Charles Avery: The People and Things of Onomatopoeia (4 stars)

This article is from 2015

Charles Avery: The People and Things of Onomatopoeia

Stylish furnishings belonging to the inhabitants of Onomatopeia steal the show at Ingleby Gallery

It’s more than 10 years since Charles Avery announced that his work, hence forward, would concentrate on The Islanders, an invented world with its own people, culture and topography, part fiction, part forum for philosophical inquiry. His biggest exhibition in Scotland since exhibiting at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in 2008 occupies two floors at Ingleby, and shows that the soil of the Island is as fertile as ever.

In this show, he has set about getting under the skin of ordinary life in the main port, Onomatopoeia. It has always come alive in his drawings, and here are more: lanky youths shooting the breeze; young men catching eels (an island staple); immigrant workers hanging around the quay; fashionably dressed tourists asking for directions.

And now, to his drawings and sculpture, he adds posters, T-shirts, wallpaper, and furniture: an elegant three-sided table, a heart-shaped desk, a glass carafe in the shape of a water bird. If he wanted one, Avery could have a future in furniture design: they are beautiful, well-designed objects that collectors will adore.

It is easy to admire the complexity and richness of The Islanders project. What this show draws out is Avery’s gift with simplicity: the shimmering form of an eel made from blown glass; a simple grey wash which evokes a watery horizon; two flickering bird-shapes projected into a metal frame as an image of art.

There is also a metal tree, a specimen from Onomatopoeia’s central park, placed in Waverley Station as an Edinburgh Art Festival commission, which shares the same elegant, art nouveau-ish aesthetic as the furniture. As a body of work, it tells me two things: the more time one spends on the Island, the more interesting it becomes; and it won’t be long before a fashionable furniture store has an ‘Islanders’ range.

Ingleby Gallery, 556 4441, until 26 Sep, free.

Charles Avery: The People and Things of Onomatopoeia

  • 4 stars

A major overview of the work of the singular Oban-born artist, whose project The Islanders is ongoing.