Oxford Futures Forum 2017

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on June 1, 2017

Abstract accepted by Oxford Futures Forum (2-3 June 2017). Heading there now.

What is the role of artists in relation to land use?

Lucy R Lippard says in her recent book Undermining (2014) that she finds ‘landscape’ to be a difficult word, trapped in the art domain, and that living in the American West the term ‘land use’ is more relevant.

This affirmed a line of research and writing I’ve been engaged in for more than 18 months, concerned particularly with artists whose work addresses land use and could contribute to Land Use Policy. This is only one aspect of artists’ working with environmental and ecological issues, but it is an area of key relevance to the Oxford Future Forum agenda. ‘Land use’ directly describes the current construction of human use of land as a resource, with all the implied contradictions. Whilst artists and designers are sometimes involved to support ‘public engagement’ through creative approaches, I’m interested in the work of artists who also work strategically imagining different futures and sometimes work to deliver them. Practices such as Collins and Goto, Stephen Hurrel, Kate Foster, John Wallace, Anne-Marie Culhane and internationally Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison are drawing on social/cultural histories as well as scientific disciplines (eg Forest Ecology, Soil Science, Coastal Defence or Marine Biology) to synthesise new understandings of specific places at a range of scales. This can be understood as the formation of scenarios, albeit presented as artworks.

The development of Ecosystems Services Assessment makes this work more significant given that it specifically includes the Cultural dimension, an area which the sciences and environmental management find challenging to move beyond obvious designations of scenic beauty (spiritual value) or path networks (leisure value). But it is worth noting that the artistic practices cited above , through cultural approaches, can also address the Provisioning (i.e. products obtained including food and fuel), Regulating (e.g. water purification) and Supporting (e.g. soil formation and photosynthesis) aspects of Ecosystems Services Assessment. An apparently cultural approach to river ecology might envisage interventions which affect water quality and flow management. A good example is the Harrisons’ Atempause Für Den Save Flüss / Breathing Space for the Sava River (1990) which proposed an ecosystemic approach to cleaning the Sava River which was also implemented on the nearby Drava River.

Artists are in some cases able to go beyond representing landscape to create value in areas not previously perceived as valuable through conceptual, policy and practical interventions produced with communities, environmental managers, engineers and scientists. In doing so they demonstrate complex skill sets including social engagement, collaboration and interdisciplinarity as well as the production of process and object-based art.

The challenge is to engage policy makers (as well as curators) at regional and national level in understanding the value of these practices. Another challenge is to understand how to extend this type of work, which currently exists as unique projects, across multiple different administrative regions.

I work as a researcher and producer across arts & ecologies and arts & health. I was the producer for the Harrisons’ Greenhouse Britain: Losing Ground, Gaining Wisdom and have recently co-authored two chapters on their aesthetics. I’ve worked with a number of the artists mentioned above. I established ecoartscotland as a platform for research and practice in 2010. ecoartscotland is multi-dimensional, collaborating with the Land Art Generator Initiative on a major project for Glasgow, participating in exhibitions at Edinburgh College of Art and Summerhall Arts Centre, publishing ‘occasional papers’ under an ISSN, and connecting a large network of practitioners through a blog.


Harrison, Helen Mayer and Harrison, Newton, Atempause Für Den Save Flüss, Ljubljana: Neuer Berliner Kunstverein, Moderna Galerija, 1990
Lippard, Lucy, R. Undermining: A Wild Ride Through Land Use, Politics, and Art in the Changing West, New York: The New Press, 2014

What art have I seen? Souvenir

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on May 28, 2017

Souvenir by Victoria Bianchi on Ayr Beachfront. A journey back to the heyday of Ayr Beach, reminiscing without being corny or stereotypical, this was physical, engaging and touching by turns.

What art have I seen? Loraine Leeson and Peter Dunn’s The Things That Make You Sick at the ICA

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on May 26, 2017

The Things That Make You Sick: East London Health Campaigning, 1977-1980 by Loraine Leeson and Peter Dunn at the ICA until 2 July.

Brilliant to revisit the serious radicalism of these artists work with local Unions and Trades Councils to support local campaigns against hospital closures as well as raise issues of ‘health over profits’ and women’s rights. The issues are the same today though I’m not sure the art practices have the political alignment or intention. These artists put themselves at the service of local people’s needs as part of campaigns – they felt that it was better not being instigators (as they had been in a previous project). Lots to learn.

What art have I seen?Picasso: Minotaurs and Matadors at Gagosian

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on May 26, 2017

What art have I seen? Cerith Wyn Evans

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on May 25, 2017

No Maintenance: Chris Dooks

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on May 10, 2017


Can taking ‘no maintenance’ as a creative challenge inspire new approaches to art in healthcare settings? This is the challenge I posed in a blog for the London Arts in Health Forum based on a paper published in the new Design for Health Journal.

The intention is to provoke new approaches to making public art (or sited work) for hospitals and healthcare settings. Having considerable experience of managing the commissioning process, it seems to me that we need new ways to think about the challenge and the particularly difficult requirements of ‘no maintenance’ in a high ‘wear and tear’ context like a hospital. But the intention is to raise deeper philosophical and theoretical issues around ‘care’ and ‘maintenance’, and underlying questions of value.

One of the artists who has responded is interdisciplinary artist, composer and researcher Chris Dooks. In 2014 Dooks completed The Fragmented Filmmaker, Emancipating The Exhausted Artist, his Phd on his art practice in relation to his Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (CFS-ME). The Phd took the form of three vinyl records (yellow, blue and red) and an autoethnographic text. Despite this condition Dooks has undertaken residencies in Berlin as well as with Woodend Barn, Aberdeenshire; Timespan in Helmsdale; and made work in response to the Dark Skies Park in the South West of Scotland.

Dooks’ research proposes that making art could be a way of coping with his CFS-ME even though the very character of the condition limits the ability to do the things normally associated with making art.

Dooks proposes that ways of making art, in particular ‘bricolage’, defined as ‘construction achieved by using whatever comes to hand’, are compatible with ‘low energy’ generally and his condition specifically. Dooks says, “The Holy Grail is to make something with conceptual value without actually ‘making’ anything at all.”
Each of Dooks three works for his Phd addresses a different method and a different challenge. He describes each of the three projects as experiments within a personal arts laboratory. One is focused by cosmology, another by the limitations of a broken harmonium and the third by what you can record from your windowsill.
In each case they address specific challenges of CFS-ME, such as not being able to leave your house, or the need for aids to sleep. Dooks says of this last challenge, “…one aspect of that is to create ‘soporific sonics’ – where tones to aid sleep and rest are cherished prizes, when found.” But each is also much more. Each demonstrates the potential of making art from whatever comes to hand, including broken instruments, conversations with strangers and ambient sounds.

In the sleeve notes for Ciga{r}les (the yellow album) Dooks explores the relationship between his own “predicament”, the “unpleasant and inconvenient limitations” he lives with, in relation to the wider importance of limitation and context in the making of any artwork. He juxtaposes these limitations with the necessity of limiting oneself when making an artwork, selecting what to work with and what to leave aside, editing and in the end knowing when to stop.

The question that I’m raising is asking artists to shift ‘no maintenance’ from an external limitation into a self-imposed creative constraint. Dooks’ work also explores using his illness as a part of his creative process, both for his own wellbeing and as part of cultural projects.

Of course one of the sharpest aspects is that whilst Dooks constructs sound with care for his own wellbeing and for our pleasure, most healthcare environments, and in particular hospitals, are characterised by monitors and alarms, a constant barrage of random noise. Although most work made for hospitals and healthcare settings is visual and applied art, Dooks’ work makes a compelling case for needing to address the sonic environments.

No Maintenance – a creative challenge for public art in healthcare settings

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on May 3, 2017

Thanks to the London Arts and Health Forum for the opportunity to share the idea that maintenance can be a creative inspiration for art in hospitals.

London Arts in Health Forum blog

By Chris Fremantle

Maintenance is one of the most difficult challenges in public art, especially working with the public sector, because no-one wants to commit to long term costs. As a result many briefs, and I’ve written my share of them recently for new projects in hospitals, specify zero or at best low maintenance. They go on to stipulate that any cleaning must utilise equipment already in use. Art must be able to cope with chlorine-based cleaning products and even with steam cleaning. Often the response is to do what we normally do but to specify more robust materials.

What if we imagined ‘no maintenance’ as a positive opportunity? What if zero maintenance was a creative challenge for artists and designers and a benefit for hospital patients, families, carers and staff (medical, nursing and support)? Could we still provide a positive distraction, aid way-finding, support patient dignity, make distinctive ‘places’…

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What art have I seen? Forms of Action

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on March 10, 2017

What art have I seen? A Caledonian Decoy

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on February 23, 2017

What art have I seen? D’Arcy Thompson

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on December 28, 2016

Sketch of the Universe: Art, Science and the influence of D’Arcy Thompson and Peter Randall-Page at the City Arts Centre and William Kentridge at the Fruitmarket. The D’Arcy Thompson exhibition is work collected by and commissioned for the Zoology Museum at the University of Dundee. Excellent.

Failure, with intention

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on August 26, 2016

“To fail meant we took a risk, and because we did it with intention, knowing what we were aiming for and what went wrong, we could immediately go back to the drawing board and approach it again.”

What art have I seen? Alice Neel and Jess Johnson

Posted in Exhibitions, Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on August 16, 2016

Two exhibitions at the Talbot Rice Gallery, University of Edinburgh.  Alice Neel, New York portrait painter. The drawings in the Playfair Library on the ground floor and the balcony are well worth the trouble.  The influence of the Expressionists is really strong, but it’s clearly NYC.  The show links biography with work which is fascinating, but a bit distracting.  The mark making is great!

Jess Johnson’s Eclectrc Panoptic drawings, video and VR environment are all enthralling – the VR environment is really successful  transposition of the drawings – it is a linear exploration and not ‘gamified’ but I suspect that the real quality is in the work with Simon Ward to make it feel like you are moving through the drawings.

What art have I seen? Charles Jencks + Alex Rigg

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on August 4, 2016

What art have I seen? Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Posted in Exhibitions, Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on July 17, 2016


In the Yellow Room we find Whistler’s ‘Nocturne, Blue and Silver: Battersea Reach’ along with a Matisse, a Degas, a Sargent and another Whistler.  Having been to Hearst Castle last year, we wondered what the difference was?

What art have I seen? Simon Starling

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on July 6, 2016

Holding the paradox

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on May 29, 2016

On The Edge Research

hands by Chris photos: Chris Fremantle

How can art respond to complex social and ethical problems? When should the demand for solutions be resisted? And how might this affect our understanding of cultural leadership?

These were among the questions keenly debated in the first of our series of full day seminars on Cultural leadership and the place of the Artist which took place in Edinburgh on Friday 20th May.  Our thanks go to the artists, researchers and cultural organisers who attended and contributed so fully.  The day brought together participants from various phases of On The Edge research alongside new friends and colleagues from our project partners Creative Scotland and ENCATC.

Discussion ranged across different understandings of what is meant by leadership and how it relates to artistic production.  This led on to questions about the role of art in public life.  Some compelling suggestions were made about the distinctive capacity…

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Chicago; 3rd novel; Essays

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on April 9, 2016

In June Elizabeth and I are doing a joint session for the Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities on the subject of Failure. She’done sessions on the Essay for Phd students at Gray’s which unfortunately I missed, but I’m very much looking forward to the Chapbook promised for the summer and the investigation of the essay form later this year, more details below.

Elizabeth K Reeder

A Trip to Chicago; The Third Novel

We’ve just made a spur of the moment trip Stateside. We swung through Iowa and played ping-pong with family (there may have been some singing and dancing too) and then spent some time in Chicago. It’s April but the city seemed to have forgotten this and typical Mid-western weather welcomed us: ‘If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes and it’ll change.’ Including more than one blustery bout of snow when we walked Chicago’s version of the highline – the 606. We walked quite a lot in the cold, determined rain. We even braved the weather on an open top bus to tour Chicago neighborhoods run by the Chicago Architectural Foundation.

During February and March I worked to finish a full draft of my third novel, Those We Buried. In this book I not only create buildings but I burn them down…

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Questioning cultural leadership

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on April 1, 2016

On The Edge Research

Who do you depend upon to make your role in the arts possible? Who looks to you for support? What form of change would you most like to see happen – and who can help you bring it about?

IMG_9477 Photos: Graeme MacDonald

On The Edge posed these questions to a diverse group of artists, researchers and organisers at the first event of its new AHRC investigation, Cultural leadership and the place of the artist, on 14th March at Woodend Barn, Banchory. Each question was approached through the viewpoints of a range of archetypal roles: artist, funder, teacher, policy maker, board member, parent, venue manager, volunteer.  We built a network in miniature of the relationships and forms of influence through which our actions are shaped in aesthetic, organisational and social contexts.  Opening up issues of leadership in culture beyond the operation of hierarchies, we tried to understand the…

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A postcard from Brussels

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on March 23, 2016

From Jon Price in Brussels

On The Edge Research

Benoit tearI’ve always loved travelling through Maelbeek metro station, as I often do when staying at my regular apartment in Brussels, going from local stop Merode towards the centre. Until yesterday Maelbeek was most distinguished for its fabulous station artwork, completed in 2001 by the Belgian artist Benoît van Innis.   This series of 8 faces would gaze benignly from the white tiled walls, deceptively simple line drawings fired in ceramic.  They look at first glance like someone has drawn them on with a marker.

Benoît’s faces, echoes and anticipations of the passing commuters who stared blankly back at them on a daily basis, have been a reassuring presence on this route through the EU quarter.  They are also a symbol of the city’s cosmopolitanism, with their sparse detail sufficient to suggest diversity and their open expressions inviting self-identification.  I found myself looking for their images on the internet last night…

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What art have I seen? Another Minimalism

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on January 22, 2016

Another Minimalism: Art After California Light and Space at The Fruitmarket, Edinburgh – I saw Robert Irwin’s 2 year installation at the Dia in NYC in 2000 in deep midwinter. The exploration of formal and sensory experience in this show is really well curated with a spectrum of works by key people. I particularly liked the retinal afterglow from the Olafur Eliasson.

What art have I seen? Simon Starling

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on January 15, 2016

Nine Feet Later by Simon Starling at The Modern Institute. Nice evocation of multiple timescales, almost an iteration of Latham’s Time Base Roller in a group of objects (from bamboo to fossilised wood), including the sense of the ghostly half seen past created by the Dageurrotypes of (reconstructed) previous exhibitions in the space.

The Hope of Something Different – a piece for A Restless Art

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on December 24, 2015

Invited piece for Francois Matarasso’s A Restless Art unpacking some of the similarities between community/social and environmental/ecological art practices.

Cultural leadership and the place of the artist

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on October 21, 2015

Really excited to be working on a new phase of artists and leadership

On The Edge Research

Traditional Sicilian puppets at Rustico's restaurant, AberdeenOn The Edge has secured a new £100,000 international project to develop professional engagement with its research into artistic and cultural leadership at Gray’s School of Art. Establishing new relationships with the Clore Leadership Programme, Creative Scotland and ENCATC (the European network of cultural management and cultural policy education), the work will generate events and discussions with the cultural sector in London, Edinburgh and Brussels. New publications will be produced and the project aims to inform new developments in cultural leadership training, theory and practice.

The year-long initiative is funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) with further support from the three partners. It builds on the longstanding ‘Artist as Leader’ research as well as Jonathan Price’s Ph.D research into ‘Discourses of Cultural Leadership’ (2012-2015).  Price will co-ordinate the new project while Professor Anne Douglas and Chris Fremantle, the co-authors of the Artist as Leader report, will…

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Collective Futures Final Report — #COFUTURES

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on October 10, 2015

#CoFutures Report is a really valuable source on Collectives across art, design and craft in Scotland – used design thinking methods, residents, events and tools to understand character, issues and challenges as well as values and structures.

Help Place of Origin

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on August 13, 2015


We need your help. Kemnay Community Councillor David Evans just contacted me about a proposal to further surround Place of Origin with housing.  Some of you will know that when I was Director of the Scottish Sculpture Workshop we worked with three artists John Maine RA, Glen Onwin RSA and Brad Goldberg (Texas) to create a landscape and viewpoint at Kemnay Quarry called Place of Origin.  John Maine framed it as making landscape as art.
So Place of Origin as an artwork made out of 100,000 tonnes of quarry waste and about 7000 trees mirroring Bennachie in the way the Japanese gardens mirrored the wider landscape is all about views.  When you are standing at the top you have views for 360 degrees with the quarry in front of you and Aberdeenshire’s beautiful countryside around with Bennachie in the distance.  The artists also thought hard about how the landscape and viewpoint would look in the context of Kemnay village.
Anyway there is a proposal from a volume house builder for 49 new houses on greenfield immediately adjacent to the artwork.  At present as you ascent the viewpoint you rise above all the housing on Fyfe Park, but this stuff will be on higher ground and will immediately be in your face.
The developer tried to get the housing into the Local Development Plan a couple of years ago and it was refused so they appealed – the Scottish Government’s Reporter commented as follows, “The site is on rising ground and any development would be elevated above the existing housing adjacent to the A933. When viewed from the approach to Kemnay from the east, particularly from the B993, a development on site H1 would seriously intrude on the view of the ‘Place of Origin’. Furthermore, the development would seriously detract from views southwards from the ‘Place of Origin’ viewpoint. Consequently, it is considered that site H1 should not be allocated for housing.”
We are so grateful that Kemnay Community Council are strenuously objecting and they have noted a number of reasons including impacts on the school, the medical centre, the traffic and the stormwater drainage as well as the impact on the artwork.  I hope that you will take the time to go online and make a comment.  I think frankly you can pretty much reiterate the comments of the Scottish Government Reporter and note that the artwork won both an Aberdeenshire Council Planning Award, as well as a national Saltire Award.  You might also make a general reference to Aberdeenshire Council’s various policies on Landscape and in particular the value of place-making.
If you can take the time to object I would appreciate it a lot as would the people in Kemnay who look after Place of Origin. The link, email address and postal address for objections are all on the web page.

What art have I seen? Rachel Nolan

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on June 3, 2015

What art have I seen? Ian McNicol

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on June 3, 2015

Moving Image Season: Clyde Reflections, from art-science team Hurrel and Brennan, 28 May – 5 July 2015

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on May 12, 2015

Very much looking forward to chairing the discussion on 13 June…

Gallery Of Modern Art (GoMA) Glasgow

'Still from video: Hurrel & Brennan (from underwater footage by Howard Wood)' courtesy and © the artists ‘Still from video: Hurrel & Brennan (from underwater footage by Howard Wood)’ courtesy and © the artists

There are a host of brilliant events and openings happening  this month in GoMA, including the next installment of the Moving Image Season, Gallery 1. Clyde Reflections, an audio-video installation by the collaborative art/science team artist Stephen Hurrel and social ecologist Ruth Brennan, was selected by the curatorial team as beautiful and thought provoking work to continue the programme in the main gallery. It also relates to ongoing conversations that the gallery has been having about climate change, Glasgow and the visual arts while hosting Early Warning Signs, by Ellie Harrison and for Glasgow Green Year 2015.

 “We are delighted that Clyde Reflections has found a temporary home at GoMA as part of the upcoming Moving Image Season. Our approach to producing this film was to interview a diverse range…

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What art have I seen? Danish Diaspora Scotland

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on April 11, 2015

Write, Erase, Do It Over: On Failure, Risk and Writing Outside Yourself

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on March 13, 2015

Terry Pratchett RIP

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on March 13, 2015

In about 1990/91 I was knocked off my bike and spent 3 weeks in St Thomas’. My brother brought me a paperback of Weird Sisters. I laughed so much. Mind you I was on morphine based painkillers.

What art have I seen? Drawing at RSA

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on February 19, 2015

Scottish Drawing exhibition at the RSA in Edinburgh – a few thoughts on what was unexpected, familiar, unfamiliar, obsessibe, a reminder, revealing, evocative, relational, quiet, surprising, severe, known and unknown, small.

Most Marion Smith
Next Will Maclean
But also Glen Onwin one unexpectedly direct Galena; one intriguingly complex – The unchanging and the changing; and one I think I knew about – Flow of Near Solids (A proposal)

Familiar from recent encounters David Blyth.

Unfamiliar Alfons Bytautus, Lorna McIntosh.

Obsessive Charles Stiven.

Reminder James Castle.

Revealing Joe Fan, particularly Spring Time Chaos.

Evocative Annie Cattrell Sustain, Sustain I and II

Relationships between for instance Frances Pelly’s PI, a concertina of drawings of a sleeping dog and CameronWebster’s visual narrative of house from sketch to completion.

Quiet works including Andy Cranston and Anne Douglas

Surprising Leon Morrocco. Vibrant, engaging, challenging the chromophobia of drawing.

Severe Arthur Watson

Known Frances Walker and Doug Cocker and unknown Fiona Dean.

The smallest revealing the most – Andy Stenhouse’s Tone Poem : Tone Dee (Harbour).

Missing Donald Urquhart,

The Question of Light: Tilda Swinton’s speech at the Rothko Chapel | Connerhabib’s Blog

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on February 9, 2015

Having been to the Rothko Chapel and having lived in Scotland for more than thirty years and spending the best (and worst) of that working with artists, this resonates… the older I get, the more I realise, “both this and that are true at once…”

What art have I seen? Joseph Kosuth

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on January 27, 2015


Joseph Kosuth’s neon works installed Spruth Magers. The banding on the photo is I assume a frequency related to the neon/camera interaction. This work in the basement made the Greek myths into daily appointments. Upstairs  the neon treatment of Freud’s proofs of the galleys was one of a sequence of manifestations of others’ works including artists (including Judd and Calvin and Hobbes), theorists (including Adorno) and scientists (including Darwin).

What art have I seen? Adventures of the Black Square

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on January 25, 2015


Whitechapel Gallery’s first class exhibition, Adventures of the Black Square. They take us for a very interesting walk following the black square in the 20th Century art, dance, design, architecture and craft. Particularly appreciated juxtaposition with David Batchelor’s Monochrome – 500 white quadrilaterals he’s found on his travels (and in the corner one screen showing the black ones).

What art have I seen? David Blyth

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on December 11, 2014


David Blyth’s astounding exhibition at RGU. Exploring and exploding taxidermy. Stories of Cyril the Squirrel and the Blyth’s Fitch Ranch in Manitoba  in the 30s and 40s. Years of stripping back stories.

Ten thoughts from Johnny Galley

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on December 6, 2014

Read Johnny Galley’s blog on the seminar at Talbot Rice. I’ve posted on Tim Rollins and the K.O.S. before and was privileged to be at this event. I also use Tim Ingold and Elizabeth Hallam’s observation about innovation and improvisation.

Tim Rollins & K.O.S.

gang Tim Rollins and KOS, New York, late eighties

In August 2012, Tim Rollins and KOS arrived in Edinburgh in advance of the opening of their exhibition, The Black Spot, at the Talbot Rice Gallery. In partnership with the gallery, Artworks Scotland organised a day’s seminar for practicing artists and educators, which sought to explore   ‘what was there to learn from Tim’s long practice?’  By gathering written responses of the seminar from five practicing artists and educators, we have sought to collate multiple responses that may be of transference to other educators working in the field:

The following are some ten thoughts, responding to the artists’ reviews, of what artists’ might take from Tim Rollins’ practice.

 1. Charisma

There is no doubt that Tim has presence.  Attendees talked of being ‘intoxicated’ by Tim’s presentation, and by his style of presentation.  Holding a room, being confident, being a performer…

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You Can Contribute

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on November 4, 2014

Points of View

Your contribution will be much appreciated!

The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.
Gustave Flaubert

The Ayrshire Health and Arts Blog will record and provide a place to discuss the new developments in the community and mental health facility that’s being built in Irvine and we’re excited to have the chance to tell this important story. We will be covering:

  • key milestones in the construction process
  • interesting developments and opportunities in arts and health/arts for health and wellbeing / social inclusion, locally, throughout Scotland and internationally
  • hosting guest blogs that show the value and relevance of the arts in mental health and the health-care environment (or other related environments).

The guest blogs, so far contributed by John Fulton (Art Therapist/Principal Art Psychotherapist in South Ayrshire Psychological Services) and Donald Urquhart (one of the Arts Co-ordinators on the project), will be written by artists, mental health practitioners, architects and the community and we’d…

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Tempting Failure

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on October 28, 2014

What art have I seen? from Pushkin Museum

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on October 9, 2014

A Literary Landscape in Russian Art at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway. A selection of prints and drawings by students (who have done residencies at the Pushkin Museum perhaps a little like Hospitalfield?).  Quality classical drawing and printmaking skills on display from early 20th Century to present day.

Energy Cities and Cultural Development

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on October 8, 2014

On The Edge Research

Walk Among The Worlds by Maximo Gomez. Photo: Alain Sojourner Walk Among The Worlds by Maximo Gomez. Photo: Alain Sojourner

We’ve never been to a conference on the cultural and creative industries at a University that didn’t have someone providing a theoretical critique of the subject. On 1st October Robert Gordon University and the City of Aberdeen co-hosted an event which drew on the experiences of other energy capitals to understand cultural and creative industries development. Pacem critique, this was a morning full of insight into the sorts of strategies, policies and actions that make a difference to cities and see the arts thrive as part of their communities. It benefited from specific experience of being a European Capital of Culture (something Aberdeen aspires to) and it was a good renewal of the process of building a culture and arts development agenda for Aberdeen.

The subtitle was ‘Global Energy Cities and Cultural Illumination’ but the real point is that…

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What art have I seen? Losq, Bechers and The Nakeds

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on September 26, 2014

Nemora at the Fine Art Society, Juliette Losq’ black and white ink and watercolour scenes of post apocalyptic greenworld overwhelming our cities. These paintings extend space through devices such as infiltrating a fireplace or surrounding a grandfather clock and also replacing its face. For all those attempts to question the frame and break out of the container (like the plantlife evoked in those overlooked and unplanned spaces behond retail parks)  it was the framed work Scumsucker (2011) which resonated the most reminding me of the space in which John Wallace’s Cinema Sark was exhibited a year ago during the first Environmental Art Festival Scotland: the undercroft of the M6 as it crossed the river Sark defining the border between England and Scotland.
Bernd und Hilla Becher at Spruth Magers. I wonder who decided on the composition of the groups of 9 images in particular? Was it the Bechers? The groupings are very subtle.
The Nakeds at the Drawing Room. Ought to have been inspiring and provoking in the way their Abstract Drawing exhibition was. Perhaps the failure is exemplified by a success. One of the standout pieces is Fiona Banner’s block of red text on a page (a print from Arsewoman in Wonderland I think). The text is a verbal description of a woman in a porn film. The description creates a clear sense of the artist’s eye travelling over and exploring the image (presumably frozen on a screen). It’s deeply personal and distinctive. It’s in no way salacious – quite the opposite – it wouldn’t make it into a volume of erotica. But the rest was in danger of sameness failing to extend vigorously into enough different spaces of drawing the human body. The are too many pieces that feel like sketches off the studio floor – the two small pieces by Beuys feel like that, though the Warhol drawings are revealing. But there are none of Gormley’s drawings using his own semen or any Duchampian work made with naked bodies and paint. Egon Schiele is at the heart of the thinking, but in a way he dominates the aesthetic too much and the conception not enough. The aim of the exhibition, to explore the space between the nude and porn, is really interesting but the curation doesn’t really stretch it enough. Schiele obviously made work for distribution as porn, so did Turner. I wonder who else did as well?

The Scot who burned down the White House

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on September 4, 2014


Burning of the White House by British forces, 1814 Burning of the White House by British forces, 1814

The Scots have had had a remarkable impact on American history. Less well-known is the Scot who burned down the White House and inadvertently helped inspire the American national anthem,  a “mad, romantic, money-getting” Cochrane.

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What art have I seen? Carl Andre

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on August 15, 2014

Dan Flavin Institute. Photo Chris Fremantle

Currently at the Dan Flavin Institute in Bridgehampton you can see an exhibition of cards and letters that Carl Andre sent to Sol LeWitt (press release here).
It’s pretty clear that they must have shared a sense of humour as well as an aesthetic.
There is on sequence of instructions for painting landscape (a card divided into a grid of six boxes -three by two – in each box is the name of one colour paired with the names of one of six other colours. Down the side of the card is written the word foliage). Following the instructions should lead to works which might remind you of works by Joseph Albers.
There’s another set of 16 cards each, in sequence, with three lines of the biography of Spinoza pasted onto them. 
There’s a set with different materials’ polar curves (something to do with algebra), again cut out of a University textbook. image
This pretty much demonstrates a number of LeWitt’s Sentences on Conceptual Art such as “Irrational thoughts should be followed absolutely and logically.” Sorry not to be here for part 2 in the winter featuring Andre’s poetry.

What art have I seen? New Parrish

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on August 9, 2014

The new Parrish Art Museum just outside Southampton, designed by Herzog and de Meuron (of Tate Modern fame), is at once a challenging and also quite subtle piece of architecture. It aspires to sit in the landscape like the epitome of an agricultural building: larger maybe, more overtly using the materials of agricultural architecture such as sterling board and exposed concrete.  It’s very different from the quiet neoclassicism of the old Parrish. Sitting on a basically rectangular plot next to Route 27, the relationship to landscape dodges the otherwise generic retail architecture that prevails along every highway in the US. On the other hand the relationship of the car parks, oak trees and swales at the back of the building is good, and the quality of wildflower meadow also successfully differentiates this space from commercial, municipal and domestic lawns.  Fritz Haeg and the Harrisons would be pleased to see this, and perhaps it will slowly change the wider landscape.
Inside the overhanging roof creates a quality of light recogniseable from the best architecture in places with such strong summer sun.
The spaces suit Maya Lin and Denis Oppenheim, both with works installed this summer. Maya Lin’s explorations of aspects of landscape at different scales are compelling, whilst Oppenheim’s proposals for splash buildings are fun and funky, but keep your attention.
The building doesn’t seem to serve traditional painting quite so well. It is perhaps too austere for William Merritt Chase’s works on show. 
It’s quite an achievement for a small town (albeit with access to considerable wealth) to have produced a space which will be considered alongside the best small art museums in the world. But with great wealth comes great responsibility and it would be interesting to hear how this institution engages with all those who are excluded. It looks like it might have good environmental credentials, but it needs good social ones beyond the conventional work with schools – where’s the residency with the hispanic migrant working community that services the domestic and gardening needs of the Hamptons, or works with isolated older people in the winter?

Arts and Health discussions in August

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on August 3, 2014

There are two opportunities in Edinburgh in August to hear artists talking about working in healthcare (I’m going to be moderating the second of them). Both will touch on mental health contexts, but the second event will particularly focus on them.

Art and the Healing Environment
Sunday August 17th 1.30 – 2.30. Princes Room, Bonhams. Free entry.

The session will be Chaired by Dr. Donnie Ross, an ex-hospital consultant and medical director, and ex-chairman of Grampian Hospitals Art Trust, who also describes himself as a shed-builder, writer and artist – and who writes:

‘….the NHS is about healing but the elements of wholeness, compassion and creativity have been squeezed out by technology, rationality and hard economics …… there should be an intellectual and emotional dimension to hospital art projects which extends beyond the acknowledged essential and valuable putting of nice pictures on walls ….. to give the movement longevity & durability in the face of changing political and economic circumstances.’


Jan-Bert van den Berg – Director of Artlink, Edinburgh

Trevor Jones – Director of Art in Healthcare

Alexander Hamilton – Lead commissioned artist for Dignified Spaces at th New South Glasgow Hospitals

Robin Williams – Gallery manager at Edinburgh’s The Gallery on the Corner

Ian Rawnsley  – Artist and exhibitor in this year’s show


Artist as Healer: The relationship between art and the health service
Summerhall Festival 2014
21st August 18.00

How can art contribute to our health? What part can it play in the clinical process?  What are the issues for artists and producers working in healthcare contexts?

Join Artist Maria McCavana, Producer Chris Fremantle and Dr Lindsey MacLeod, Consultant Clinical Psychologist specialising in Child and Adolescent Mental Health, as they discuss the role that artists can play in the creation of modern healthcare environments and the impact these can have on the patients that use them.

I’d also recommend the other UZArts discussion which will focus on Human Rights,

Artist as Activist: The relationship between art and social change
Summerhall Festival 2014
22nd August 2014 18.00

UZ Arts Director and Director of Sura Medura Artist Residency centre, Neil Butler in conversation with Sri Lankan artist and human rights activist Chandraqupta Thenuwara about his life and work. A leading peace activist before, during and after the Sri Lankan civil war, Thenu worked with Neil Butler on the 2007 concert ‘Sing for Peace’, which brought together prominent Tamil, Sinhalese, Burgher and Muslim singers to share the same stage. Thenu has continued his work as a human rights activist in post-war Sri Lanka, maintaining a constant critique of the Sri Lankan war and its aftermath. Thenu will be visiting the UK as UZ Arts Artist in Residence in Glasgow, living and working in the city throughout August and September

What art have I seen? Last To Win

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on August 1, 2014

Went to Laboratorio on West Nile Street for coffee and art. So appropriate for the Commonwealth, Last To Win brings some memorabilia from Italy to Scotland relevant to this specific moment. Apparently in the late forties the Italians had a special black jersey for the rider who came last in each stage of the national cycle race. Just to further explore the good humoured stereotype I can imagine that Chris Biddlecombe must have spent quite a long evening drinking grappa in the bar in Genoa where these treasures normally reside. I can see the owner behind the bar grizzled and smiling, wide as he is tall, telling Chris about the various objects on the walls, and then slowly being charmed into the into the idea of lending them to Scotland as a reminder of trans European connections and the joy of losing.

What art have I seen? Radical Geommetry

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on July 26, 2014

Radical Geommetry at the Royal Academy is pretty quiet on a Saturday afternoon. I came because I’m interested in Carlos Cruz-Diez and his use of colour and optical effects (but the largest piece is in a room where you can’t stand back far enough to appreciate it). Anyway the reviews have tended to be concerned in whether South American abstraction was derivative or an interesting thing in itself. If this is derivative then what becomes of Jim Lambie when you are looking at Otero’s Colourhythm 38 of 1958?
But that might be unfair because Soto’s maquette for a mural (1952-53) probably became something like the piece of cast concrete public art outside Charing Cross Station in Glasgow – very dated. Could and should that sort of work be revitalised in the way Alex Frost has with mosaic (another 70s public art classic)? Yet the concerns of these artists (abstraction, interaction) remain relevant today, the aesthetic largely retains its power and South America has gone on contributing to ideas of what art can be (eg Ala Plastica, Grupo Etcetera).

What art have I seen? Alison Watt

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on July 13, 2014

Alison Watt at Perth Museum and Art Gallery. The two rooms contain works from art school (Glasgow in the 80s) to 2014. The most recent piece has an almost photographic tonality and gloss to it. The interpretation is good, drawing out the renaissance (Titian), neoclassical (Ingres) and modern (Fontana) reference points.

Eden visits Latvia

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on July 2, 2014



Somewhere in the picture above is Eden, SSW’s Senior Technician, as he participates in “Master and Acolyte” a collaborative performance pour by artists George Beasley and Matt Toole at  the 7th International Iron conference held in Pedvale, Latvia last week.

Emerging unscathed from the experience Eden was quick to thank the SSW board for supporting his attendance at the conference, Aldaris, the manufacturers of super quality Latvian Lager, and the Federation of Latvian Potato Growers for providing the mainstay of his diet whilst over there.

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