You more than likely have seen the endangered species themed sculptures dotted around Edinburgh in recent weeks by the conservation charity ‘Jungle City’. Whilst this is no doubt a very laudable way of raising awareness, one can find much more inventive outdoor art in the Royal Botanical Gardens. A Leeds born sculptor now based in Los Angeles, Thomas Houseago’s artistic practice involves more than perching luridly coloured crocodiles and toucans atop crates in George Square. Installed for the Edinburgh Art Festival in August, The Beat of the Show features sculptures made for Inverleith House and forms Houseago’s first large scale outdoor exhibition.
Walking up the path from the east gate, visitors are greeted by Lying Figure, a sight that could be straight out of Shelley’s Ozymandias where, “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone/ Stand in the desert... Near them, on the sand/ Half sunk, a shattered visage lies”. Houseago has created monumental works using a wide variety of materials that are in a complex dialogue with their surroundings.
Stylistically there is something reminiscent of William Blake’s subversive use and transformation of classical forms, such as Rattlesnake Figure, except here the figure in question is refracted through a fragmentary post-Cubist lens. Each piece has personality of its own. One senses that they even come alive at night. Embedded as they are within the landscape, it will be fascinating to see how one's experience of the pieces alters when the gardens transform throughout autumn. In this sense the setting encourages re-visiting and it is fortunate then, that the exhibition runs until 2012.