Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Reflective Histories exhibition at Traquair House

I had an Artist's Day or perhaps better to call it an Artists' Date with fellow blipper, blogger and textile artist Helen Cowans at Traquair House. We went specially to see the Reflective Histories exhibition but of course also enjoyed seeing Traquair House itself again. There is always something new to discover in the old rooms. But it was the exhibition we concentrated our efforts on, because it took a bit of detective work to discover the art pieces hidden among Traquair's other treasures. We agreed that many of the visitors probably never realized the exhibition was on and assumed that the pieces were simply part of the house. Thus it was a very clever way of displaying but I'm not so sure it was a great way to attract the visitors to it. This bear however was the exception. He was hard to miss, standing guard just outside the maze. These bears were produced by the artist Lesley Logue
Here is his companion located a bit further on and with the maze in view against the green backdrop of the Scottish Borders.
There were also displays in the two pavilions (you can see one of them in the background of the first bear picture). In the first one (Helen and I were the only ones there) Helen wound up a torch so that we had 5 minutes of ultra-violet light and after closing the door so that darkness prevailed we could see moths and butterflies stamped on the walls in paint that could only be seen in such conditions. You can see one of the moth in the picture above and for some reason the light of the torch turned red on my photograph. It was quite eery to see the fluttering creatures on the wall but also fascinating. This art was produced by Nicola Murrah
In the other pavilion was a video show with a very ironic take on the plans for Scottish Independence in which the 3 roles were all played by the same person, also the artist who produced the video as well as all the costumes, Rachel Maclean. I'm not sure if she also produced all the different voices but whoever did this, they got the voice of the queen spot on! It was quite amazing to hear her reading from a fairytale book!

And here she is again, dressed very patriotically and positioned outside the famous bear gates of Traquair which have remained shut since 1745 when the Jacobite army marched South to England and will remain so until another Stuart King or Queen sits on the Scottish throne. 

All the other pieces of the exhibition were inside the house where there is a strict No Photography rule so I can't share those with you. The piece that both Helen and I fell in love with and coveted like mad was an art book made by Helen Douglas and can be found in the Priest's Room. The imagery within the book was based on art present in the house such as paintings, engravings and (close to the hearts of textile artists like Helen and I) the quilts and laces. It used a variety of papers in the book including some wonderful embossed ones again with textures found in the house. The other pieces that spoke to us were produced by artist Duncan Robertson, who was inspired by the beautiful wallpapers seen in almost every room in Traquair. He printed a scan of them onto fabric and then added his own embroidery to the fabric and framed the pieces in embroidery hoops. They were then hung in among the relevant wallpaper and it took some doing to spot them!

The exhibition is still on in the house till the 30th September 2012 and is included in the entrance fee for the house itself. It was organized by the Edinburgh Printmakers and you can order the catalogue from their site. To it's credit it has a wealth of pictures but sadly it is composed in art speak, a relatively recent form of English which tends to be singularly unilluminating and obfuscating (that was a taste if you haven't come across it before!). Don't get me wrong, it made for a fascinating read but it also made it hard work to get to the crux of the matter. The whole exhibition was inspired by Traquair House itself and the artwork contained within. Go and enjoy, is my advice. There are some artists' talks associated with the exhibition and I hope to catch at least one of them. More info again on the website of the Edinburgh Printmakers.

And for once this summer the weather was also with us and we had our lunch outside!!


Lenna Young Andrews said...

lunch outside! Hooray ; ) Well, it sounds like a most interesting exhibit and somewhat mysterious. I am so glad you got to meet up and enjoy it with your friend, Helen. You could compare notes and just enjoy the exhibits together. I love the bear statues!

Linda said...

What a fascinating looking place along with the exhibition Frieda! Glad you had an enjoyable day and shared it :)

Linda said...

I love history and read most anything I come across. Never heard of the bear gates and waiting for a Stuart on the throne, very interesting.

Sarah Price said...

This is a terrific account of your experience of Reflective Histories and I'm glad the mystery and then joy of discovery was there for you. In regard to the 'artspeak' of the catalogue, it is another dimension, not to everyone's taste I agree but another layer for those that do speak the language and enjoy it. Thankyou for your enthusiasm though and for letting others know about it.... Sarah Price, Director Edinburgh Printmakers


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