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Generation 2014 takes a tour south-west

Thanks to a certain major sporting occasion that's taking place in Glasgow this summer, numerous artistic games are being played out along the highways and byways of Scotland in 2014.

Generation, a celebration of the last 25 years of Scottish contemporary art, will showcase the work of more than 100 artists in 60-odd venues.

This weekend, the action is in the south west, as SXSW 2014 - a partnership between the Dick Institute in Kilmarnock, Gracefield Arts Centre in Dumfries and the Maclaurin Galleries in Ayr - brings together existing work by Darvel's Christine Borland, Irvine's Graham Fagen, and Matthew Dalziel and Louise Scullion (the former grew up in Cumnock, while his partner in life and art is from Helensburgh). All four artists are at the vanguard of the generation that's celebrated in this epic project.

Dalziel + Scullion's contribution to SXSW's Kilmarnock leg (other works are on show at the other venues) can be found in the upper gallery of the Dick. This utterly changed space, which from childhood visits I associate with ancient paintings, is temporary home to The Earth Turned To Bring Us Closer, a large video projection originally shown at Kelvingrove in 2006. It's a thoughtful and beautiful film that reveals a series of still and silent faces of all ages, creeds and colour, tracked by the camera's beady eye as they stand stock-still against a variety of bustling Glaswegian backdrops.

Its soaring soundtrack by Scottish composer Craig Armstrong stopped me in my tracks. Against a back wall are four smaller monitors showing four films, including the genius-tinged Scratch, which depicts a wolf roaming wild around the corridors of Glasgow School of Art's Mackintosh Building.

In the lower gallery, Graham Fagen has various works on show dating back to 1998. The oldest is Weapons, which recreates an armoury from childhood and includes a finger sling, a blow pipe, a 'pish balloon' and a crossbow - all documented as though they were serious museum pieces.

The most recent work is his 2009 collage Heads Of Scotland, which presents a comically monstrous melange of prominent figures from that moment in Scotland's history. Fagen works across several disciplines, including sculpture, drawing, photography and filmmaking, and will be representing Scotland at the 2015 Venice Biennale. He describes his time growing up in Castlepark as being central to the way he started to make sense of the world.

There's a chippiness to Fagen's work that complements the hard-edged, fragile beauty of Christine Borland's creations. Her oldest work on show here is a 1991 piece from East Ayrshire's collection entitled Detail Nothing But The Whole Truth, Detail. Made from laminated glass sheets with wooden supports, it was first seen in Germany and has not been shown in public for almost two decades.

The creation and cycle of life and the frailty of human existence are recurring themes in Borland's work. Many aspects relate to the rich industrial heritage of Ayrshire's textile industry, and visitors to the Dick will be impressed by Daughters Of Decayed Tradesmen, a majestic piece which takes the lace-making industry of Darvel as its starting point. This vast artwork, punched with binary holes and imbued with the DNA of the town's industrial heritage, hangs from the rafters in the ground-floor gallery of the Dick.

It's easy to knock a major initiative like Generation, especially when it features contemporary art which might be construed as "difficult". I've read criticism that the project ignores artists working in more traditional mediums or the older generation who effectively paved the way for the group of featured artists. But for me, on a wet Wednesday in my old home town, thanks to Dalziel + Scullion, I felt the Earth turn to bring us all that little bit closer...

Generation SXSW 2014: Christine Borland, Graham Fagen and Dalziel + Scullion, Dick Institute, Kilmarnock until August 16; Gracefield Arts Centre, Dumfries, May 10-July 5; Maclaurin Art Gallery, Ayr, May 17-July 13

www.generationartscotland.org

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