Art review: Art Walk Porty Festival, various venues, Portobello

When We Come Out of the Water, by Tanatsei Gambura

Art Walk Porty Festival, various venues, Portobello ****

The Portobello Visual Arts Festival, which has continued to weather the pandemic with outdoor artwork and walks, is back in full action this year. There is a commissioned arts program, with events, workshops, film screenings and book launches, while the local arts community celebrates by showing art in cafes, shops and homes.

The theme of this year’s festival is salt, which allows curator Rosy Naylor to explore in a range of directions: historical, scientific, ecological. The festival supports long-term projects by four commissioned artists that will end next spring, but each showcases work at the Art Walk Hub at 189 High Street, along with events and activities.

Salt to Joppa’s Pans, by Mahala Le May

Joanna Matthews sculpted objects from salt, half-buried in a pile of salt crystals, relics of contemporary life after a salty apocalypse of rising sea levels and over-salination. She also presents a collection of poems, Plumes of Salted Air. Tonya McMullan sampled the water and plant life along the Seafield promenade and created a fragrance based on the smell of the sea in the future as acidification increases.

Artist and baker Mahala Le May invites visitors to explore their relationship with salt as a culinary ingredient and taste different kinds of Scottish salt at the Joppa Saltworks, where salt was produced until 1953.

Natasha Thembisco Ruwona is here as a curator, supporting three new live art micro-commissions from local black artists, including Tanatsei Gambura’s When We Come Out of the Water, inviting people to bring fresh flowers to the booth at music by Joppa to honor black lives lost at sea, and curation of a film program.

With invitations to walk, cycle and even swim, and Saturday movie nights, Art Walk Porty has established itself as a vibrant festival building on and celebrating its unique location.

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