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Vivid and virtual reality in new art shows

The University’s Talbot Rice Gallery is hosting the first solo exhibition in Scotland of the important American artist, Alice Neel (1900-1984).

Her uncompromising and starkly real portraits of her family and characters on society’s fringes are at the heart of the show, The Subject and Me, which is part of the Edinburgh Art Festival.

Hartley and Andrew, 1983 (Oil on Canvas, 121.9x86.3cm)
Hartley and Andrew, 1983 (Oil on Canvas, 121.9x86.3cm)

A colourful life

The art establishment largely overlooked Neel for most of her career. She only garnered critical acclaim and actual sales in her 70s.

Her bohemian lifestyle in New York brought her into contact with the Beat Poets, the artist Andy Warhol and the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe.

A Mapplethorpe portrait of Neel, taken weeks before her death, is part of the exhibition.

A tenacious determination

Gallery 1 features a series of her paintings, all done directly from life. They include portraits of her children and grandchildren and the characters in her social circle, including the philanthropist Stewart Mott in a kilt.

Gallery 2 presents drawings and watercolours spanning 50 years of her career. Produced from life, memory, nightmares and dreams, they depict scenes and actors from the darkest chapters of her turbulent life.

It is an honour to host this exhibition at the University Gallery. Despite poverty, failed relationships and creative obscurity Alice Neel had a tenacious determination throughout her life, totally committed to art. At a time when abstract expressionism was the definition of American art she championed figurative painting, seeing herself as a chronicler of her life and times. She had great humanity and paved the way for many women artists to follow.

Pat FisherPrincipal Curator of the Talbot Rice Gallery

Jess Johnson - Eclectrc Panoptic

In contrast with Neel’s dedication to traditional figurative portraiture, the Gallery’s second show features a virtual reality experience using cutting-edge immersive technology.

Eclectrc Panoptic is the first solo European show of New York-based artist Jess Johnson.

Johnson creates highly detailed drawings of alternative realms, densely layered patterns, and bizarre figures. The show is heavily informed by her love of science fiction, specifically the filmmaker and comic book writer Alejandro Jodorowsky and Frank Herbert’s book Dune.

We Dream Of Networks, 2016 Pen, fibre tipped markers and gouache on paper 76 x 56 cm
We Dream Of Networks, 2016 Pen, fibre tipped markers and gouache on paper 76 x 56 cm

Virtual reality installation

Part of Electric Panoptic is a virtual reality animation Ixian Gate. Created in collaboration with artist Simon Ward, it uses an Oculus Rift headset to turn Johnson’s drawings into an immersive three-dimensional world.

The show is part of the Gallery’s TRG3 programme showcasing emerging artists, the Edinburgh Art Festival and the Edinburgh Digital Entertainment Festival.

Alice Neel - The Subject and Me & Jess Johnson - Eclectrc Panoptic

Entrance FREE

Friday 29 July - 8 October 2016

Open daily 10.00am - 5.00pm (12pm-5pm on weekends)

Talbot Rice Gallery, The University of Edinburgh, Old College, South Bridge, Edinburgh, EH8 9YL