Robert Burns Birthplace Museum Contemporary Exhibition Programme
The Robert Burns Birthplace museum is the first NTS property to have launched a programme of contemporary exhibitions. Inspired Editions is the first group exhibition in the programme and brings together some of the best artists today, all of whom have produced new editioned work inspired by the life and work of Robert Burns.
The new programme is managed and curated by Sheilagh Tennant and, from 7 September – 24 December 2012, an exhibition of the Burns series of Inspired Editions will run daily, from 10-5, at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway. Entry to the exhibition is free and a proportion of all sales from the museum exhibition will go to support the property.
The artists and their work:
Rob and Nick Carter
Red Red Rose2012
Four colour screen print with embossing on Olin 250gsm uncoated paper
About the artists: The Carters are a husband and wife artistic duo and have been collaborating for over fifteen years. Their work is centred on the possibilities of light, colour and form and has taken many mediums including camera-less photography, painting, installation, neon, sculpture and time based media. In exploring various mediums they continually push the boundaries between painting, sculpture, installation, neon, digital imagery and photography - often creating works which cannot be defined in one sense alone.
This bespoke print for the Robert Burns Museum incorporates their love of colour association and optical play and also makes a gentle reference to their pioneering photogram series, Spectrum Circles.
The artists have executed several large-scale public and corporate commissions throughout London including works for Great Ormond Street Hospital, Cardinal Place, Victoria, 200 Aldersgate and Saville Row. Aside from their impressive commission record, the artists also have a strong critical following for their exhibition work. They have pieces in the permanent collections at the Mauritshuis in The Hague, The Victoria and Albert Museum in London and they have shown twice at The Museum of Neon Art in L.A., as well as exhibiting internationally in New York, Geneva, Milan, Hong Kong and London. They have been shortlisted for the Sovereign Art Prize and high profile collectors of their work include the David Roberts Foundation, The Moving Picture Company and Sir Elton John.
About the artist: Born in Glasgow in 1961, Calum Colvin was a winner of one of the first SAC Creative Scotland Awards and is a holder of a Royal Photographic Society Gold Medal . He was awarded an OBE in 2001 and is Professor of Fine Art Photography at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, University of Dundee. His work is held in numerous prestigious collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Museum of Fine Art, Houston; The Victoria and Albert Museum, London as well as the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh and the Tate Gallery.
Artist’s statement: Pottery featuring Robert Burns portraits and related imagery date back to the early years of the 19th century. I have tried to emulate this tradition with an image of the Bard within the holly crown conferred to him by his Muse, Coila in ‘The Vision’.
A practitioner of painting, sculpture and photography, Colvin brings these disciplines together, utilizing the unique fixed-point perspective of the camera, in his unique style of 'constructed photography': assembled tableaux of objects, which are then painted and photographed.
These elaborately constructed scenarios present a complex narrative tableau, rich in association and spatial ambiguities, which are usually exhibited as large-scale photographic prints.
Artist’s statement: The zealots of the Church, or State, Shall ne’er my mortal foes be; - Robert Burns, I Murder Hate
About the artist: Graham Fagen is one of the UK’s foremost contemporary visual artists. His work explores the formation of identity using sculpture, lens based media, text and performance. In video, performance, photography, sculpture or text, he creates works which explore how identity is both created by, and is, a response, to its cultural context.
Other prints are available from this series.
About the artist: Euan Heng was born in Oban in 1945 and now lives and works in Melbourne, Australia. Between 1960 and 1970 Euan was employed in various occupations, including four years as a merchant seaman travelling worldwide. The artist gained diploma and post diploma qualifications from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art, Dundee, Scotland and a MA (Research) from RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia. Since 1973 he has held thirty-three solo exhibitions in Australia, Scotland and Italy and participated in over seventy group exhibitions in Australia and internationally. Euan holds the adjunct position of Associate Professor in Graduate Research, Fine Art at Monash University, Melbourne. In 2004 he received the Australian Council for University Art and Design Schools Distinguished Research Award.
Artist’s statement: As a poet and artist the significance and power of Robert Burns is such that my first thoughts in responding to his work was to avoid a literal or illustrative transcription of his work and most importantly – whatever image I eventually arrived at, the resulting print and its motif would mirror that of my current paintings in progress.
As an immigrant separated from my homeland I initially toyed with the notion of exile, homesickness and return but this appeared to me as an obvious and superficial reading of certain poems and at worst take me down the cul-de-sac of nostalgia. On reading ‘Does Haughty Gaul Invasion Threat?’ I was alerted to the fact that towards the end of his life Burns’ had been a private in the Royal Dumfries Volunteers and at his funeral in 1796 was buried with military ceremony. This poem was known as the song, “Dumfries Volunteers” and it added an urgent new dimension to my musings.
On a recent RSA studio residency in Newburgh, Scotland I found myself taking notice of war memorials, you know, solitary soldiers overlooking or standing guard in towns and village squares. At the time I had no idea why I was taking an interest in these monuments but they fuelled my thoughts and are now filed in an ‘archive’ for the future. Never the less, a similar melancholic sensibility is evident in the memorials for WW1 ‘diggers’ and the tree lined Avenues of Honor that grace the entrances to almost every Australian regional town and city.
Also and serendipitously, I had come across a beautiful photograph of a young Scottish soldier, unnamed and an ex pupil of Dundee’s Harris Academy who had been killed in the Great War and by ‘quotation’ his image resulted in the motif that would become the lithograph titled Volunteer. Upon reduction and simplification I emptied out facial features and detail leaving only the bonnet to signify his nationality. This motif was then overlaid upon the Black Watch tartan now reduced to a transparent monochrome in my endeavour to engage thought of all those memories now evaporating.
Artist’s statement: The language of the monument is the clearest artistic expression of what Karl Popper identified as historicism; that is to say, the general belief that history must have a plot, a destination, or at any rate a meaning.
In response to this tradition - my work can be seen as an attempt to translate the longstanding political ambitions of historical public sculpture - into a revised sculptural language appropriate to the current cultural situation. I believe that doubt is a precondition for a tolerant and civilised society and so therefore cannot subscribe to any one version of history. Hence the ambiguities, riddles and multiple meanings that exist within my art practice. Within my work as a sculptor, skepticism takes a central role. As the Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky has said ‘the purpose of art is not to propose solutions, but to set problems in their requisite depth. To reiterate my works are hybrids that fuse sculptural orthodoxies with contemporary culture. Their aim is to question certainties and stereotypes, introducing a variety of fact and fiction into sculpture that is descriptive but not representational of the ‘real’ world.
About the artist: Born in Edinburgh in 1962, Kenny Hunter studied sculpture at Glasgow School of Art between 1983 and 1987. He has exhibited extensively abroad and in the U.K. Including solo exhibitions at Arnolfini (Bristol, 1998), The Scottish National Portrait Gallery (2000), The Centre for Contemporary Arts (Glasgow, 2003), Yorkshire Sculpture Park (2006), Tramway (Glasgow, 2008) Galerie Scheffel, (Germany 2008, 2012) and Conner Contemporary, (Washington DC, USA 2009, 2012).
Hunter has also created a number of high profile, public commissioned works including; Citizen Firefighter, 2001, outside Glasgow’s Central Station, Youth with split apple, 2005 for Kings College, Aberdeen and Monument to a Mouse 2010 at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum. Later in 2010 he was awarded the ’Greatest Scot Commission’ to create an additional artwork for the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum entitled Liberty Regain’d. His Public Artworks have also been commissioned in France and Germany, notably ‘MZ5’ in Lille, France 2007 and ‘Red Boy’ in Bad Homberg, Germany 2008. In 2010 Hunter won the Spitalfields Sculpture Prize. His winning artwork, ‘I Goat’, is currently installed at Bishops Square, Spitalfields, London.
Hunter lives and works in Glasgow.
Artist’s statement: Staying in a rented house in the Outer Hebrides, my partner and I found we were sharing the kitchen with a mouse. After many humane traps tried and failed to catch the little critter - and his incredible escaping abilities became apparent - our mouse earned the name 'Moudini'. One morning we woke to discover we had trapped him at last. Our latest trap (designed for mink and adapted to catch the tiny mouse) and a fun-sized mars bar had proved too tempting for him. We looked in to see in the corner a little field mouse, beautiful and wide eyed. It was mid-winter and his fate was not to be tossed out into the cold because he would surely die, but instead we took the long trip to Stornoway to buy a mouse-house so that we could keep then release him in the spring. Four months passed and Moudini was a sorrowful prisoner, but was fed and watered and kept alive and healthy. He was released in Roslin Glen just south of Edinburgh where we left him with his cage, door open and a good supply of food if he needed it to come back to. I don't know what happened to him as he was left in a corner of the woods where he wouldn't be disturbed. I often fancifully imagined he might try to find his way back up to the Hebrides, or that at least he skipped amongst the dandelions and bluebells and thought he had landed in a field mouse heaven.
He struck me at the time to be a large force of survival in such a tiny body and one that I might learn from. Although we hadn't destroyed his home in a field, we had changed his plans somewhat. But he adapted and lived, and hopefully thrived in his new circumstances.
About the artist: Whyn Lewis was born in Edinburgh in 1973 and is best known for her unique and haunting paintings of Whippet dogs and other animals. As well as by subject, Whyn's work can be recognised by the strong and exquisitely detailed forms drawn against plain, many-layered and luminous backgrounds. She uses the shapes and symbolism of the animals as narrative, with the occasional clue in the form of a small jewel-like object hanging from the collar.
Whyn's work has been shown in Scotland, England and the USA. She graduated from Glasgow School of Art in 1995 and has since had seven solo shows in the UK. She has won several awards including five from the Royal Scottish Academy.
Whyn’s paintings have been used for the covers of two Albums, the first in 2004 for a Piano Magic EP, “Saint Marie” and the second the following year for her mother, Vashti Bunyan, when she released her first album in 35 years, “Lookaftering”.
Second-hand Scottish books, bagpipe sheet music, Robert Burns poetry and cotton warp
Varied Edition size: 10
About the artist: In her recent work, McDonald deconstructs printed materials and, in their new form, weaves them into tapestries and structures, which, while still redolent of their original history, take on an entirely new visual identity. It is the discovery of how a material can be manipulated, the qualities and possibilities of the paper itself, which she finds exciting.
She sees her tapestries as a collection of words and stories, reflecting the way in which we build memories.
Second-hand Robert Burns books, Scottish song books, cotton warp and spun cassette tapes
Varied Edition size: 10
Artist’s statement: My work is about history, more precisely about the story-telling aspect of history, as it changes with each re-writing. I use found objects, usually second-hand books, newspapers and journals. Their built-in history is the basic attraction for me, and the source of their power as objects. I act as editor in the recycling of this material. These two pieces are homage to my dad who had a very strong sense of his Scots identity who played the bagpipes and had a passion for the poetry of Robert Burns. I have used his books and sheet music. Things that belonged to him, that hold traces of him. His eyes read those words. His mind made sense of, and enjoyed, the information and stories. These works are part of his story. Most importantly, his story continues, through the dialogue that arises from the work and is passed on.
About the artist: Harland Miller is both a writer and an artist, practising both roles over a peripatetic career in both Europe and America.
After living and exhibiting in New York, Berlin and New Orleans during the 80s and 90s, Miller achieved critical acclaim with his debut novel, Slow down Arthur, Stick to Thirty, (2000), the story of a kid who travels around northern England with a David Bowie impersonator. In the same year he published a small novella, First I was Afraid, I was Petrified, based on the true story of a female relative with obsessive compulsive disorder, discovered when Miller came across a box full of Polaroid images she had taken off the knobs of a cooker. In 2001 Miller produced a series of paintings based on the dust jackets of Penguin books. By combining the motif inherent in the Penguin book, Miller found a way to marry aspects of Pop Art, abstraction and figurative painting at once, with his writer’s love of text. The ensuing images are humorous, sardonic and nostalgic at the same time, while the painting style hints at the dog-eared, scuffed covers of the Penguin classics themselves. Miller continues to create work in this vein, expanding the book covers to include his own phrases, some hilarious and absurd, others with a lush melancholy.
For this print, Miller has taken inspiration form a pack of cigarettes (brand now unavailable) bearing the title of one of Burns’s poems - putting a characteristically humorous spin on it.
Lives and works in London.
1964 Born in Yorkshire.
1987-1988 MA, Chelsea College of Art.
1984- 1987 BA, Chelsea College of Art.
About the artist: Robert Powell was born in Edinburgh in 1985 where he has lived and worked since his graduation from Edinburgh College of Art, with a Masters in Fine Art in June 2008. Since then he has attracted the attention of collectors and critics alike – primarily with his highly imaginative etchings which have been widely exhibited. He has also, more recently, also attracted attention with his sculptural work.
A Tripartite Diptych: The Ploughman Poet flanked by Ossian/Macpherson and Topaz McGonagall2009
Watercolour and etching
Central panel 25x25cm, side panels 12.5x25cm
Varied edition: 10
£1000 as a whole or, individually: £600 for the central panel and £300 for each of the side panels
'Scottish Cuisine: The Gourmet's Treat'Varied Edition size: 10
Watercolour and etching
15 x 20 cm
About the artist: Jephson Robb, born Glasgow, Scotland, read Political Economics at Glasgow University before graduating in Design from The Royal College of Art, London, 2003.
Fusing together the traditional skills of a fine art practice with the technology of contemporary design Jephson creates site-specific artworks, interior installations and large-scale permanent public sculptures.
He received his first commission in 2003 from Tord Boontje, for, the British Council’s touring exhibition of China, "Eight Rooms". The piece, "Temple", was described by Icon magazine as having a “serene quality". Following this success, Paola Antonelli, the Senior Curator in Architecture and Design, at the New York Museum of Modern Art commissioned "Cries & Whispers" for the major design exhibition: SAFE. "Cries & Whispers" is now in the museum’s permanent collection.
Jephson has worked with a wide range of private clients and public organisations including Liberty of London, Frankfurt Messe, Atkins, The Environment Agency, Page/Park Architects, ARUP and Austin-Smith:Lord.
Jephson is currently working to deliver his latest commission, “Love & Kisses”, a large public sculpture to be installed in a woodland in Falkirk, as part of The Helix project. He is also working on an architectural commission to design three pavilions for the grounds of the NHS New South Glasgow “mega” Hospital.
FAITH, inspired by Robert Burns’ poem Tam o’ Shanter, is a sculpture by Jephson Robb to express the journey of the human spirit.
Burnes ‘drop the e’2009
Multilayered screen print on somerset velvet 300grm
56cm x 76cm
About the artist: Catherine Sergeant is a visual artist who finds the inherent beauty of words fascinating, especially as we are saturated with text and communication in every aspect of our lives. Catherine aims to take this and create works that will simultaneously calm and question the viewer. She often works in series on various scales and surfaces such as robust textural slate and delicate papers.
Catherine’s text works utilise people’s favourite words and also the private languages that various groups use. More recent work has been with poets. The works of Robert Burns are an ongoing source of inspiration. Since being the first recipient of WASPS new graduate award she creates her artwork in Patriothall studios and also Edinburgh Printmakers. She has won several awards since.
Multilayered screen print on somerset velvet
38x38cm (50x50cm framed size)
Artist’s statement: This limited edition screen print references Robert Burns’s poem ‘To a Mouse’. The background words are a glossary of Robert Burns’s Scottish words; it has been handprinted with graduating colours to emulate a turning page. Over the top of the glossary the poem has been written using only the letter ‘e’, until we come to the most famous line, at which point the e has been omitted and a new phrase has been created. The inspiration for dropping the ‘e’ came from the discovery that Robert Burns’s father spelt his surname Burnes. Other suggestions regarding Robert’s lifestyle may also be alluded to in the title itself.
My heart's in the Highlands a-chasing the deer2012
Digital print on 330 g somerset paper
Edition of 20
About the artist: Fiona Watson has exhibited extensively both at home and abroad. She is a regular exhibitor in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in London. Her work is held in a number of collections worldwide. Apart from Burns, other sources of Watson’s inspiration include ephemera, bookshops, travel and music.
Artist’s statement: This image arose when I was playing about with Scottish icons and clichés- although somehow it seems to fit along the lines of 'Portrait of the artist as a young man/dog/buck.
1952 born St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada
1971-1974 Biological Sciences, B.Sc. Hons, Leicester University
1978-96 medical journalist
A selection of Recent Solo Exhibitions
2012 Notes on Birds and Other Beasts, Castle Gallery, Inverness
2010 Of a Delicate Nature, Howden Park Centre, Livingstone
2009 The Space Between, Glasgow Print Studio