On a technical level, Teresa Cálem’s portraits are very good. Her series of larger-than-life watercolour faces on plain paper backgrounds is painted in an almost photorealistic style, with haunting eyes emphasised. The brushwork is confident, and the figures are well-developed. This isn’t terrible art by any means. Yet although the individual pieces are inoffensive and demonstrate fairly-skilled composition, they fail as expressive portraits and are uninteresting when taken as a complete set. The colours are too muted, and the subdued shapes are not strong enough to stand out in the crowded foyer of George Square Theatre. Not a single piece arrests attention – this display is unvaried to the point of monotony.
The paintings are not bold enough for the repetition to be artistically powerful, and lack the variety that characterizes an effective portrait series. A washed-out pink shades all the subjects, whilst the airbrush-soft brush effect soaks character from their faces. Consequently, the portraits fail to engage the emotion or provoke curiosity.
The Fringe sees art exhibitions appear in the most improvised settings. Often this works in their favour, propelling art to the attention of punters who would not otherwise have sought it out. In other cases, as with Cálem’s effort at George Square, a scruffy attempt just gets lost in the crowd. Pinned up around the foyer, they resemble an A Level art project. There aren’t very many paintings, and those that we do see all look so alike that they hardly constitute an ambitious display of the artist’s capabilities. Unframed, they present an unfortunate amateurish aspect, competing for attention with posters and flyers pasted up alongside them on three theatre walls. Most play-goers may pause to look up at the row of injured wide eyes, but nothing here is likely to delay their stroll to the theatre doors.