Ross Sinclair: 20 Years of Real Life (4 stars)

This article is from 2014

Ross Sinclair: 20 Years of Real Life

Photo: Tom Nolan

Inspiring mixed-media exhibition on Calton Hill, part of GENERATION and Edinburgh Art Festival 2014

Twenty years ago, Ross Sinclair had the words ‘Real Life’ tattooed on his back, and ever since then his work has been an overt process of trying to figure out what these words mean. In this GENERATION show there appear to be no conclusions, but certainly there’s a sense that Glasgow School of Art graduate and lecturer Sinclair hasn’t chosen interests that are external to him to compile this work. Crammed into the vaulting old City Observatory dome at the top of Calton Hill, it seems explicit that these mounds of pop cultural ephemera are integrally tied to Sinclair’s own self-image, much like the tattoo he decided to wear when he was a younger man.

The space is crowded. On one wall a large banner curves, reading ‘100 Years of Real Life’ and marking out dates from 1994 to 2094. Sinclair and his tattoo are unlikely to be around then, but in the mechanics of this show a sense of immortality is hinted at. Surrounding the banner and crowding it in on the wall are the results (or possibly demonstration attempts painted by Sinclair) of daily ‘paint what you think’ sessions using the materials provided. ‘The best thing I ever made was a mess,’ says one, tellingly.

Elsewhere stands a podium decked with instruments and a stage with more guitars and drums plugged in. This sub-installation is the nub of the project: the instruments will be given away to 20 teenagers who commit to form five bands at the end of the exhibition, with Sinclair and others mentoring the groups afterwards. It’s a loveable and certainly useful idea, which clearly plays upon Sinclair’s thoughts on his own mortality and the purpose of his work. What is his art for? This show tentatively posits that we create to encourage others to create.

Collective Gallery, 556 1264, until Sun 31 Aug, free.

Ross Sinclair: 20 Years of Real Life

  • 4 stars

New work as well as a look back at the career of an artist concerned with identity – personal, collective, cultural, national and international. It also inaugurates a project whereby Sinclair will work with new bands whose members have been born in the last 20 years.