Art magazines: Bernat Klein | Hanna Lim | Catherine Boulanger | Ade Adesina | Outer edge
Bernat Klein: Design in Colour, National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh ****
Hannah Lim: ornamental mythologies, Edinburgh engravers ***
Catherine Baker: Edinburgh Engravers Outfit ***
Ade Adesina: Parallel, Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh ****
Outer edge, Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh ****
Bernat Klein brought a bit of Bauhaus to the borders and from his base near Galashiels became an internationally renowned designer. He marked the era, especially in women’s fashion of the 1960s, but also later through other branches of design. In all of this, color was key. “Clothing and color are at least as important as food and drink,” he wrote, “but perhaps nearer, in source and in the senses they satisfy, to music, poetry and paint”. He was himself a painter as well as a designer and the colors of the Borders were a key part of his inspiration.
Klein was born in 1922 to an Orthodox Jewish family in what was then Yugoslavia and now Serbia. A new exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland marks its centenary. The exhibit is drawn from the museum’s extensive archives, but also includes samples of fabrics and costumes from other collections. Brushed mohair was his invention and signature fabric and among the items on display is the 1963 brushed mohair Chanel suit which was his haute couture breakthrough. In 1965, he opened his own showroom in Paris. A press clipping notes that no less than 18 of her fabrics will be present in couture collections that year.
In 1940, probably to get him out of Europe, Klein had left Yugoslavia to study at the Bezalal School of Arts and Crafts in Jerusalem. There he was taught by Mordecai Ardon. From 1920 to 1925 Ardon had been taught by people like Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky at the Bauhaus. He in turn transmits to his own students their radical ideas on design.
After the Bauhaus, Ardon was also taught by Max Doerner, painter and color theorist. So when Klein went to study textile technology in Leeds in 1945, he already had some very new ideas in his metaphorical satchel. The textile business brought him to Scotland and in 1952 he and his new wife Margaret Soper established a textile business, Colourcraft, in Galashiels.
Klein painted abstract images in bold blocks of color and might have had a minor place in the history of post-war abstraction. His interest seems to have focused mainly on color harmonies and his painting influenced his textile design. A master of color, he compiled what he called his “five thousand pieces” color chart dictionary. Paintings and textiles placed side by side testify to a close relationship. Indeed, one of his remarkable innovations, random or spatial dyeing combining different colors in a single yarn, could be seen as translating paint directly into wool. By mixing, the constituent colors generate other colors creating the wonderful rainbow effect of its fabrics. He also invented a velvet tweed with a texture even closer to his paintings. applying his ideas, not only to what was fashionable, but to what suited the individual woman, Klein also developed a personal color guide based on eye color with the aim, no doubt, that the customer finds appropriate color matches in her fabrics.
However, fashion changed and Klein moved on. He branched out into printed fabrics and interior design. High Sunderland, his modernist, flat-roofed, square and fully glazed house, designed by Peter Womersley, was a pioneer in this field and he went on to run a highly successful design consultancy. His wife Margaret also marketed clothing and knitting patterns. The business they ran together had an extraordinary reach, from international haute couture to home and at home. It was completely in the spirit of the Bauhaus.
Ornamental Mythologies Among Edinburgh Engravers Hannah Lim is an exhibition of prints, small colored objects and larger sculptures in painted and laser-cut wood. In her accompanying text, the artist discusses the exploration of color in her work and cites as inspiration an idea she attributes to David Batchelor: the fear of color as the feminine permeates Western culture. . It’s a rather difficult idea to reconcile with Klein’s work, or even with the great tradition of Western painting from which it stems. Lim’s iconography includes dragons and lions and, as the title suggests, the whole thing has a vague flavor of chinoiserie. This reflects, she says, her exploration of her own mixed heritage coming from Singapore. Everything is colorful, but not very bold. Maybe she could take a lesson from Klein.
Held in the Upper Gallery at Printmakers is a show of primarily photographic prints by Catherine Boulanger. She works in a cross between art and health, not art therapy, as one might suppose, but, it seems, rather art as observation. The most interesting part of her show is a text exploring an analogy between the growth of trees and the curvature of the spine in adolescents, the medical field in which she obviously has expertise.
His carvings, mostly of trees and hands with occasional bits of wood incorporated throughout, however, don’t really make sense except as illustrations to this text. What she does is clearly admirable, but in this context, surely the images must take precedence and the text only illuminates them, not the other way around?
There’s nothing so elusive Ade Adesina‘s linocuts at RSA. He made something quite new out of this simple medium, creating intricate and intricate images often on an enormous scale. There are elements of his African heritage in his iconography, notably his favorite baobab tree, and there are also comments on ecology and the serious state of the natural world, but it is really the strength of his images that is so revealing.
Still at RSA, Outer edge is an international collaboration of four artists, Hongshen Ju and Professor Xu Yun from China and Kate Downie and Helen Goodwin from the UK. Their collaboration first grew out of Helen Goodwin’s time in China. However, Kate Downie, who has always worked a lot with ink on paper, also took an ink painting course in Beijing. The foursome collaboration began with a shared residency in Carsaig Bay on Mull in 2019. The pandemic prevented the planned reciprocal residency in China from taking place and so the collaboration went live.
The four artists are interested in the landscape, not as a passive thing, but as a reflection of our living and changing environment. Their works have a real affinity and the results of their interaction are impressive. Downie’s luminous watercolors of sky and water are echoed in the beautiful brushwork of the two Chinese artists, especially when she paints on linen. Their work in turn seems to be deeply in sympathy with Goodwin’s moody photographs of rocks and sea, or a brilliantly apt photo of India ink dissolving in the water of the Atlantic Ocean, or simply photographed as she spreads out on a sheet of Xuan paper. , an ancient Chinese paper popular with calligraphers and brush painters.
Bernat Klein until April 23, 2023; Hannah Lim and Catherine Baker until November 20; Ade Adesina and Outside Edge until November 13