Alison Watt: Dark Light At the Ingleby Gallery, 6 Carlton Terrace, Edinburgh, until 5 April
Andrew Miller: Sixes and Sevens At Inverleith House, Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, until 15 April In her latest exhibition, the painter Alison Watt, currently artist-in-residence at the National Gallery, London, has taken a step into three dimensions. The Regency interior of the Ingleby Gallery now houses a pristine aluminium cube of Donald Judd-like character which opens to allow access to its sparsely lit interior. After a few seconds of eye-adjustment, the reason becomes apparent, as the walls reveal themselves to be painted with dark folds of drapery.
Most critics highlight the suggestible quality that Watt achieves with her extraordinary skill in painting fabric - the sense of presence in concealment and absence, of the sexual and emotional in the textural. What they often miss is the spiritual dimension, the devotional subtext which is as thoroughly interleaved in her work as the warp and weft she represents.
Watt is at heart concerned with things beyond the visible, even if her work does not employ the obvious lexicon of religious iconography. It is no surprise that her most affecting work to date, and the one in which she has expressed most pride, Still, hangs in the chapel of an Edinburgh church. While depicting nothing more than white drapery, she succeeds in analogising the transcendent effect of spiritual contemplation; the material rendered immaterial.
In Dark Light, Watt has created her own chapel of contemplation. There is a powerful sense of tension between the precision of the execution and the sensuality implicit in the whorls and swirls of the painted drapery. Also intriguing is the extraordinary balance between the pristine, reective exterior and the lustrous, tenebrous interior.
While it could be said that the painted walls lack a clear point-of-focus, that is a strength as well as a weakness, because it is the overall immersion in the experience that is the core effect of the work. This piece is surely an important and transitional work in Watt's oeuvre.
Andrew Miller's latest solo exhibition is concerned with transformations of a rather different type. The principal work is a precise reconstruction of a battered and charred wooden building of uncertain function he apparently saw next to a motorway in Trinidad. He has created two versions of it, each a mirror image of the other and set like bastardised architectural pavilions at opposite ends of the ground oor of Inverleith House. Not only an impressive technical feat, there is a compellingly uneasy frisson between these punk constructions and their eurhythmic surroundings.
Miller trained as a photographer, and ideas around the converse and the dual are also key to an uncanny pair of photographs taken from opposite sides of the edge of a Borders wood. Some other works, which replicate elements of found structures, are somwhat less successful, but they do convey the power of context in moulding visual perception.
Neil Cameron is an Edinburghbased writer on architecture and art