Outset Scotland supported the commission of new work by Graham Fagen for Scotland’s collateral event at the 56th International Art Exhibition, the Venice Biennale, curated by Hospitalfield, Arbroath. This exhibition is the seventh presentation of Scotland + Venice – a partnership between Creative Scotland, the National Galleries of Scotland and the British Council.
Guerra/Giardino, 2015 (neon and acrylic, unique)
Rope Tree, 2015 (bronze, edition of 3)
Scheme for Lament, 2015 (Indian ink and enamel on paper, 19 framed drawings)
Scheme for Our Nature, 2015 (mild steel, platinum lustre, gold lustre, white glass and ceramic)
The Slave’s Lament, 2015 (5 channel audio video installation, edition of 3 plus 1 AP)
Fagen works with a broad range of media, creating films, photographs, drawings, sculptural objects, theatrical environments, and musical juxtapositions that intrigue, and on occasion envelop the audience, making them self-conscious and more attuned to their own cultural responses and brute physicality. Fagen explores certain themes on a recurring basis, and several thematic strands come together in his work for Venice: the symbolism of trees and flowers, the intriguing prospect of Scots poet Robert Burns’ links with Jamaica, the collision of different forms of music.
Rising from an entrance hall on the Grand Canal, Fagen’s installation at Palazzo Fontana is situated in a suite of four rooms. Music from the final room draws the viewer on. Audiences first encounter the imposing cast bronze Rope Tree, then a room full of grinning/grimacing faces Scheme for Our Lament – depictions provoked by Fagen’s reaching around his teeth with his tongue – and then a further, more fragile, tree, adorned with ceramic masks and hand moulded clumps of clay Scheme for our Nature. Finally, the source of the music is reached, emanating from a four-screen installation in the final room, The Slave’s Lament. This work has its roots in the Robert Burns’ poem of the same name, and is a collaboration between Fagen, reggae singer and musician Ghetto Priest, music producer Adrian Sherwood, classical composer Sally Beamish and musicians from Scottish Ensemble. With The Slave’s Lament infusing the return journey, each room takes on a new and potentially darker resonance. Finally, above the entrance/exit, the words Entra nel Giardino / E dimentica la Guerra [Come into the garden / And forget about the war] in green neon come into view.
The exhibition was open to the public from 9 May to 22 November 2015 at Palazzo Fontana, Cannaregio 3829-3830, Venice, and returned to Hospitalfield House in Arbroath from 19 March to 17 April 2016.
The four channel video installation The Slave’s Lament, Ed. 1/3 +1 AP, was acquired by The Tate Collection with additional funds from Outset Scotland in 2016.
Graham Fagen (b. 1966, Glasgow) achieved a BA at The Glasgow School of Art (1984–8) and an interdisciplinary MA at Kent Institute of Art & Design (1989–90). Solo exhibitions and commissions include: Tramway, Glasgow (2012); Artspace, San Antonio, Texas (2011); The Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh (2002) and The Imperial War Museum (official war artist, Kosovo), (2001). Group shows include: Running Time, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh (2009); ZENOMAP, Venice Biennale (2003); and British Art Show 5, UK touring exhibition (2000). Since 1995 he has lectured at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, Dundee. He lives and works in Glasgow.
Hospitalfield is committed to supporting artists and others working predominantly within the visual arts through its core programme of residencies and new commissions. The programme is accommodated within one of Scotland’s most important historic houses, which from 1890 was conceived as one of the first art schools in the country. The house and estate on the rural east coast of Scotland were left in trust by artist Patrick Allan-Fraser (1813-1890). Hospitalfield holds a core collection of 18th and 19th century painting, drawing, sculpture and furniture and has architecture and finely crafted interiors that were commissioned in the mid-19th century, building upon a far earlier foundation dating back to the 12th century.