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Gallery shows wow art festival

Two shows at the University’s contemporary art gallery are dazzling the critics and public at the Edinburgh Art Festival.

Talbot Rice Gallery is presenting new work by the artists Stephen Sutcliffe and Jacob Kerray.

Jonathan Jones, the Guardian’s art critic, said Sutcliffe’s show, Sex Symbols in Sandwich Signs, is “unlike anything else I’ve encountered in an art gallery”.

Fact and fiction

The central piece is a film that gives voice to unrequited longings expressed by two powerful creative talents from the 1960s.

It mixes the real-life story of director Lindsay Anderson’s spurned affection for the actor Richard Harris with writer David Storey’s novel Radcliffe, also about unfulfilled homosexual desire.

Sutcliffe filmed the work in the same gallery space where the work will be shown. Actors playing both Anderson and Harris and characters from Radcliffe appear, drawing parallels between the two stories and mixing fact and fiction.

"Unexpected greatness"

Anderson and Storey were regular collaborators, most notably on the director’s 1963 film adaptation of the author’s book, This Sporting Life. As director of the Royal Court Theatre, Anderson would produce nine of Storey’s plays.

A number of Anderson’s diaries are included in the exhibition, detailing his pained relationship with Harris, alongside personal photographs of the director with the actor.

In the 50th anniversary year of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality, Sutcliffe assembles a history of gay desire. Yet this is not why he deserves the Turner prize. He deserves it because he makes art into something intelligent, emotional, complex. Sutcliffe has the kind of unexpected greatness Edinburgh is all about.

Jonathan JonesThe Guardian's art critic

Glasgow-based artist Sutcliffe is also known for creating film collages from an archive of British television, film sound, broadcast images and spoken word recordings that he has been collecting since childhood.

The show also features the first public presentation of this extensive personal archive and screenings of his previous work.

Complex histories

For his show, LOOKY LOOKY, Jacob Kerray was invited to explore the University of Edinburgh Collections.

Its items’ knotted and complex history inspired his new show, which features a Milanese version of table tennis, an amphibious symbol of far right propaganda, and a vast tapestry of paintings.

The work, part of Talbot Rice Gallery’s ongoing TRG3 commissions, reflects Kerray’s interests in football, pro wrestling and historical painting. It explores themes of hierarchies, fandom, colonialism and mythology.

Paolozzi and ping-pong

Kerray has created a tapestry of paintings to dominate the curved wall in the gallery’s Round Room. This features historical figures including Saint George and Joao Havelange, the corrupt former FIFA President, alongside corporate logos from Marlboro Cigarettes and Emirates Airlines.

Colonialist maps are merged with images of the introduction of football to Kenya. The work also references John Derrick’s 1581 book The Image of Ireland, which recounts the subjugation of Irish rebels by Elizabethan forces.

An Eduardo Paolozzi plaster cast frog from the University Collections has been chosen to reflect Pepe, an internet meme that has become synonymous with far right politics.

The rules, paraphernalia and ethics of sport are key to the show. Kerray has created a table-tennis game for visitors to play. Each paddle is individually designed and the table is emblazoned with the colours and badges of Italian football rivals Inter Milan and AC Milan.

Related links

The University at the festivals

Talbot Rice Gallery

Jonathan Jones' review in The Guardian

Edinburgh Art Festival