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Beneath the Surface

Sara Brennan | Michael Craik | Eric Cruikshank | Kenneth Dingwall | Callum Innes | Alan Johnston | James Lumsden | Karlyn Sutherland | Andrea Walsh


16 November 2019 to 1 March 2020

City Art Centre, 2 Market Street, Edinburgh EH1 1DE

Admission Free


This winter the City Art Centre presents Beneath the Surface, a group exhibition featuring work by nine contemporary artists based in Scotland - Sara Brennan, Michael Craik, Eric Cruikshank, Kenneth Dingwall, Callum Innes, Alan Johnston, James Lumsden, Karlyn Sutherland and Andrea Walsh. Each of them articulates a minimalist aesthetic through abstraction in their work, which ranges from drawings, paintings and constructions to ceramics, glass and tapestry. Eschewing narrative and observed reality, their artworks have an economy of gesture in common - a limited tonal palette or a monochrome colour plane.


The surface of any artwork is often the most readily accessible component. However, what lies behind or beneath the surface often deserves a closer look. With most of the artworks in the exhibition, the process of making is not hidden; in fact, making constitutes the very subject of some of them, as is the case with the works by Callum Innes, Michael Craik and James Lumsden. The layering and reduction of materials are processes that feature repeatedly in their work, used to create effects of translucency or depth, as well as to portray the passage of time. Whereas for Kenneth Dingwall the thought and reaction produced in the act of making seeks a form that carries analogies to aspects of human nature and emotion. 


For artists Sara Brennan and Eric Cruikshank, their inspiration derives from something more tangible such as nature or landscape. They use these elements as starting points, but without the intention of creating literal representations. While artists Alan Johnston, Karlyn Sutherland and Andrea Walsh are concerned with the interaction of light and shadow on surfaces and the definition of space or memory of a place.


Beneath the Surface is accompanied by an exhibition catalogue with an insightful essay on the history of Scottish abstract art by Kenneth Dingwall. The exhibition continues this narrative by showcasing a group of contemporary artists currently working in Scotland in the field of minimal abstraction.


Curator Maeve Toal said: “Artworks with such apparent simplicity sometimes attract the false perception that they require little intervention on the artist’s behalf. However, what may appear simple to the viewer, often involves restraint and extended periods of time spent by the artist contemplating, reworking and refining complex ideas and processes. I hope this exhibition will encourage visitors to take their time viewing these subtle yet intense artworks, to use their imagination, and look beyond what seems immediately obvious.”


Councillor Donald Wilson, Edinburgh’s Convener of Culture and Communities said: “We are delighted to present Beneath the Surface in our City Art Centre this winter. The exhibition will give visitors the opportunity to see the works of nine contemporary artists and how differently this theme has been explored through diverse mediums. I’m sure it is going to be captivating, and there is a fantastic range of inspired events planned to coincide with the exhibition, allowing visitors to try their hand at the techniques they’ve seen or join discussions with the artists themselves.”


Media Contact:

For further information, images or interview requests please contact Kate Bouchier-Hayes -, 07825 335 489 or Susie Gray -, 07834 073 795.


Associated Events:

Saturday 11 January 2020 | 2pm | Free

In Conversation

To accompany Beneath the Surface, Brian Robertson, curator at Zembla Gallery, will chair a discussion among five of the artists in the exhibition: Michael Craik, Eric Cruikshank, Kenneth Dingwall, Alan Johnston and James Lumsden. This is a unique opportunity to hear these contemporary artists come together to talk about their work.


Saturday 25 January 2020 | 10.30am - 3.30pm | £30

Personal Narrative & Mindful Stitch

In this workshop we will take inspiration from the artworks in Beneath the Surface and explore the meditative and mindful potential of stitch. Bring with you a picture of a place you find calming and create a tactile mini stitch journal inspired by a sense of place using fabric collage and mixed media. With artist Rachael Forbes.


Sunday 26 January 2020 | 10.30am - 3.30pm | £30

Landscape Abstractions: A Window of Memory

To accompany our exhibition Beneath the Surface, in this workshop you will develop an abstract interpretation of an important landscape to you, through drawing and experimental mark-making, masking and layering techniques. We will bring together experimental studies into a final monoprint creating your 'window of memory'. With artist Rachael Forbes.


Sunday 2 February 2020 | 10am - 4pm | £60 | Suitable for beginners and advanced students.

A line, a strip, a field of colour: Tapestry Masterclass

Inspired by the works in Beneath the Surface, this masterclass will examine how the warp and weft of woven tapestry lends itself to exploring minimalism through the quality of lines, stripes and fields of colour. Delighting in the variety and contrasting surfaces that can be achieved by weaving with a range of materials from wool to linen, cotton yarns. With tapestry artist Fiona Hutchison.


Saturday 15 February 2020 | 2pm | Free

BSL Tour

Join us for a tour of Beneath the Surface, which will have a BSL interpreter present. Please meet at the City Art Centre reception desk on the ground floor. This tour has full disabled access.


Friday 28 February 2020 | 10.30am - 3.30pm | £30

Minimalism in Focus: Subtraction & Extraction

Taking inspiration from the Beneath the Surface exhibition, this painting class looks to explore themes used by the exhibiting artists. Working on MDF board, participants will have the opportunity to consider muted line, tone, texture and repetition incorporating this into their artwork. With artist Erik Petrie.


Saturday 29 February 2020 | 10.30am - 3.30pm | £30

Ways into Abstraction: Printmaking Workshop

Inspired by the exhibition Beneath the Surface, join artist Tessa Asquith-Lamb for a printmaking workshop using simple monoprinting and relief methods. Making use of natural materials such as plant forms, stone strata, and seashells, we will consider the beauty in small things and develop initial sketches into abstract prints.


Booking is essential. To book any of these events please visit or contact the City Art Centre on 0131 529 3993.


City Art Centre:

The City Art Centre is one of Edinburgh’s main public art galleries, with a vibrant programme of exhibitions. It is also home to the City’s collection of historic and contemporary Scottish art, one of the best in the country, showcased in a series of changing displays.


Venue Details:

Address:               City Art Centre, 2 Market Street, Edinburgh EH1 1DE

Telephone:          0131 529 3993

Opening hours:  Monday to Sunday 10am - 5pm




Twitter:                @EdinCulture


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