A highly anticipated exhibition of Ian MacIntyre‘s extraordinary paintings and prints will be showcased at the WASPS Patriothall Gallery in Stockbridge, Edinburgh, for one week starting from the 12th of July. The opening nights will be marked by a captivating fifteen-minute cantata, specially composed by Max, the artist’s son, featuring four singers and a pianist performing in the main gallery. The cantata ingeniously encapsulates the controversial theme of the exhibition, inspired by the artist’s essay titled “Ian MacIntyre’s Theory of Art: revealed in a brief conversation.”
Set in the near future, the essay portrays a conversation between Ian and his old art-school friend Mickey, who reunite after hearing Ian discuss the exhibition on the radio. As they wander through the streets of Edinburgh, they humorously reflect on their own art experiences and the history of art itself. Mickey, perplexed by the current state of art, which he describes as “confused and contradictory,” turns to Ian, known for his eccentric perspective, and asks, “What’s good and what’s bad… Do you know Ian?”
Their light-hearted discussion compares Primitive Art to their childhood art, and Renaissance Art to their secondary school creations, with Ian remarking, “Same as the rest of us, you were a primary school primitive that had a secondary school Renaissance.” They delve into the significance of post-Impressionism, centuries after the “five-hundred-year Renaissance-influenced period,” and explore art since post-Impressionism.
Towards the end of their conversation, as they approach the Belford Road Gallery of Modern Art, Ian takes out a list from his pocket comprising approximately seventy-five artists from 1890 to the present day. Divided into three sections, Ian’s list categorises artists into groups A, B, and C. The A group, labeled “meaningful and abstract,” is the largest and features renowned names like Paolozzi, Hockney, and Picasso, alongside lesser-known talents such as illustrator Clare Curtis and painter Simon Quadrat. The B group, titled “meaningful but not abstract – too realistic,” includes artists like Tracy Emin and Damien Hirst, while the C group, named “abstract but not meaningful – too abstract,” encompasses figures like Anish Kapoor, Jackson Pollock, and Callum Innes. Ian explains that every artist in the world fits into one of these groups, asserting the immense importance and difficulty of belonging to group A. He suggests that many artists either remain trapped in a “post-renaissance limbo,” create patterns, or venture into conceptual art. The only way to approach the standards of group A, according to Ian, is by being guided by a recurring figure throughout the essay known as “Mother Art.” She represents the honesty and integrity that can lead artists to develop a strong, individual style, provided they genuinely focus on their own artistic preferences—a quality shared by all members of Ian’s group A.
At the heart of Ian’s theory is the notion that this new and exceptional art has been present all along, hidden beneath the surface during the era of Britart and conceptual art. He refers to it as “own style” art, with groups B and C serving as weaker, alternative options for artists who cannot enter group A.
The exhibition, featuring MacIntyre’s distinct “own style,” the remarkable cantata composition and performance, is a tour de force. The essay itself is extraordinary, thought-provoking, radical, uncompromising, and undeniably controversial. It delves beyond wealth and fame to dissect the essence of great art. In fact, the essay predicts that this exhibition will be forever known as “The MacIntyre Show”—and it might just be right.
The exhibition opens on Wednesday, 12th July 2023, at 6:30 pm and runs until Tuesday, 18th July 2023.
Live cantata performances will take place on Wednesday, 12th July at 7:00 pm and Thursday, 13th July at 7:00 pm, with free admission.