Hardy, happier and hungry for art


People in North East Scotland are a hardy lot and well over 500 of them made the effort to visit the thought-provoking and eye-catching visual art exhibition displayed in the South Wing courtyard and garden at Haddo House.

Drawing on the theme of ‘Experimental Use of 2m Space‘ artists chose a variety of media and materials to express their ideas about living through current times. Many visitors to the historic venue braved torrential downpours to explore old coal cellars, leafy gardens and even an outside loo to see each artist’s original and individual interpretation of the theme.

Diverse artworks on topical issues like pollution, immigration and covid-19 provided ample opportunity for lively discussions and reactions among visitors. Items included a giant knitted blue and green planet swaying in the breeze (Rosy Wood and the Deeside Knitwits), Jean Paul Baptiste’s statement reminding us that Paddington Bear was an immigrant and life-size dogs sculpted and re-purposed from agricultural scrap by Helen Denerley.

Down the granite steps leading from the back door of the courtyard was a series of stone heads by Neil Bayfield – a visual echo of the massive primeval carvings seen on Easter Island while other artists chose to use modern materials like plastic in a massive blue human figure with four legs dominating the courtyard (April Pressley) or lighted installations glimpsed through musty old doors.

In the darkness of the old coal cellar Margaret Preston’s film installation combined dance, video and sound to convey powerful emotions about the covid-19 era as did the gloves, mask and loo roll glimpsed through the old greenhouse in the garden in a work by Emma Jane Kingaby.

Still more was to be seen in the garden where visitors entered through a leafy arch hung with attractive decorations to see Leila Kleineidam and Vikki Aregnt’s multicoloured painting on a rustic wooden table – a wonderful vivid and cheerful sight amongst the Autumn flowers.

White wellington boots enabled visitors to navigate their way through this fascinating and unusual artspace in a safe and social distanced manner.  With so many people able to safely visit the exhibition in all sorts of weather, it’s clear there’s a great hunger to see art and experience creativity around us again so three cheers to the organisers Roderick Stewart and Margaret Preston and all the artists whose efforts made this amazing artistic event a physical reality.

Lucy Gordon 10.10.20

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2023 – Another terrific Festival!