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Review: 188th RSA Annual Exhibition, RSA Building, Edinburgh

188th RSA Annual Exhibition:

Focus On Film

RSA Building

Until May 4

The Mound, Edinburgh

The Royal Scottish Academy's annual exhibition always presents an avalanche of creative outpourings. This year is no exception. To do it justice, I'd recommend several visits, not to mention investing in a wee cushion upon which you can park your posterior as you watch the many and varied films on show as part of Focus On Film, curated by Ronald Forbes and Charles Hussey.

There are 361 individual artworks to be seen in the RSA building and I confess I only scratched the surface during my visit. The range and breadth is breathtaking. Seek and ye shall find paintings, sculpture, film, printmaking, photography and installations sit side by side with work by some of the country's leading architects.

The RSA may be a venerable art body with the weight of history on its shoulders, but there's nothing traditional about what's on offer. One artist, Derrick Guild, has even created a dual portrait of Trainspotting star Ewen Bremner - one a film made on an iPad, the other a traditional iPad-sized delicate oil portrait on linen.

There's wonderful new material to be discovered, including Sam Firth's headline-grabbing 14-minute-long film, Stay The Same, which sees her standing on the same spot by a sea loch in Knoydart at the same time every morning for a year. I loved it. A mix of self-portrait, still life and landscape, it was fascinating to watch how the scene - and the firth - changed in this speeded-up picture of a year.

Another not-to-be-missed film is the psychedelic LolCats, by Margaret Tait Award-winner Rachel Maclean. I remember seeing her degree show at Edinburgh College of Art in 2009 and being rooted to the spot by the sheer originality of her work. She's still pulling white and pink rabbits out of that hat.

From artists fresh out of art school to veterans such as Alan Davie, in looking around, I was reminded of the words of Derek Clarke, an RSA academician who died earlier this year at the age of 101. When I interviewed him in late 2012 ahead of an exhibition at here of his paintings spanning nine decades, he told me, "creative people will find avenues for their creativity".

He was talking about the future of painting - which he predicted would "play itself out within 50 years" - but he seemed genuinely excited by newer forms of art which were being created in art schools and beyond. There are three paintings by Clarke on show and they display a virtuosity which, if his prediction is correct, will all but disappear in the future. One is of his wife, the artist Pat Semple, and it vibrates with life and colour.

Elsewhere, there are paintings aplenty to savour, including some gorgeously unobtrusive portraits of Scottish writers by Poets' Pub artist Alexander Moffat.

Painting, sculpture and other artforms are celebrated in film form with documentaries featuring RSA members such as John Byrne, Ronald Forbes, Victoria Crowe, Kate Downie, Will Maclean and Edward Summerton. There's also a film about conceptual art pioneer Joseph Beuys in Scotland, as well as films by Stirling-born Oscar winner and this issue's cover star Norman McLaren, whose centenary is currently being celebrated. Murray Grigor's 1972 film, Space And Light, about influential architects Andy MacMillan and Isi Metzstein, is also on show.

Then there's the story of Ian McCulloch's giant "Strathclyde" paintings, controversially removed from the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall at the behest of Pat Lally at the end of the city's reign as City of Culture in 1990, which is told in a 22-minute-film, Ian McCulloch 1990-94, by Tony Lavender. Upstairs in Gallery 1, three big and bold McCulloch paintings pack a punch, illustrating the metaphorical links between the two strands of this exhibition in one fell creative swoop.

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