Fred Bushe, RSA OBE

Posted in CF Writing by chrisfremantle on May 18, 2009

Frederick Bushe.  Born 1931 died 17 May 2009.

One of the foremost of a generation of Scottish sculptors, Fred Bushe also founded the Scottish Sculpture Workshop.

Both his drawing and his sculpture were monumental in scale and concerned with the physical of the environment around him.  He was a modernist through and through, engaged with material and form and dismissive of the fads in sculpture that came and went.  His strong sense composition in three dimensions resulted in work drawing on the industrial as a primary source.  You would naturally connect his work with that of Anthony Caro.

In 1979 he had been teaching art teachers at Aberdeen College of Education, and was looking for a studio.  He found an old bakery in the village of Lumsden, with a flat above a shop front, and a range of buildings behind.  He took these on, establishing the Scottish Sculpture Workshop (SSW) initially under the auspices of WASPS (Workshop Artists Studio Provision Scotland), and later as a ‘client’ of the Scottish Arts Council.

Fred was part of the post-war sculpture symposium movement participating in symposia in eastern europe and in turn hosting a number of international symposia at SSW.  This movement was about cultural communication in the context of political division, and Fred played an important role.  In the Bothy at SSW there is a big kitchen table, and that probably epitomises his spirit.

Over the fifteen or sixteen years that he ran SSW, more than one generation of young artists found a place to explore their interests in a working studio.  At the same time artists from something like 40 countries came to work.  When it was good, SSW was a hothouse with artists working and talking, supporting and helping each other.  When it was bad, it was freezing cold and very isolated.

Fred also established the Scottish Sculpture Open at Kildrummy Castle.  For many years it provided an opportunity to see large scale work by established and emerging artists, again both Scottish and overseas.  It is difficult to image the importance of this biennial when there are now so many opportunities for large scale work (temporary and permanent), but at the time it was critical.

Fred had studied at Glasgow School of Art, 1949–53. In 1966–67 he attended the University of Birmingham School of Art, where he gained an Advanced Diploma in Art Education.  He was a long standing member of the Royal Scottish Academy and received his OBE in 1997 (I think).

He exhibited in group shows from the Camden Arts Centre in London to the Pier Arts Centre on Orkney, as well as many of the Sculpture Opens, and his works are to be found in various locations in Scotland as well as in odd corners of Eastern Europe.

Hopefully the RSA will put on a good retrospective of his work.

A characteristic large sculpture, “Grave Gate”, in Corten steel and wood, can be found in the Hunterian Sculpture Courtyard.

Obituary in Scotsman

Other links to images:

Chatham Street North Extension Relief

T-Fold, Highland Council

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