Gen Harrison - Letterpress Post Card
Gen Harrison - Letterpress Post Card

Upright Gallery, Edinburgh: Dialect

Visit website

25th October – 15th November

Edinburgh’s Upright Gallery is a unique space in Tollcross, its name giving an insight into its appearance – it is a narrow, two-floor art gallery. However, the size poses no hindrance, as gallerist Ian Farmer always succeeds in curating exhibitions that are interesting, exciting, and individual. He hosts a busy schedule of exhibitions throughout the year, offering emerging and early career artists a chance to exhibit. Ian manages to foster an environment that enables burgeoning artists to develop their early practice – something Edinburgh desperately needs.

The current exhibition Dialect is a collaboration between writer Ray French and artists Gen Harrison, Chris Sleath and Zoë Irvine. After reading his publication In Praise of Dialects, Ian commissioned Ray to come up with a series of regional dialect excerpts; these were latterly put to the artists to interpret via the medium of Letterpress. Ray is of Irish descent, has grown up in Wales and now lives in the North of England, so regional dialects are commonplace in his life.  

Letterpress Blocks
Letterpress blocks on display


Letterpress is an art form rarely seen today, due to its laborious nature, overtaken by modern counterparts such as offset lithography. However, it is a skill that leads to some incredibly beautiful works of art. Each artist very much possesses their own voice and it is evident to see the impact of their passions on the projects. Gen mentioned that depending on what was happening on a particular day, she would read an extract differently, leading to a real variety in her aesthetic. Chris stated one of his influences as being Victorian circus bills, something that can be seen in his brightly-coloured work. Alongside this we see him displaying William Hill betting odds for post-Brexit goods on brown paper shopping bags, paying homage to the shopfront aesthetic of Upright. 

Dialect phrases - letterpress on paper
Gen Harrison’s dialect phrases – letterpress on paper


The first thing that strikes you as you look at these works is of course the words and phrases they depict: a read of the labels by Ian makes clear what exactly is meant by some of the most obscure expressions. However, upon further investigation it is vital to look at each letter on its own, as this is how they were put together, and it lets you understand how each artist decided to display each word, encouraging the appreciation of the raw art. From bright and bold to delicate and minimalist, the mixture of type and colours offers an insight into how these artists connect to the spoken word. 

Chris Sleath's dialect phrases - letterpress on paper
Chris Sleath’s dialect phrases – letterpress on paper bag


It is a beguiling concept, and one that hits the mark, as the art celebrates the regional dialects of the UK via the traditional method of Letterpress to great effect. Regional dialects are at risk of dying out, so this exhibition comes as a welcome, celebratory revival. The radiant works are satisfyingly graphic, and I feel would look fantastic in a variety of situations. As for Ian Farmer, it is a feather in his cap as he curates another fantastic, novel exhibition through to completion. 

3 Barclay Terrace,
Edinburgh EH10 4HP

With thanks to Leo Sartain, Rafiki Gallery.


Share this page

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on email

Sign up for Artmag’s free weekly newsletter!

Join us every Friday morning for the latest art news, art openings, exhibitions, live performances, interviews and stories + top UK and international art destinations.