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Art Festival to visualise ‘The Improbable City’

By | Published on Saturday 1 August 2015

Sorcha Carey

Certain artistic forms tend to dominate at the Edinburgh Festival – theatre, comedy, classical music – but pretty much every genre is on show, and some in a much more prolific way than you might first think. There was always a truly impressive array of visual art at the Festival, though it was when the Edinburgh Art Festival was launched just over a decade ago that that fact became particularly apparent. And the latest edition of this particular Edinburgh festival kicked off on Thursday.

“Edinburgh Art Festival is a unique celebration of the visual arts at the heart of Edinburgh’s summer festival programme” says the festival’s director Sorcha Carey. “Founded in 2004, we are the youngest of the summer festivals, but we have already grown to become the largest annual festival of visual art in the UK”.

The festival was originally a partnership between many of Edinburgh’s year round galleries, and an opportunity for those institutions to better communicate everything that was on offer during the city’s festival month. And those galleries, and their exhibitions, remain the core of the Edinburgh Art Festival. But these are complemented by a series of original commissions too.

“Edinburgh is a city that has always felt at home in the world of fiction”, Carey says, talking about this year’s commissions. “There is something about the combination of fairytale architecture and topography that lends it a distinctly fictional quality. It provides the inspiration for this year’s programme of commissions, which explores the work of artists who conjure alternative worlds in their work”.

She goes on: “Titled ‘The Improbable City’, this programme brings together new work by seven artists each of whom offer an encounter with worlds or spaces at the limits of the probable. It includes an anarchic celebration of pagan ritual by Marvin Gaye Chetwynd, a strange tree from a fictional island by Charles Avery, as well as Hanna Tuulikki’s special duet composed for the closes situated off the Royal Mile”.

In addition to ‘The Improbable City’, the Edinburgh Art Festival also presents a series of ‘Festival Detours’. “These are intimate performances in some of our partner venues by artists from other disciplines” Carey explains, “including musicians, comedians, poets, playwrights. One of the things which marks us out from other visual art festivals is the fact that we take place alongside the world’s largest performing arts festival – we are very interested in building conversations across the artforms, and inviting different perspectives on and new audiences into the gallery”.

All of which makes for a significant programme just within this one of Edinburgh’s summer festivals. Carey’s tips for navigating what’s on offer? “Our kiosk on Blair Street is definitely the best place to start. You can get full information about the programme, read up on artists and exhibitions in the reading area, and we run free tours from there every day, which offer short introductions to the festival programme. I’d also recommend comfortable shoes – our venues are spread across the length and breadth of our beautiful city, and walking is definitely the best way to experience the programme and Edinburgh to the full”.

LINKS: edinburghartfestival.com