Art: Neue Union

Neue Union is part of an ongoing series of tartan artworks dealing primarily with ideas of identity.

The work, from left to right, represents the tartans of the European Union, the Scottish Parliament, the Westminster Parliament and the rest of the United Kingdom. Each tartan is aligned with its neighbours, yet each is individual in its own right, suggesting a new and better relationship for an independent Scotland with Europe and the rest of the United Kingdom, where a social union would remain intact.

Tartan in its historical context is discursive by nature. It carries within its weave and line ideas pertaining to family association and subjective affiliations. In this way tartan has a similar nature to a flag; a symbolic declaration and a visual narrative.

I see the theoretical basis in the production of these works firmly grounded in the American avant-garde of the 50’s through to the 70’s. From the action paintings of abstract expressionism, through the utilitarian ideas embedded within both minimalism and pop art.

Neue Union (2007-2008)

Neue Union was created using a hands-off approach, removing myself as the author of the work by letting the colours run down in straight lines from alternate canvases. By dropping these lines, and rotating the work 90 degrees each time, the tartan grid was created.

” target=”_blank”>Click here to watch a short film of the process.

I furthered these works in my painting practice while on a two-year residency at the Botta Institute of Architecture in Switzerland, specifically looking at the use of the grid in urban planning and in the aesthetics of the cosmetic skins of the work of Mies van der Rohe. It was during my time working at the Edinburgh College of Art that the tartan works became a significant part of my creative output.

Murdoch and Maxwell (2007)

I select tartans that speak to one another in name, highlighting the possible dialogue between the works by being in the same physical space as one another. An example of this being Murdoch and Maxwell, two infamous media moguls whom could not stomach the sight of each other,  they were (as far as the painting is concerned) born from the same cloth. As in the method mentioned above both of these works were made from the same top board, in effect a triptych, unholy as it may seem.

The tartan paintings I make tell their own stories.

Jim Arcola