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It was very inventive the way he’d hung from the ceiling the cups

Posted on 30 July 2010

It was very inventive the way he’d hung from the ceiling the cups he’d mixed his paint in You could stand underneath them for ages. CAREN LEIGH

It was very colourful. The bird’s-eye-view paintings were so vivid, with great blocks of shapes and colour I also liked the paper cups. As I leave the gallery the images that go with me are from photographs: the face of a little girl with huge knowing eyes, and the torso of a woman in a hair bikini. But this is partly thanks to the emancipating context provided by Nina Saunders’ hard- hitting installations.`Welcome’: Stills Gallery, Edinburgh (0131 622 6200) to 25 September.

And I imagine a doe-eyed, serious-minded infant with a sheet of bubble-wrap in her possession, systematically popping the cells one by one in order to release the very air.Hannah Firth of Stills Gallery curated this show, intriguingly overlapping the work of the three artists. “Look at the arse on that!” shouts a woman’s voice from over my shoulder, as if to confirm how completely female opportunities have been transformed, at least within these enlightened walls.Looking again at Hoberman’s “Bubble-wrap” photographs, I wonder why they’re so cold. The other lies on a bed, his ponytail – which is a golden-blonde that doesn’t match the brown hair under his armpit or on his head – brushed to one side to fully expose his bottom. One kneels at a sink, a ponytail emerging in a natural-seeming way from the hairy small of his back, falling between his buttocks and drawing attention to his exposed and vulnerable scrotum. Each is in a claustrophobic room, with his back to the assertive women facing him from the photographs across the gallery.

In control of their bodies, they seem poised to explore inner and outer worlds.Opposite these photographs are a couple of similar-sized ones featuring naked men, adorned with hair in a different way which turns them into sex objects, beasts even. The women pose confidently against a backdrop evenly divided between an urban exterior and an interior decorated by pot plants and cut flowers. A woman’s pubic hair is echoed and her sexuality given gravitas by the fringes of long brown hair which cover her breasts in a way that is strangely reminiscent of sporrans. But the artist’s vision encompasses more than her own family history. As in Forever, something English, Victorian, pretty and repressed is invoked, and furiously subverted.In Emily Bates’ “Balcony” series of photographs, lone adult women are shown, face forward but out of shot, wearing only a gossamer garment which is transparent except where hair has been sewn into it.

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