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Florence Durante, ‘Enveloped’, 2005

Florencia DuranteFlorencia Durante’s Light Action, at Edinburgh’s newest gallery, the Corn Exchange in Leith, showcases the time-lapse photography process she describes as ‘drawing and sculpting with the light’. She is loathe to reveal too much about her technique but confirms that these startling images are formed without the aid of digital manipulation and document scenes she has created through cumulative use of light.

The five-image series ‘Envelopment’ depicts the development of a modern-day miracle, a spinning golden orb or fallen aureole before a motionless, black-clad man bearing a striking resemblance to an El Greco subject, eyes raised skywards in awe as this quasi-holy apparition gradually envelops him. While the artist herself shies away from a definitive religious interpretation of her work, there is an undeniably holy undertone to the images: a sanctity in the simplicity of the white, cell-like space and the black garb of the man. The golden orb is an immaculately pared-down expression of an inexplicable event, and our acceptance of its existence—without exact knowledge of the mode of its creation—is in itself an act of faith.

Durante, however, is more comfortable describing her images as magical or theatrical. They could be viewed as examples of the genre of magical realism, requiring from the viewer a certain suspension of belief. Yet they provide the reward of a glimpse of something rare and fantastical: a beautiful but consuming vortex of pure streaming light surrounding the stunned, passive figure in his moment of epiphany. The subject of the work is, ultimately, the light, the mysteriously formed dancing lines of fire, inhabiting and enveloping the space for cause and purpose unknown, which create images alluding to indefinable sanctity.

Rosamund West is an artist and writer who completed her MA in sculpture and art history at Edinburgh College of Art and University of Edinburgh in 2005

Paul ChiappePaul Chiappe possesses a ghostly kind of alchemy. Abstaining from the blush of colour and forgoing the sensationalism of scale, this young artist has developed a style of hyperrealist drawing quite apart from any of his contemporaries.

Drawing usually implies an air of freedom, the hastily conceived act of improvisation. And with a lineage that dates from the first cave paintings, the simplicity of the medium chimes with ideas of the accidental and absent-minded sketch. But not for Chiappe. With sublime detail akin to Serse, and with a knowing nod to Chuck Close and Vija Celmins, this Edinburgh College of Art graduate executes drawing with a clinical precision that is both beguiling and transcendent. Chiappe draws not from life, nor from memory, but from a strange twilight zone usually reserved for photography alone. The figures he renders are hesitant, drifting back and forth, at once fading and surfacing amid terse monochrome shadows.

Chiappe bases his material mainly on found images such as vintage school photographs from local Fife newspapers, and spends at least three months on each pencil drawing. His final-year show comprised only a clutch of works of this kind, and his dedication to detail is intrinsic to each piece. ‘I’ve stuck solely to pencil and always worked very small,’ says Chiappe. ‘Drawing in miniature can become quite obsessive.’

Paul Chiappe, 'untitled', 2005, B pencil on paper 
Paul Chiappe, ‘untitled’, 2005, B pencil on paper

The laboriousness is fanatical; the daily working and re-working of each drawing becomes an act of devotion. ‘It’s taking drawing to an extreme,’ he adds. ‘I really like using these 1920s photographs to draw from. The quality is much better, and the characters are more interesting,’ he says, although some of his later work has moved on to contemporary family photographs.

Immersed in meditative complexity and intensity, the works are treated as ghosts. Chiappe toys with notions of memory and history and parallels them with the fragility of his medium. While the wilful rebellion against pop aesthetics and the process of quiet resistance against the alacrity of modern living are together perhaps not unique, they are indeed revelatory for such a young artist. The critic Michael Newman wrote ‘drawing, with each stroke, re-enacts desire and loss’, and this newcomer’s languorous style beautifully embodies such a paradox.

Isla Leaver-Yap graduated from Edinburgh University in 2005. She is an art critic, assistant editor of MAP