New Fife touring exhibition explores the art of drawing

Work in progress...Susie Leiper's working drawings for the new �5 note. The exhibition details the incredible story behind the finished polymer note.
Work in progress...Susie Leiper's working drawings for the new �5 note. The exhibition details the incredible story behind the finished polymer note.

What do three generations of artists and early etchings in Constantine’s Cave in Crail have in common?

That’s what the latest exhibition by Fife Contemporary, expertly curated by Amanda Game, explores in detail.

Raasay Island's habitat inspired Frances Priest's work, which included unique doors handles and tiles. (Pic: Shannon Tofts)

Raasay Island's habitat inspired Frances Priest's work, which included unique doors handles and tiles. (Pic: Shannon Tofts)

No matter whether you’re an art lover or philistine, Lines from Scotland is certain to draw you in.

For there are fascintating stories to uncover at every turn as the art of Scottish drawing is celebrated.

Featuring work by 23 painters, sculptors, textile designers, musicians and makers – including rarely seen works by Elizabeth Blackadder, Andy Goldsworthy, Dorothy Hogg, David Shrigley and Inge Thomson – the exhibition will initially be staged at St Andrews Museum from November 9 to February 22.

Diana Sykes from Fife Contemporary can’t wait to share the “modesty and mastery” of the collection with local audiences.

Botanicals...given Scotland's beautiful landscape, it is little wonder flora and fauna feature heavily in Scottish artist Michael Lloyd's stunning artwork.

Botanicals...given Scotland's beautiful landscape, it is little wonder flora and fauna feature heavily in Scottish artist Michael Lloyd's stunning artwork.

For while each work of art features lines, be they hand-drawn, etched into ceramic surfaces, modelled in wire or music scores fashioned into art, they also have their own unique stories to impart.

And Diana was delighted to talk us through some of them as we enjoyed a preview of the exhibition – starting with some of the earliest work featured.

“Thanks to Historic Environment Scotland, we will be showing the etchings in Constantine’s Cave,” she said.

“A small selection of archaeological drawings and photographic material will be featured to suggest some of the wider ways that human beings have drawn from and recorded the environments through time.

“They are quite mysterious markings and the images show them being recorded by the archaelogical team.

“These simple marks may have decayed over time so it’s really important to keep a record of them and people will now be able to see them in our exhibition.”

Bringing things bang up to date at the other end of the timescale is Susie Leiper, whose painstaking calligraphy of lines by poet Sorley MacLean appears on the Royal Bank of Scotland’s new £5 note.

And Diana revealed there was a lot more to that story than the few lines depicted on the polymer note.

She said: “Susie was commissioned by the bank to write the lines in Scottish secretary hand, a type of handwriting dating to the 16th Century.

“She didn’t intially know that it was for the new £5 note and only found out as time progressed.

“It’s the polymer note which is currently in circulation featuring Scottish novelist and poet Nan Shepherd.

“It was part of the People’s Money Project and it was quite an involved process.

“Once Susie did the calligraphy, it was digitally copied and she then had to copy the digital version for the finished note – to make it more difficult to forge!”

Andy Goldsworthy’s unique frost drawings will also be on show and the artist worked hard to create them.

Diana explained: “Andy would get up in the very early hours of frosty mornings to stand in a field.

“He’d then stand very patiently for quite some time until the sun melted all the frost, other than that cast by his shadow.

“He’d then take photos of the frost shadow, recording it before it disappeared.

“The resultant work is beautiful and interesting shots of the landscape in which he made his mark.”

Adding his own sense of humour to proceedings, David Shrigley’s animation is also likely to be a big hit.

“David was commissioned by Pringle of Scotland to create an animation, charting the history of knitting in Scotland,” said Diana. “It depicts everything from sheep in a soggy field through to a catwalk show.

“It’s very typical of his great sense of humour and we’re delighted to have it as part of the exhibition.”

As you would imagine, botanicals also feature strongly with a number of artists using it as a theme.

Among some of the most unique are Frances Priest’s work at Raasay House on an island just off the Isle of Skye.

Diana said: “Frances had a residency on Raasay, looking at the different habitats – from mountain to bog.

“That inspired her work for Raasay House, which included beautiful door knobs and tiles.”

Michael Lloyd’s love of botanics also inspired him to design stunning beakers and both those and his sketch book will be on display, along with many other treasures.

So don’t miss Lines From Scotland at St Andrews Museum from November 9 to February 22, before it moves on to Carnegie Library and Galleries in Dunfermline and Gracefield Arts Centre in Dumfries.