Colin Gray’s long-term photographic projects shine a unique light on sickness and health, allowing deep, powerful meanings to surface as the journey unfolds. They are also huge fun.
This show at the North Edinburgh Arts Centre is part of the pioneering Luminate Festival, now in its second year of showcasing the arts and older people in Scotland. Here prints, selected mostly from two series of work, have a seductive, bitter-sweet quality – affectionate and personal yet also unflinching and objective; serious and sober yet surreal and playful; staged and formal yet immediate and improvised. It is great work, which finds a welcome home in the heart of Muirhouse in Edinburgh, especially fitting as working-class Hull so richly infuses the 30 year sequence.
“The Parents”, “In Sickness and in Health” and “Do Us Part” all capture decisive moments in family relationships as the natural processes of stroke and cancer take their toll. But this is not mawkish or self-indulgent. Each image has wider resonance, connecting to eternal issues of loss, grief, love and legacy.
In the past I have seen these photographs literally as projections, part of lectures and events which have gained from Colin’s own objective narrative and contextualising of the work. But here, printed, the images stand on their own and as a series. It is remarkable how people from very different backgrounds feel able to project their own feelings and stories onto these same photographs and engage with their subtle blend of religious and secular imagery.
The final image – quite simply the pile of the father’s ashes – may be the wrong way to end what is an uplifting, challenging and entertaining show. It is too literal. There is none of the play or room to reflect which makes the other images so alive and valuable.
This exhibition runs until 7 November 2014 at www.northedinburgharts.co.uk
The Luminate Festival runs throughout October across Scotland www.luminatescotland.org
Colin Gray’s work is online here www.colingray.net
NB: Masthead photograph for blog owned and copyright Colin Gray