Monday 30 November 2015

The Ties That Bind exhibition

A new Photography exhibition The Ties That Bind by four of Scotland’s most acclaimed photographers is now at the Scottish Portrait galleries – Colin McPherson, Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, Sophie Gerrard and Stephen McLaren. They pointed their lenses over those defining, energised days of the Scottish Independence Referendum. When for the first time Scotland questioned and had rich grassroots debates on notions around identity, culture and what democracy and the union means today.

In the 90s English Scottish Arts director Timothy Clifford, planned to close the Scottish Portrait galleries! There were protests and the galleries had a 17m refurbishment in 2011. Thankfully. I visited the galleries then and I thought it needed more of a contemporary Scottish artists feel to it.  How wonderful then to see now in 2015 an exhibit by four of Scotland's top photographers. I have met both Jeremy and Colin at Edinburgh book festival photo shoots - and I send them my warmest congratulations!. 

Document Scotland, formed in 2012, is a collective of four internationally acclaimed photographers dedicated to chronicling the social, cultural and economic life in Scotland. These images create a compelling dialogue about Scotland, its people, diversity and culture, and reveal the nuances that shape a nation’s identity. 
 Legacy — Scotland’s role in the slave trade and sugar plantations of Jamaica in the 18th century;
Tradition — the centuries-old celebration of Border towns in the Common Ridings festivals;
Engagement — the devotion and commitment from football supporters in small towns and communities across the country;
The Land — focusing on contemporary farming through the experiences of six women.
* Since the vote the establishment and others wish us all to move on now and accept British values - whatever they are exactly?  Has Scotland a unique voice and if so how best can we be governed?

*Journalist and editor Kevin McKenna writes glowingly the exhibition  -  "Since the birth of democracy in these isles, Scotland has never been granted the opportunity to take stock of itself as a nation: what she stands for; where she came from; in which direction she is choosing to travel......"  "They describe communities and convey flavours of a Scotland that many of us either do not know, have forgotten about or would rather ignore. Here, alongside the unravelling of Scotland’s enthusiastic participation in the Jamaican slave economy, we also find images of the Borders Common Ridings and the unchanged ways of a community not very far from most of us but a planet away from our experience.  There are stark and beautiful portrayals of three women who live among the ancient grass and stones of Scotland’s wild places and fashion a subsistence in them. Closest to my heart are the pictures of a fondly remembered and greatly admired former colleague, Colin McPherson, who has conveyed the relentless faithfulness and love of working people for their community football clubs at a time when corporatism, greed and unearned riches mock such seemingly empty and redundant values. To understand these values, these people and the communities in which they yet prosper is to come to a fuller understanding of Scotland. "
"The campaign for independence gave us a chance to pause and reflect on what Scotland means. Few of us took that opportunity but these four artists did. What they captured was more timeless and authentic than perhaps even independence itself."  

'When Saturday Comes' by Colin McPherson. The title is from the magazine which has commissioned him over the last 10 years to cover all aspects of football culture both in Scotland and further afield. Colin has explored the game at all levels from international fixtures and the Champions League to non-League and grassroots football. His photos concentrate on lower-league football and look at the rituals, sense of belonging and the commitment shown by supporters, players and those charged with running the clubs from Berwick Rangers to Fraserburgh.

'Unsullied and Untarnished' by Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert focused on the Scottish Borders area and its traditional summer festivals, known as the Common Ridings.  He visited various sites, including Hawick, Selkirk and Jedburgh  made portraits of the riders and other attendees in traditional outfits. The history and sense of community is kept alive, and explored traditions and their legacy to modern society.

'A Sweet Forgetting', Stephen McLaren’s project, revolves around the involvement of Scots in the sugar economy of Jamaica in the 18th and 19th centuries.  McLaren spent a month in Jamaica looking for the sites of plantations owned by seven Scotsmen, before coming back to Scotland.
McLaren’s photographs largely concentrate on the mansions and estates purchased with money from the slave trade. Stephen has been a freelance photographer, writer, and curator since 2005. Before then he was a television producer and director working on documentaries for several UK channels. He is Scottish but now lives in San Francisco.

'Drawn to the Land' by Sophie Gerrard.  Her exploration of the contemporary Scottish landscape. Gerrard’s photographs offer a glimpse into the lives of six women farmers in Argyll, Perthshire, the Scottish Borders and the Isle of Mull, and how they shape, and are shaped by, their landscapes.  Women farming increasing by almost 25% in the last 10 years. Through each of these women’s compelling stories, “Drawn to the Land” presents an emotional response to its rugged mountains and remote lochs and islands and a wider story of Scotland’s national identity.

Kevin McKenna: Scotland has found its voice ... the No camp can't put this genie back in the bottle
Another quality article by one of Scotland's top writers Kevin McKenna on a new Photography exhibition The Ties That Bind. QUOTE - " Healey it was who, in an interview with Mandy Rhodes, editor of Holyrood Magazine, laughed at how the British Labour Party had acquiesced with Margaret Thatcher and her Tories in concealing from Scots the true extent of the oil and gas revenues that had been taken from the North Sea.
“I think we did underplay the value of the oil to the country because of the threat of nationalism but that was mainly down to Thatcher,” he said. “We didn’t actually see the rewards from oil in my period in office because we were investing in the infrastructure rather than getting the returns and really, Thatcher wouldn’t have been able to carry out any of her policies  that additional five per cent on GDP from oil. Incredible good luck she had from that.”

Friday 27 November 2015

New Writers at Edinburgh book festival 2015

Shami Chakrabarti
Neil Zink

Lucy Ribchester
Oscar Coop-Phane
Rob Davis
Rob Davis and Karrie Fransman.jpg
Rob Doyle
Shami Chakrabarti
Kevin Mayer and Neil Zink
Salia Simmuka

Creative Scotland not Responsive to the Arts

Run by bean counters

Culture is how a country expresses and views itself. Culture is vital to any healthy country.
Scotland has a brilliant history of inspirational poets, songs smiths, composers, novelists, innovators, inventors, painters, designers, and much more 

Herald theatre critic Mark Brown has written an open letter to Scotland’s art body Creative Scotland. He talks about the ethos of CS being based on Tony Blair and New Labour. With Bigger is better committees and a top-down approach that is market-driven and led by civil servants rather than artists.

Also in 2012 over a 100 writers and artists wrote to CS complaining over how it was being mismanaged. The then director Alan Dixon resigned. Mark writes that this is not only about a change personal but a change of ethos and organization.

Mark claims CS treats art and culture as an industry. At present the creative industries have an overly burdensome remit covering theatre, musicians, artists, writers, designers, games designers and architects. Along with a bean counter mentality. Mark suggests an Arts body for the artists and writers - and a separate Design Body for architecture and the Games industries.

I would have expected an arts council to be led by those who have not only lived and breathed art all their lives, but are also creative as writers, musicians or painters. We have some outstanding music writers and arts critics in Scotland. Why are they not employed in our arts body? 

If you look at world class arts of any kind – they are normally run by capable, bright and highly creative motivated people, not bean counters. Otherwise the arts produced become bland, mediocre, monochrome and boring,
At the moment Scotland also has a renaissance of writers, artists and musicians that should be celebrated and encouraged to thrive. Our arts body needs to be promoting excellence and innovation in the arts.

Saturday 14 November 2015

Histories are the Stories we re-write

Stories are the oral traditions we tell each other and pass on. The songs and poems we sing. The crafts and the images we create and paint. Our memories and past inform who we are and where we see our future.  Like the monuments raised, our names, the names of places.

**Each January in Glasgow Celtic Connections celebrates musical connections and traditions between Scotland, Ireland, England, America, Canada and Brittany traditions. These are the traditions that have been passed down and also travelled continents. I am not sure how anyone can dispute these connections exist. There are many similarities between the country music of the Smokies and Irish and Scottish reels. This was never meant to be about one race of people, but rather about the grassroots traditions and stories, collaborations and beautifully hand made instruments.  


Written history however can confuse us - it depends on who won and who then wrote the story.  Renowned historian Stuart McHardy writes that is why the oral tradition and stories expressed in our arts and culture matter a great deal. They often tell us more than the printed historical texts. 

Scottish folklorists such as Hamish Henderson, Margaret Bennett and Dick Gaughan and also our national poet  Robert Burns two centuries ago, travelled and collected the old songs and poems, many that had never been written down before - songs such a Auld Lang Syne. Burns was a great reader of many diverse voices and languages - he knew Scots, English, French and Latin - even though he never attended university. He was taught by a young Mr Murdoch, his father and was also self taught. He was also a great listener and reader and he learnt of the rights of everyman and the impact of rhythm and song.  He went on to write some of our best loved songs and poems.  

In 2015 a new exhibition at the British museum - "Celts; Arts and Identity" surprisingly claims the Celts have never existed. Well they exist in people's art, song and imagination. The exhibit claims the Celts were not a pure race and rather an 'idea'.  Perhaps all those outside the 'empire' and outside big Business?

Writing in the Sunday Times magazine, arts critic Waldemar Januszczak, claims that only in the mind do the Celts exist. What on earth can he mean by this? Does he mean that those in the Hebrides and in Ireland don’t have a separate and unique identity? It is all propaganda.

The Romans only mention those 'people' outside their walls as Gauls - of course Roman history is written from a Roman perspective.  What does this all mean?  Were the Romans or Vikings pure races? Centuries ago these races travelled and mixed with other races. 
Loch Ardinning

Britain’s stories of empire building are of the past. Some UK writers today over use the term ‘British’ – Britain only came into existence after the Union of the Parliament in 1707.  Do these people when aboard call themselves ‘British? Really” Do they not tell foreigners that they are English. I always call myself Scottish. I have little, If any idea of the stories, art or music that Britain stands for. There is a union flag and the songs of Empire building like Rule Britannia. I believe Empire building like the Romans, have had their day and are of the past – or I hope so. Empire building means someone has to pay a price.

I believe in a progressive, healthier future and one of the grassroots. The voices of respect for all and valuing our local stories and traditions.  We are shaped by our landscapes and I believe Scotland has a special and unique story to tell with it’s rough often wild landscapes and ever changing seasons.

Scotland was never ruled by Rome or the Normans and kept her clans and she has a very different story to tell than Ireland or England. Scotland has never been a part of England and never will be a region. no matter how much some Lords might wish it. 
Kilmartin Glen
Scotland has always been outward looking and had it's bridge of boats. We travelled by sea and most of our towns lie on the coast. ( just as also the Viking and Romans looked outward)

Scotland has for centuries had unique stories  - the kilt, bagpipes, golf, whisky, Clans, Burns song, mountain and heathers, wild weather…..Of course there are pipes worldwide – that doesn’t mean that the Scottish pipes don’t have a totally distinctive and unique sound to them.

Solidarite with France

Sadly I know there are always nutcases and evil in the world and I know we need good security, I still don't believe bombs are an answer. I believe when women's voices are suppressed, as in Muslim countries and elsewhere, unhealthy societies result. Glad to read of Suu Kyi victory in Burma.Has the west not been bombing innocent children and women in the middle east too? No easy answers here.

I read that thousands of Scottish rugby fans are in Paris for a Glasgow Warriors Rugby game today. Bombs and killings are not a solution. There needs to be another way. My thoughts and prayers with those in Paris.

Friday 6 November 2015

Scottish Women Artists Exhibition Edinburgh

Scottish Women Artists Exhibition Edinburgh - Painters and Sculptors 1885-1965 - 7th Nov 2015 − 26th June 2016; Modern Two (Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art)

Women artists in this exhibition will include - Bessie Mac Nicol, Phoebe Anna Traquair, Gertrude Alice Meredith Williams, Margaret Macdonald, Dorothy Johnstone and Hazel Amour, Phyllis Mary Bone, Joan Eardley and Bet Low.

The exhibition will focus on painters and sculptors and the period from 1885 to 1965. ,
(when Fra Newbery became Director of Glasgow School of Art, and until 1965, the year of Anne Redpath’s death).

The eighty years which lay between these events saw an unprecedented number of Scottish women train and practice as artists.  More than 90 works will be shown, from the National Galleries of Scotland’s holdings and other public collections from throughout the UK, as well as from private collections.

Early last century women were forbidden from attending life drawing classes. They also had to give up any art careers if they married. 

The conditions that the artists negotiated as students and practitioners due to their gender will be explored, shedding new light on this vital chapter of Scottish modern art history, whilst uncovering and celebrating women’s contribution to it.
The exhibition will include familiar masterpieces alongside important works by significant artists which are rarely seen and who are not widely known.
The galleries believe there is scope for more shows of female artists and the display is a precursor to a major re-think and re-hang of the gallery.

MY BLOG ON Women Artists -

Modern Scottish Women will be accompanied by a book based on new research, as well as a free permanent collection display of prints by Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, selected from a recent gift of her work by The Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Charitable Trust.
Exhibition supported by The Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Charitable Trust and a sorority of women across Scotland
 Image: Dorothy Johnstone, Anne Finlay, 1920, Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums Collections © Courtesy of Dr DA Sutherland and Lady JE Sutherland