The Recent


Sat, 28 October 2023 - Sat, 17 February 2024


Talbot Rice Gallery - Talbot Rice Gallery The University of Edinburgh Old College, South Bridge, Edinburgh, U.K., EH8 9YL

Further info


The Recent

Type: Exhibition

Regina de Miguel, 'Abrazo simbionte', 2022. Watercolor, gouache and pencils on Arches paper. Photo: courtesy of the artist.

Eglė Budvytytė, Helen Cammock, Dorothy Cross, Regina de Miguel, Mikala Dwyer, Nicholas Mangan, Angelica Mesiti, Otobong Nkanga, Katie Paterson, Micol Roubini and Simon Starling

The Recent takes us into a conceptual world of geological, evolutionary, human and environmental time, exploring what art can do to stretch the human imagination, and situate our actions and impact in a deeper, future-oriented timeframe.

The geological ruminations that underpin the exhibition are deeply rooted in Edinburgh – a city punctuated by a dormant volcano – and the place that eighteenth century geologists James Hutton, and later Charles Lyell, developed the theory of deep time that is reflected in many of the artists’ works.

Dorothy Cross goes underground and positions a pre-pubescent boy beneath one of the world’s oldest, living stalactites in Ireland, singing as though a bird. From the deepest Australian mines,

Nicholas Mangan extracts the oldest mineral of our planet, and crushes it, creating a glistening image of the universe.

Mikala Dwyer creates a stratified wall painting and installation, including a massive, air-filled boulder that inverts the physical materiality of the earth, reflecting on ancient rock paintings from the deep past. University collections are explored, including one of Charles Lyell’s notebooks in which he named the then-current epoch ‘The Recent’ in 1838, which became grounds for naming the Holocene, soon to be usurped by the Anthropocene, and all its entangled implications.

Katie Paterson positions us firmly within the sixth mass extinction event, working with researchers to create a vigil event for every major wildfire that erupts on the planet during the exhibition, by burning an incense of the first and last forests of our planet.

Self-deprecating humour evokes the tragedy of destroying our natural resources for the sake of progress in the work of Simon Starling.

Eglė Budvytytė projects us to a symbiotically fuelled forest between Lithuania and Russia, looking to lichen’s co-dependent biology to propose evolutionary potentials.

Regina de Miguel invokes miracles with intricate paintings where depictions of life on earth – landmasses in danger of drowning, human, animal, insect and plant life – are combined with language, cultural artefacts, and the votives that she offers up in hope. In a multi-screen installation,

Micol Roubini enters the dreams of a community who inhabit the landscape around a vast, disused asbestos mine in Italy, testifying to this extractivist past through collective unconscious experiences.

In a large-scale tapestry, Otobong Nkanga weaves evolving processes of the natural world. On the sea bed, bodies and histories are entombed, reflecting on how the march of progress has failed to benefit all peoples equally.

Inequalities are explored in Helen Cammock’s wall painting, which poignantly reaches into the deep past and the future, to ask where the children will play?

And it is a simple child’s game that inspired Angelica Mesiti’s artworks, carrying evidence of the natural world from the deep past. Through geological specimens collected by Charles Lyell holding imprints of the rain and performers creating the sound of a rainstorm, in a game passed down from generation to generation, Mesiti reminds us that knowledge can only be passed on if we’re here to animate it.

The Recent presents an experience of life on this planet that is deep and complex, and where the impact of our choices goes beyond the short-termism that calcifies our ability to take responsibility. Through the visions, provocations, research and poetics of artists, it connects the emotional anxiety of our present time with the need to stretch the human imagination into a deeper timeframe, to embrace long-termism, and radically shift our human perceptions and priorities.

Curated by Talbot Rice Gallery Director, Tessa Giblin

The Recent is supported by Creative Scotland, Edinburgh College of Art at the University of Edinburgh and the Centre for Research Collections.

Mikala Dwyer’s presentation is supported by UKRI-AHRC Network “Environmental Emotions: Theory, Testimony, Politics” led by Prof Mihaela Mihai (Edinburgh) and Prof Danielle Celermajer (Sydney). Micol Roubini’s ‘The Magic Mountain’ is produced by Lo schermo dell’arte, Florence in partnership with Talbot Rice Gallery, with the support of the Italian Council (11th edition, 2022), the programme is aimed at supporting Italian contemporary art in the world promoted by the Directorate-General for Contemporary Creativity within the Italian Ministry of Culture. Eglė Budvytytė’s presentation is supported by the Lithuanian Culture Institute and the Lithuanian Embassy; Regina de Miguel’s presentation is supported by Acción Cultural Española (AC/E).

The Recent is produced in partnership with Centre for Research Collections at the University of Edinburgh and Fruitmarket.

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