pittenweem art festival

Just a brief foray into the Festival today as Julie had a workshop and I had a film to watch on my phone in the car park while I waited for her. However, it wasn’t a day without cultural delights.

97. Hendry. Steven Hendry’s exhibition is perhaps the best publicised of the whole Festival with the heftiest advertising behind it, so quite how it took four days for us to find it, I’m not quite sure. I am, however, very glad I did. Hendry’s work is staggeringly, achingly beautiful. A lot of it, though, isn’t particularly easy to look at, as the example perhaps shows. These are scenes from a blank planet. Nude women with guns. Nude men in gravitational struggles. They all combine to provide a very affecting collection that I found quite difficult to detach myself from. I absolutely loved it. More of Hendry’s work can be seen here.

The highlight of the day was going out for a meal to The Seafood Restaurant in St Monan’s with our wonderful friends, Laura and Emma. I still feel rather guilty for having foie gras but it was delicious and I managed not to think about exploding geese too much. Thanks to L&E for making it such an excellent night. Look forward to The Fisherman’s Rest in a couple of weeks.


The rains came today and they brought technical difficulties that meant my extensive notes were lost to the ether. The net result of this is I’ll just be commenting on the venues that stuck in my mind. I’m sure if I hadn’t mentioned it, no one would’ve noticed. So. Onward. Starting the day at the east end of the High Street.

1. Dovecot Studios. Julie’s remark upon arriving at the venue was to advise me that these were the weavers she’d heard about. When she stepped in, she said, oh, no it isn’t. A few seconds later and her opinion had changed back. The reason for the confusion? Well, angle your peepers a few degrees to the right. That’s knitted, that is. The work here is far beyond what I thought was possible with thread outside of Bayeux. Quite remarkable.

36. David Graham. Last year, David’s photography from Bhopal was unapologetic and stark. This year, his focus remained on the less fortunate souls on the planet, ranging from young Rwandan refugees (one of whom clutches a copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix as though it’s a golden pass of literal escapism) to Calcuttan porters. David tends to take his subjects and place them in front of a white backdrop and the effect is profound, accentuating the helplessness of the situation. A one-armed man with a massive metal crate balanced on his head, who earns 50p for carrying it from one place to another, seems stuck in an even more baffling situation when removed from the colour of its context. I also managed to overhear David recommend a Panasonic Lumix DMC FX500 to one of his assistants. So if you’re in the market …

6. Fisher Gallery. The Fisher is one of those places in Pittenweem that seems to be a guarantee of success. Work just falls out of Fisher and little wonder. Jan Fisher is to my mind the most accomplished watercolourist at the festival and although I bemoan the amount of East Neuk landscapes, Jan’s work shows how it can be done and still look fresh and worth repeat visits. Also featured is Robert Cairns. Robert usually exhibits in his own venue but this year he seems to be here just as a spectator. We’re fans of his pen & ink work and this year he’s used stretched composition to capture the narrow wynds that snake their way through the village. Across the road in Fisher 2, we were thrilled to get a chance to enjoy the sculpture / don’t-know-what-you’d-call-it by Elaine Allison. Last year, Elaine exhibited with Angie Turner. This year a few of the same items have moved down West Braes to the Fisher’s more avant-garde sister venue and she’s sold four. Little wonder. We discussed this with Angie yesterday, but Elaine seems perfectly comfortable with taking hugely personal subject matter and cutting all ties with it. The image here is of an old typewriter she found and the keys have old sepia photographs of her family members. It’s a remarkable piece. More of her work can be found here.

18. Anita Hutchison. Another favourite from previous years, Anita gets major kudos for always bringing brand new work each year and she doesn’t disappoint. Her exhibition this year is inspired from Munro-bagging and, as she describes, the little gardens you find on the top of fence posts. This translates into small, squares of fabric using scraps of map and knitting patterns and various fabrics. For such small items, the work is warm and familiar

Once again, blessed with lovely weather but sadly cursed with a hungover head. Being the soldier I am, I put on a brave face and we ventured to the West Shore to tick off a few in the 50s.

53. Heather Cunningham. Heather’s style is loose and easy.  Her mixed media work was of most interest where she paints onto tissue or other exotic papers to good effect. Discovered that the suspected pregnant cat from last year was, in fact, just fat.

52. Gina Wright. A firm favourite from previous years, Gina’s pastels are bewilderingly detailed and truly come to life a few steps away. While a lot of her work on display is from the East Neuk and surrounding areas, it was Hopper-esque chefs and the pictured street scene that really caught my eye. Gina’s also good enough to leave a few sketchbooks scattered around and these pads are better than some venues with a few images that put me in mind of A Scanner Darkly. Excellent work.

51. Vicki Dreyer and Una Monteith. Vicki paints cows. And puffins. And dogs. But mostly cows. Fortunately, I like cows. Una makes clocks, the kind of which I’d imagine Tim Burton has a lot of in his house. It’s an unusual mix and all contained in a venue that you practically have to limbo to get into but, again, it’s refreshing to see work that doesn’t typically fit the Pittenweem theme of seaside and fishing boats. However, if you don’t like cows, or can’t bend, it’s probably best avoided.

50. Bob Anderson. Julie was very taken with Bob’s work, but for me it was a bit too easy, too loungey … all of it would fit in fine in any living room or show home and I’m sure he’s a talented man, but I just couldn’t connect with it and it left me a bit cold.

49. Louise Scott. Our first “wow” of the day came from Louise’s photographs of rockpools in Orkney, zoomed in and blown up so the pebbles at the bottom sparkled like gemstones. This small collection looked too perfect to be a photo but Louise assured us she only altered the size so Photoshop hadn’t been used. Louise’s main body of work is copper-plate etchings of seahorses and hares but she does it in such away, they look like illustrations of Norse mythology.

47. Venue 47 on Mid Shore is a massive holiday home and housed the work of four artists. Arguably, Pat Kramek is the better known out of the bunch and got the lion’s share of wall space with her bold coastal landscapes in oil. My pick, though, was Sara Mead’s more playful, almost fairytale landscapes in bright, sweet colours. You can see her stuff here.

54. Angie Turner and Suzi Morrow. We love Angie Turner and we love her fairground inspired work. We bought another carousel horse. She gave us wine. Our little corner of the world was perfect. If she updated her website, I’d tell you about it here.

42. Nanzie McLeod, Sarah McLeod, Esther McLeod, Jules Duncan. A massive mix with Esther’s OK Computer style slogans on fabric really catching my eye and making me rather ill at ease at the same time. As per last year, one of us tripped over the step. This time, it was Julie.

41. Jennifer Pettigrew. Another of the larger venues but dedicated to Jennifer’s abstract oils. I wasn’t much in the mood for abstract so a lot of it frustrated me a little bit and I ended up concentrating more on the price than the content. That said, her use of warm, inviting colour and the scale of some of the pieces was something even I, with my grumpy bear mood, could appreciate.

Great to be back in Pittenweem. This is our third year staying and foomftieth year as visitors to the Arts Festival that runs for the first full week in August. The weather was troublesome on the drive through, but thanks to the micro-climate of the East Neuk, it was warm, if a little cloudy, when we arrived. As usual, we wasted no time and jumped right in.

73. Jennifer Thomson. Lively representations of Glasgow and Edinburgh street scenes alongside more traditional landscapes. Apparent simplicity — almost childlike in places — hides a staggering attention to detail. The Barras is The Barras. The Willow Tea Rooms are The Willow Tea Rooms. Jennifer shares her space with Anne Dunlop. Anne uses quite a drained palette that I admit didn’t really work for me.

74. Open Exhibition. This is the most impressive Open in years. Favourites included Sarah Bissel’s screenprint and Stuart Dobson’s wood veneers of complicated mathematical equations. The latter became Julie’s first purchase, at our second venue. Last year, she managed to hold on to her purse for three venues, so standards seem to be slipping already.Sarah Bissel (top) Stuart Dobson (bottom)

40. Doris French. Once again, Doris’s delightful fabric collages were all sold, probably attracting their red dots before the Festival even began. The small garage venue boasts some excellent work. Jane Dakin’s pastels and Nicola Fraser’s pop art acrylics of seaside villages don’t disappoint.

39. Ross Brown. Super-realistic gigantic urban landscapes occupy this garage and due to their size, the exhibition mainly consists of three pieces, all of which were sold for an undisclosed price that must have been in the thousands. Not a bad day’s work. The pieces themselves aren’t exactly the usual Pittenweem flavours. Seaside and fishing make way for stark, concrete buildings, abandoned and overrun with graffiti and moss. It rather looks like what would happen if someone built a factory over Monet’s waterlilies and then let it rot. The fact that the function of the buildings remain unknown adds anonymity to already rather unsettling images. Check out Ross’s blog here and judge for yourself.

Thursday morning.

The sun remained out for our final tour of some scattered venues that we missed earlier in the week. The dream of seeing and critting every venue seems rather optimistic now, but we hit more than half so it was still a good effort.

34. McLeod & Duncan et al. A real family exhibition held in the family home. We met Nanzie McLeod, local author, who called me “bearded one” and told me I looked local. Julie has all Nanzie’s previous books and bought her more recent one which the author signed. Downstairs, Jules Duncan’s relief pictures of dinosaurs and Braille and partially eaten chocolate bars and optometrist boards are very inventive. Please mind the step, however. Always mind the step.

35. Jennifer Pettigrew. A lot of variation in styles while remaining fairly neutral and accessible. Warm golden abstracts that I could see in showhomes and restaurants and furniture stores. My favourites were photos of boats masts in the sky that were inverted and photoshopped to give an illusion of water.

30. Reinhard Behrens. Very odd but in a good way. Reinhard does gorgeous illustrations of camels in the desert and remote villagers and Venetian canals and sepia 1920s expeditions, all with this little yellow toy submarine somewhere in the image. It’s called Naboland and has quite an alien feel although I’m not sure I get it. Despite this, I had to admire the dedication given to the installation in the venue. Margaret Smyth’s work is a little more grounded and features clockwork dolls and caged birds. Both are a little spooky.

28. Tracy Butler. Tracy’s Korea-inspired pastels just remind me of how few exhibitions have been solely seascapes and puffins this year. Highlight was a mixed media tiger in golds with a fantastic crackle effect through it. And what a lovely person too!

IMG_028727. Mark Bannerman. Surreal 3D renderings. The Scotch Pie Fight has proved very popular. The images have a strange Victorian freak show feel, making them even more interesting.

71. Adrienne McStay. Sculptures of pretty big acorns and oddly scorched boulders. Not quite my cuppa but Julie lapped it up.

70. Jewellry. I’m not best placed to comment.

65. Mairi Clark. Abstract landscapes in big blocks of colour are a bit hit and miss for me. The ones I liked were more down to the colours and general composition rather than what they said to me.

63. Ian Rolland. Perfectly delightful local watercolour landscapes and Parisianesque St Andrews cafe culture. Doesn’t stand out against its ilk but there’s only so many ways to paint these kinds of subject with this kind of media and after six days and dozens of venues, a certain sameyness is unavoidable.

4. Liz Yule and Angus McDonald. Same as 63, really, although Breakdancers on the Royal Mile has that X Factor. Hundreds of red dots suggest far more enthusiasm than perhaps I have and Julie described one of the floral works as masterful. At this stage, I was getting hungry and a little grumpy.

2. Marlene Byres. Landscapes but this time done in mixed media and embroydery and cotton. A fresh approach.

1. Horsburgh. James More Horsburgh paints angry seas and the boats that braved them. Excellent movement and light and I’m not just saying that because he’s famous. So even though it’s predominantly subject matter that I like to avoid at Pittenweem, it’s impossible not to admire the scale, skill and precision in the work.

43. Outbye Gallery and Ovenstone Artists  Outside Pittenweem in nearby Ovenstone, Lynsey Ewan does huge oils of out of focus fruits and flora that make the journey worthwhile but there’s so much to choose from here and so many different styles, especially if your tastes are a little more avant garde.

The Festival finishes on Sunday, but that about wraps it up for us. It’s been a great week in the East Neuk and the best Pittenweem we’ve seen in the four or five years coming here, helped by the weather and our fabulous lodgings and grandly underpinned by the fine food at the St Andrews Cheese Company, from which I’ve been pestering m’colleague Stoobs with pictures of my lunches. The variety of work, while I haven’t done it justice and have probably made it sound quite similar in these posts, has been very broad indeed. And judging my the amount of red dots scattered around town, that recession thingamebob might be on the way out.

Pictures will be added to the last few posts tomorrow night when I’m back in the land of wi-fi broadband.

Until next year …

Wednesday morning. 

Hot and sunny and we find ourselves on West Shore collecting the venues in the 80s and I’m enjoying four bars of reception for the first time. If I haven’t already done so, I’m beginning to run out of ways to describe landscape watercolours. Judge for yourself.   

87. Heather Cunningham. Very easy style. Thick strokes without bring very impressionist and delicate watercolour flowers. Enjoyed our conversation regarding a pregnant or just lazy cat.

86. Gina Wright. Quite simply the best pastel work at the festival. Light and shade is fantastic.  

84. Patrick Duncan. An interesting non-runny use of watercolour in these landscapes.  

83. Louise Scott. Etchings of nature with a Celtic/Norse/Watership Down theme. Lots of greens and blues. Looks maddening work, requiring patience and persistence, not two of my most abundant qualities.

Forgive the somewhat lack lustre commentary. It really was very warm this morning and the festival was soon abandoned in favour of Elie and Lower Largo for a spot of paddling.   

Tuesday Morning.

We were a Festival-Free-Zone yesterday so no update. Julie abandoned me in favour of a pastel workshop run by Cath Reed, leaving me to amuse myself in St Andrews. Refreshed from the break, we tackled this morning’s efforts with vim and vigour, only for the morning to retalliate by pishing it down on us.

21. David Graham. Bhopal 25 years on. Bhopal is one of the first memories I have of big news and I confess that I was unaware that the effects of the Union Carbide disaster is still felt today through contaminated water. What a price to pay for some pesticides. The exhibition of David Graham’s photography from a recent visit to the area are to a National Geographic standard. The images of abandoned industry are chilling enough, but nowhere near as affecting as the stark photos of survivors and their offspring.

22. Ricky Thorbjornsen. Ricky’s work is mainly pastel and watercolou and he makes good use of reflections and sunlight in his Edinburgh and east coast landscapes. The paintings that aren’t quite so obviously what they’re supposed to be works better.

23. Robert Cairns. Robert is a character. Without a doubt, one of the friendliest welcomes we’ve had and that’s not just because he plied us with vino and shortbread at a little after midday. Judging by the number of red dots, Robert’s had a good festival so far and deservingly so. He has a good head for the audience he’s going to attract and has sensibly sized and framed his work so it can be picked up and hung at home with minimal fuss. Particularly, his pen and ink work of Parisian buildings carries such sophistication and detail, it’s another example of wishing we’d put a little more cash aside

80. Susie Lacome. I’ve been admiring Susie’s work for years and I still don’t know exactly how her linocut prints work. It’s an unusual and charming technique and however it’s done, the results are awkward angled buildings and people and fish vans and gulls and washing lines and it all just comes together perfectly.

79. Tim Cockburn, Hilke MacIntyre and Ian MacIntyre. Tim parodies the supposed masters of Scottish art so imagine caricatures if Vetriano and that ice skating dude from the National Gallery. Hilke Macintyre works in ceramic reliefs and, strangely enough, linocuts, but her motifs are far more urban than Susie as she mostly deals with people and boozy nights out. Ian Macintyre linocut (again?!) and linocut style oils give a cartoon style simplification of people and places.

77. Paul Bartlett. Paul is hugely successful. We’ve been in to his venue for four years and every time we go in, he’d usually wrapping up another sale. His acryllic collages of wildlife — mostly using torn up magazine pages — have impressed me for years but the work seems to lack evolution and so what we saw today wasn’t a whole lot different to what we saw in 2007. Still, they’re big, bold and expensive and he never seems to have a problem shifting his work which must be useful if you want to eat.

Craig Mitchell

Craig Mitchell

72. Craig Mitchell. We finished up the session in the harbourmaster’s building with Craig Mitchell’s comical sculptures. The work is hugely inventive and he really runs with an idea, taking it to a conclusion. Picks of the bunch were the three caged birds, all attempting escape by different means: saw, blowtorch and dynamite, plus Airfix styled Boyfriend Kit, complete with box and component sheet. My only complaint was there wasn’t enough of it.

Before heading off to spend an afternoon with scones and friends, we had a fantastic lunch at the St Andrews Farmhouse & Cheese Company. If you’re in the area, you’ve got to try it.

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