Graham Fagen brings Venice show back to Arbroath

Graham Fagen’s exhibition at Palazzo Fontana, the latest in a series of exhibitions hosted by Scotland + Venice since 2003, attracted over 33,000 visitors - a record high for the project. This weekend, Hospitalfield in Arbroath will open a major new exhibition of this work.

Graham Fagen - Rope 

Graham has reinterpreted the body of work he made for his exhibition for Scotland + Venice 2015. The original exhibition was made for the four noble rooms of Palazzo Fontana, on the Grand Canal. In Arbroath the exhibition of sculpture, drawing and moving image is installed, with some changes and additions, in to the lovely and various historic Arts & Crafts rooms of Hospitalfield House.

"I'm very excited to be able to exhibit my Scotland + Venice exhibition back home in Scotland at Hospitalfield," Graham told us. "We will be exhibiting two new works that we took to Venice but did not show, so viewers at Hospitalfield will be the very first to see these new pieces.”

Graham is an artist who forms close collaborations in the making of his work and for his four screen moving image work, The Slave’s Lament, a pivotal work within the exhibition, he brings together reggae singer and musician Ghetto Priest, music producer Adrian Sherwood, classical composer Sally Beamish and musicians from Scottish Ensemble. Inspired by the Burns’ poem of the same name written in 1792, the lamenting musical interpretation draws viewers through the exhibition in its new location.

Graham Fagen - Slave's Lament 

The exhibition will be launched with a series of events which make up Hospitalfield's Spring Season open weekend on 19 – 20 March. On Saturday 19 March Graham will be in conversation with writer and curator Dan Kidner and this discussion will be followed by an opening reception. There’s lots more going on over the weekend with the house open from 11am – 5pm both days and talks, tours and a workshop by artist Laura Aldridge all scheduled.

Lucy Byatt, Director of Hospitalfield, and Laura Simpson, Programme & Facilities Manager, told us more about the project.

How did the project come about, and how did it fit with Hospitalfield's other activity?

Lucy: We submitted a proposal to present Graham Fagen’s work in response to the open call from the Scotland + Venice Partnership in 2014 which was selected through the subsequent interview process. I first worked with Graham Fagen on the long running Royston Road project in north Glasgow between 1992 and 2002.

We are delighted to open this show within the grand historic rooms of Hospitalfield.- Lucy Byatt, Director of Hospitalfield

At Hospitalfield we really believe in providing time and funds for artists to make new work. The invitation to develop a new body of work with artist Graham Fagen for Scotland + Venice could not be a more important way of demonstrating just how vitally important it is to find the financial support to ensure artists can make ambitious new work.

We are now delighted to be able to open this show within the grand historic rooms of Hospitalfield and we look forward to hosting many visitors to experience the exhibition.

How has the process of presenting the exhibition in a new location worked?

Lucy: We installed the work with Graham Fagen during a busy week while twenty three students from Glasgow School of Art and the Royal Academy in the Hague were visiting for a study week.

The four screen film work is installed in the Cedar Room with its rich resonant sound travelling back through the sequence of exhibition rooms. For this work Graham Fagen brought together musician Ghetto Priest and classical composer Sally Beamish to create a new interpretation of Burns’ The Slave Lament. This week we have just received by courier the 2nd edition of a limited run of the sound track on clear vinyl.

The great Rope Tree has spread its branches in the Picture Gallery and a new neon work is being installed high on the seven metre wall of the hallway in the house - Come in to the Garden and Forget About the War – the green light will bounce around the carved stone and wood of Hospitalfield House, originally designed by artist Patrick Allan-Fraser for his lovely Arts & Crafts house in 1870. In time for the show opening its doors, Graham Fagen will send a new drawing, made especially for the dining room - a decision made at 2am one night during the installation period!

It’s the first time that we have made a whole exhibition fit within the existing furniture and collections of this historic place and we hope that you will come and visit us during the launch weekend, 19 and 20 March or during the run of the exhibition.

Hospitalfield House 

How was the learning programme developed this time?

Laura: A major part of Hospitalfield’s Scotland + Venice project was the Learning Programme, the expansion of a scheme which had appeared in previous Scotland + Venice iterations to create a Learning Team of 21 students and 7 recent graduate artists who would look after the exhibition and audience in Venice.

The group were all drawn from seven colleges and art schools across Scotland and received training in Scotland, before travelling to Italy to live for a month. The colleges involved were City of Glasgow College, Duncan of Jordanstone, College of Art & Design, Dundee & Angus College, Edinburgh College of Art , Glasgow School of Art, Gray’s School of Art  and Moray School of Art at University of the Highlands and Islands. Some of the Learning Team members will also help us with the exhibition at Hospitalfield and several Duncan of Jordanstone students are invigilating the exhibition as part of their professional placement with Hospitalfield.

We are delighted also to announce that the Learning Team will be hosting a large scale discussion event on Tuesday 22 March at Hospitalfield which will being together 120 students from the participating colleges for round table talks, presentations and workshops.

Graham Fagen is a Senior Lecturer at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design which is part of the University of Dundee. As well as being one of the Learning Programme partner institutions, the college has also supported the production of a publication which looks back over Graham's work and also features installation images from the exhibition in Venice.

What’s next for Graham Fagen and this body of work?

Laura: Following the exhibition at Hospitalfield, the work will be exhibited at CGP London across their two exhibition sites. Later in the year and spreading over into 2017 the five channel audio video installation The Slaves Lament will be shown at The National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh and move on to Highland region to be exhibited in Inverness and Thurso.

Graham and Lucy have also been developing connections to curators and museums in the Caribbean, in collaboration with the British Council.

Tate has, with the help of philanthropic organisation Outset, purchased The Slave’s Lament.

More about Hospitalfield

An artist's house based in Arbroath, Hospitalfield hosts a programme of residencies, commissions and curated projects with the aim of negotiating and inspiring an interplay between the heritage and history of the site and contemporary cultural ideas and practices.

Hospitalfield's contemporary arts programme is anchored in the visual arts yet encourages interdisciplinarity. The organisation maintains strong national and international working partnerships with the aim of making Hospitalfield a meeting place and cultural catalyst in the working lives of artists and creative professionals in Scotland and far beyond.

Hospitalfield was the 19th century home of collector and artist Patrick Allan-Fraser. Left in Trust in 1890 to become the first residential fine art school in Scotland, the organisation is currently working on the first phase of a 21st century ‘Future Plan’, led by architects Caruso St. John.

Scotland + Venice - looking ahead to 2017

As the exhibition opens in Hospitalfield, the Scotland + Venice Partnership begin preparations for participation in the 57th International Art Exhibition, the Venice Biennale, in 2017.

Amanda Catto, Chair of the Scotland + Venice partnership, introduced an open call this week:

“This is a great week for us to promote the Open Call for Scotland and Venice 2017 and we look forward to establishing our plans for that project over the coming months. The venue Palazzo Fontana has demonstrated that an easily found location within Venice ensures a greater footfall and therefore a stronger opportunity to engage a wider audience with the exhibition.  We are exploring the possibility of retaining the Palazzo Fontana for 2017 but this decision will be made in partnership with the selected curatorial team for 2017.”

Find out more about Scotland + Venice and the call for proposals.

Images courtesy of Hospitalfield House and Ruth Clark.

This article was published on 18 Mar 2016