer leader’… What are people meant to make of all this paradox?”

Jonny Bruce discussing Finlay’s garden in relation to Paul Nash  for the Financial Times

“Artists have the ability to infuse landscape and gardens with meaning; to engage us more deeply and to question our preconceptions. We are very comfortable with a certain set of expectations when it comes to gardens. One such is the idea of the garden as an escape; that, whether it is from the heat of the day or a family argument, the garden is somewhere to find peace. The artist-poet Ian Hamilton Finlay had no truck with this perception, writing: “Certain gardens are described as retreats when they are really attacks.””

James Campbell reviewing a Tate exhibition for the Guardian 

“It was an important principle of Finlay’s thinking that his garden, one of the wonders of 20th-century art, was not the idyllic creation that some well-intentioned admirers mistook it for. Rather it was, like all gardens, in a permanent state of revolution. Whereas the grove may be cultivated, nature, its governing force, is wild. “Life is full of problems,” Finlay wrote… “Not least the moles, which can RUIN a good garden-poem overnight.” Violent action is required, with hoe, spade, axe – or water pistol – to preserve a state of order.”

Image Credit: Flickr/ergonomilk

Katie Paterson | Studio

artists, Katie Paterson

The concepts behind Katie Paterson’s practice take her all around the globe, transforming her studio from Berlin to nomadic at times.

For her work Future Library, she made her way up north to Oslo where a forest has been planted ready to supply the paper for 100 new texts to be printed in 100 years time, in 2114.

A secretive artwork with an uncertain future audience who will receive what could be a beautiful gift from the past.

Katie Paterson_Future Library_PRESS


artists, Katie Paterson

A mirrorball of over 10,000 solar eclipses rotates to create a sparkling progression of the eclipse across a room.

The images make up nearly every solar eclipse documented by humankind, from total through to quarter and half eclipses.


A beautiful spectacle of the sun eclipsing the moon.



Katie Paterson

Totality, 2016

A mirrorball of every solar eclipse (mixed media)

Edition of 3

83 x 83 x 83 cm

Installation view, The Lowry, Manchester, 2016




Photograph: Ben Blackall

Image courtesy the Artist/ The Lowry, Manchester/ Ingleby, Edinburgh


Katie Paterson

Paterson’s solo exhibition Syzygy (an astronomical term relating to planetary alignment) was held at the Lowry in Manchester from April to August, 2016. The exhibition involved two new commissins, ‘Totality’ and ‘Ara’, as well as the piece that brought her fame at her degree show. The artist described the exhibition as a

“…coming together of planets in space and time, and relates to how most of my work deals with Earthly time and cosmic time, and our relationship with heavenly bodies and the wider cosmos.”

For further literature

“The classical Ruskinian sublime was supposed to humble you before the awesome majesty of creation; the technological sublime, meanwhile, seeks to celebrate the power of science to bring nature to heel: the curation of creation, if you will. But despite working at scales of the utmost sublimity, Paterson is somehow doing neither of these things.” Paul Graham Raven for the New Scientist:

Paterson discusses her relationship with science and scientists as well as her childhood need for daydreaming, in conversation with Veronica Simpson for Studio International: 

“In the unrelenting pace of modern life, Katie Paterson grants us permission to pause, and, as you stand in the gallery, it is difficult to tear yourself away from the dizzying, ineffable splendour of thousands of diminutive eclipses unravelling on the walls, floor and ceiling, softly wrapping themselves around you. For just an instant, time stands still.” Melanie Vandenbrouck for Apollo Magazine:


Tuymans + Sasnal

about, artists, Luc Tuymans

A lot has been written about the relationship between the Polish artist Wilhelm Sasnal and Luc Tuymans. Both artists (each represented by Saatchi Gallery) incorporate found, banal and everyday images of mass media into a wider socio-political narrative worked into their paintings, prints and drawings. Influences from art history and 20th century propaganda are used to heavily influence their works, presenting visually fragmented appropriations of historical events and persons; the stronghold of the Soviet Union, Alexander Rodchenko, suicide bombing, the holocaust and British celebrity culture.

Tuymans + Raeburn

artists, Luc Tuymans

From a young age, Tuymans has always admired the portraits of Scottish painter Henry Raeburn (1756 – 1832).

Working with Talbot Rice Gallery, University of Edinburgh, Tuymans was given the opportunity to choose a selection of paintings by the Scottish enlightenment painter to exhibit his work with in the Gallery space.

The Arena | Luc Tuymans

Luc Tuymans

In anticipation of the exhibition Between poles and tides, Luc Tuymans gifted a series of prints of his triptych, ‘The Arena’ to the gallery.

The paintings, true to the style of Tuymans present a fragmented, and mysterious representation of everyday, human activities.

This is an exciting opportunity for the gallery to be able to both show and offer for purchase the work of an important contemporary artist practising today.

Read more details on the University’s website below:

Image courtesy of Chris Park