Twelve Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) students have completed a micro-residency at Hospitalfield in Arbroath, culminating in an exhibition of site-specific work. The students visited the historical site in October 2017 and were tasked with producing artwork that was a direct response to the building or its surrounding grounds. After a series of workshops and crits, all the while in dialogue with staff at the site, the students installed their finished pieces for an exhibition in early April 2018.

Hospitalfield, which traces its history back to the 12th century, is a cultural organisation for artists and for education in the arts.

“It’s different from exhibiting in a ‘white cube’ space,” said Kenny Hunter, Lecturer in Sculpture and lead on the project at ECA, “Adding your voice to a pre-existing space means that your work is conflated with the art history and architectural history of the surroundings.”

Gary Anderson (Painting - BA [Hons]) created a five foot by three foot relief made from plywood, mahogany and red wood. It contains an abstracted plan of the railway track, shore and fields, presented in starkly different forms on both sides of the piece.

“[My] work aimed to explore the area surrounding Hospitalfield and was a response to the local story of the seaweed gatherers who worked along the shoreline,” said Gary, “Their livelihood was cut off due to the arrival of the railway which severed the route from the shore to the fields.”

Work by Richard Goldsworthy, Sculpture - BA (Hons)
Image: Kenny Hunter
Work by Richard Goldsworthy, Sculpture - BA (Hons)

"“Having the chance to respond to a site, and to make work for exhibition in that space was invaluable. It brought challenges, but also great opportunities to change the reading of the work.”"

Heather Bell, Sculpture - BA (Hons)

Heather Downie’s (Painting - BA [Hons]) work was a self-portrait that, when placed in its final location, merged into the staircase behind it.

“When I first visited in late October 2017, I was inspired by the grand paintings, complete with ornate frames covering the house walls. One particular painting caught my eye – a portrait of Lady Fraser and her dog,” said Heather, “It spookily resembled my current Facebook profile picture, and I thought I would take a satirical look at the 19th century portrait by making my own version of this painting in my own style.”

“The work drastically changed from my proposed idea, yet I feel like I still achieved what I wanted to,” she said, “it was so refreshing to have another setting to see my work, especially one so traditional. It created such a contrast with my digitally-inspired paintings.”

Aidan Stephen’s (Painting - BA [Hons]) work is inspired by the Battle of Little Bighorn/Battle of the Greasy Grass in 1876, and also considers the contrasts between Victorian Britain and the Wild West at the time.

“My response was firstly driven by my own practice. I paint shadows of cowboys; the cowboys a symbol of false machismo, but also courage, and the Western a part of my youth. The shadows give us an idea of something but not the actual object that casts it - it has anonymity,” said Aidan, “At Hospitalfield, you’re in a place frozen in time. It has a formality and a museum-like silence, and the pictures on the walls have faces that are motionless. Mirrors, when seen, provide movement. The work ended up as a reflection on the past, present and the future, with one of the mirrors reflecting a stopped clock.”

Image: Kenny Hunter
Image: Kenny Hunter
Work by Heather Downie, Painting - BA (Hons)
Work by Sara Jolly, Painting - BA (Hons)
Image: Kenny Hunter
Work by Sara Jolly, Painting - BA (Hons)

Heather Bell (Sculpture - BA [Hons]) was inspired by the pillars in the Mortuary Chapel on the site, each individually carved, and wanted to create a pillar of her own.

“When I created my own pillar, I wanted something which alluded to the body, and wanted it to have an outside and an inside. The outside is fur (recycled from a vintage coat) and the inside is silicon,” said Heather, “Having the chance to respond to a site, and to make work for exhibition in that space was invaluable. It brought challenges, but also great opportunities to change the reading of the work.”

Chell Young’s (Painting - BA [Hons]) work, Tower, is a mixed-media sculpture and sound piece which was exhibited in the turret room at the top of a spiral staircase.

“In order to reach the work the viewer must travel up the long staircase to a small intimate room. The sculpture stands in the centre of the room, it mimics the appearance of the tower in which it resides but it appears elongated and detached from the rest of the building,” said Chell, “when you look inside you can see a small model staircase spiraling down from a similar room to the one where you’re is standing. The rhythmic sound of footsteps climbing the stairs travels up the tiny steps like a heartbeat.”

“I really liked the idea of the room being used as a space for self-reflection and this motivated me to look at the space itself and how I could use it as a platform to inspire the same introspective thinking,” she said, “It has been a valuable experience and it felt really worthwhile being able to exhibit in such a beautiful and unusual place.”

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