September 2010 saw the opening of a significant Fife Contemporary Art & Craft (as we were then known) exhibition at St Andrews Museum. Although arrestingly titled Causing Chaos, the show had been very carefully planned for over a year and thankfully no chaos was involved in its delivery!
At that time, Creative Scotland wanted to encourage ambition in craft programming and we were fortunate to secure some special funding to achieve this. Following research, two projects were developed, the Marzee Collection and Causing Chaos. Both exhibitions allowed us to explore the dialogue between craft and visual art which lies at the core of our programme.
Visual artist Claire Barclay was invited to curate the show she eventually named Causing Chaos. In her own practice she shows an interest in materiality and craft techniques, often collaborating with people who have very specialist making skills. We were intrigued to discover who she would select, according to her own sensibilities and interests, to highlight craft as an art form. Unsurprisingly perhaps, she gravitated towards objects which pushed the possibilities of varied materials and shared approaches explored in her own sculptural practice. In her introduction to the exhibition Claire identified the artists’ common concerns expressed through “works which question or alter the way we perceive and use common everyday things” and present “dysfunction, invention and eccentricity”.
An exciting international group of artists from the United States to Germany was brought together by the project: ceramics by Johannes Nagel, Susanne Petzold, and Richard Slee; jewellery/metalwork by Shari Pierce, Estela Saez Vilanova, and Hans Stofer; sculpture by Claire Barclay, Siobhán Hapaska and Jane Simpson.
In addition to workshops for the public an accompanying symposium was held to provide an enjoyable professional development event for artists. It allowed us to bring Richard Slee, Hans Stofer, Shari Pierce, Estela Saez Vilanova and Jane Simpson to Scotland as speakers. Roddy Mathieson’s Mobile Foundry also visited the lovely Kinburn Park surrounding St Andrews Museum for the day. This introduced artists attending the symposium to each other through some collaborative making in the form of cuttlefish casting – an activity which echoed the exhibition’s blend of art and craft.
Working with Claire Barclay on all aspects of the exhibition was a privilege and a joy. Her meticulous attention to detail extended to designing display equipment with James McLardy and Sam Kennedy which formed an installation bringing the exhibits together as a whole. Following the St Andrews show the display equipment was donated to another art organisation and the components were re-used in many subsequent exhibitions, including the prestigious Crafts Council Collect show in London. This chimes with our forthcoming exhibition at Kirkcaldy Galleries in 2021 which is inspired by the principles of the Circular Economy.
The exhibition publication is available from Fife Contemporary’s online shop (£8.50 & p+p).