Charles Darwent on Edinburgh Art Festival - Three's company, one's a crowd

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

A trio of big hitters defy a co-operative festival theme with exhibitions that are individual and rewarding

Collaboration is the theme of this year's Edinburgh Art Festival, so my first review focuses on three non-collaborative shows, two contemporary and one historical, with the rest of the Fest next week.

Peter Doig (No Foreign Lands, Scottish National Gallery, to 3 November) is definitely not a collaborator. He is, in fact, a bit of an oddball, as an artist at least. For one thing, he paints, and paints properly, not as a Postmodern critique of Neo-Colonial appropriation or any art-theory bollocks of that kind. His studio isn't in Clapton or Peckham, but in Trinidad, a faraway country of which

we know nothing. (Unless, like me and Doig, we are from there.) He is, unfashionably, a figure painter. And then there are the prices. In February, his Architect's Home in the Ravine went at auction for a shade under £9m, which makes Peter Doig a very successful oddball indeed.

And so, a Festival question: why? Like any phenomenon painter, Doig's art speaks to its time. His life seems to have been spent in perpetual motion – birth in Edinburgh, childhood in Trinidad, youth in Canada, art school in London, a career now divided between Port-of-Spain, Dusseldorf and New York. This is a contemporary way of being, and it shows in his art.

What is the word? Yearning? Displacement? Like the artist himself, Doig's work seems forever in transit. Formally, it hovers between Modernism and old-fashioned figure painting – Ping-Pong elides both by dropping what looks like a large Mondrian behind a man playing table tennis. (Doig says the grid is a stack of blue Carib beer crates. I have my doubts.) Historically, pictures such as Gasthof might have been painted a century ago, when art was still digesting Van Gogh.

The main thing, though, is the work's alienation. Peter Doig, the modern nomad, makes us all displaced – left out of the picture by screens of dragged paint, unsure of narrative or locale, ignored by the man who walks past the titular Lapeyrouse Wall.

Like Doig's Trinidadian reprise, Gabriel Orozco's thinking in circles (Fruitmarket Gallery, to 18 October) is a homecoming, although a formal rather than geographic one. From the start, the Mexican was entranced by circles. This has historical form. According to the fanciful biographer Vasari, Giotto, asked by Benedict XI to prove his genius, drew a perfect freehand circle and handed it to the Pope's messenger. But the circle is also the simplest gestural form, art reduced to a sweep of the hand; what Orozco calls "an instrument".

His festival show is thus circular both in returning to this first fascination and in being about circles. The image you see as you enter is the 2005 painting The Eye of Go – a conflation of the artist's initials, the Chinese game whose black counters its own dots resemble, and the phrase, "Eye of God". If you're looking for a way in, you might reach for the word "conceptual" – The Eye of Go was certainly made with thinking aforethought – although the work is also a straightforward piece of abstraction, a direct descendant of Malevich.

Maybe this is what makes Orozco good: a sense, manifest in this show, that his art is both clever and visceral. From The Eye of Go, you can navigate by any circular route – by date (the wonderful acetates upstairs have been stored, unseen, since 1995); by colour (Orozco moves back and forth between black-and-white and naval semaphore primaries); by form. The newest work, downstairs, is three-dimensional – spherical sculptures carved from river stones, with one that looks like a football. Spheres, you will recall, are circular.

Last, but most wonderful of all, is Nam June Paik's Transmitted Live (Talbot Rice Gallery, 9 August to 19 October). The Korean Fluxus artist, certifiably nuts, was the first to put televisions into art. Upstairs at the Talbot Rice is work from his 1963 show in Wuppertal, including black-and-white televisions whose thick copper aerials frame the face of Richard Nixon. There, too, is Paik's endlessly self-regarding TV Buddha, gazing for all time at its own cathode navel.

Downstairs is where you really want to be, though, between the robots called Beethoven and Schubert. Paik built these himself out of old television sets, and lovable creatures they are – threatening, stupid, but somehow amusing, and very, very humane. I imagine Nam June Paik was, too. But since he died in 2006, I'll never know.

Critic's Choice

Eileen Agar, John Piper and Ben Nicholson are among artists experimenting in Modern British Collage and its Legacy at Pallant House Gallery, Chichester (to 29 Sept). At Dulwich Picture Gallery, A Crisis of Brilliance recalls a golden era of 20th-century British painting with Gertler, Nash, Nevinson and Spencer (to 22 Sept).


Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury


Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas


Arts and Entertainment


Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7


Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary


Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige


Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions