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Issue 39 - Dundee contemporary arts

Scotland Magazine Issue 39
June 2008


This article is 10 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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Dundee contemporary arts

Charles Douglas looks in on Dundee's thriving arts centre

The concept for a multi-purpose visual arts centre in the City of Dundee was under discussion for almost a decade before it became a reality in 1999. At the time, Dundee’s city fathers were looking to regenerate a district that had been historically been in decline.

Part of their thinking, of course, was to provide a focus for the students and graduates of the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design (now a faculty of the University of Dundee) and to build upon the work of those involved with the Seagate Gallery, now closed, and the Dundee Printmakers’ Workshop.

In 1995, a partnership was formed between Dundee City Council, the University of Dundee, and a newly-formed company, Dundee Contemporary Arts. Asemi-derelict garage, at the time being used as an unofficial skate park, was purchased in the city’s Nethergate and an international design competition was launched to create a new building. In July 1996, this was won by the innovative Scottish architect Richard Murphy, and the resulting £9 million exhibition and administrative spaces have since been hailed as a triumph.

Only a short stroll from Dundee’s High Street and railway Station, Dundee Contemporary Arts (DCA) currently attracts in excess of 300,000 visitors a year. With its five floors consisting of art gallery, print studio, two-screen cinema, a visual research centre, and shop, DCAtoday acts as a catalyst for all aspects of the visual and performance arts, providing forums for discussion and debate which involve the local community and visitors to the city.

This summer is no exception. The principle exhibition, which runs from 5th July until September, is entitled Altered States of Paint, and brings together a group of internationally revered artists who have never exhibited in Scotland before, placing them alongside emerging young Scottish based artists: Jutta Koether, Till Gerhard, Angela de la Cruz, Rabiya Choudry, Neil Clements and Andreas Dobler.

According to its pre-publicity, Altered States of Paint is inspired by the idea that certain paintings can achieve a visionary experience. “‘The man who comes back through the Door in the Wall will never be quite the same as the man who went out.” The quote is from Aldous Huxley’s 1954 book, The Doors of Perception.The DCAgallery, as such, provides a gateway to experience.

This might sound a trifle pseud, but the proof is in the experience, and to complement the theme, the DCA cinema is running a season of films by Kenneth Anger, Ken Russell, Roger Corman and Slava Tsukerman.

Paint workshops on the subject are scheduled for Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th August, and there is a program of lectures and talks. On Thursday 4th September, the Scottish Dance Theatre will perform in the gallery as a response to the exhibition.

Admittance is free, but advance booking is recommended.

What all of this proves is that the DCAhas set out to be rather more than just an ordinary art gallery and museum. For the people of Dundee, and visitors to the city, it provides both a social centre and an opportunity to explore the very latest ideas and innovations through forums and individual participation.

Its success lies in that the entire community is encouraged to become involved and to make a personal contribution.

In the DCAPrint Workshop this month, the painter Dawson Murray, has an exhibition of large garden-based etchings using the traditional ‘sugar-lift’ technique. Some of the images are more than a metre wide.

In a Craft Focus display in the gallery shop, Rebecca Wilson, a Duncan of Jordanstone ceramics graduate, explores how our perception of an object is based on the material, situation or scale, and by making ironic and playful challenges to these properties, encourages us to question the value of that object.

Based in the DCA’s Visual Research Centre is the Demarco Digital Archive project, a database with is made up of approximately 10,000 photographs, documents and publications from the remarkable collection of the Scottish impresario Richard Demarco.

Born in Leith, Edinburgh, Demarco has for more than 50 years been a major force not only in Scottish contemporary art, but in the European avant-garde, interlinking ideas through a creative network that stretches from the Balkans to the Americas and beyond.

His images feature such personalities as the conceptualist Joseph Beuys, the sculptor Ian Hamilton Finlay, and Sir Sean Connery.

If all of this sounds a bit bewildering, then I suggest you go along to the DCA to find out for yourself. The one thing that can be guaranteed is that you will not be disappointed.

Tel: +44 (0)1382 909 900
Galleries and shop are open Tuesday to Saturday,
10.30am to 5.30pm; Sunday, 12pm to 5.30pm. Late
openings on Thursday until 8.30pm. The print studio
is open Tuesday to Thursday, 11am to 9pm; Friday
and Saturday, 11am to 6pm