Last week we saw a mysterious structure appearing on the lawn of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art ONE. A long wooden frame, an enigmatic sloping side. We had a few guesses as to what it could be – none of which proved right, as yesterday The Bothy Project unveiled its latest creation – a traditional Scottish bothy designed exclusively as part of GENERATION, the Scotland-wide exhibition showcasing 25 years of contemporary art.
Artist Bobby Niven and architect Iain MacLeod have already built and installed two permanent bothies, Inshriach in the Cairngorms and Sweeney’s Bothy on the Isle of Eigg. Each bothy is intended to provide a space for artists to work in special locations – to enable them not only to get away from it all but also to engage with the history, stories, mythologies and people of remote places. Just as GENERATION is taking all sorts of art to many of the most rural and far flung parts of the country, so The Bothy Project aims to bring individual artists to communities far from our urban centres; the artists will engage with the land, and also with the people.
The bothy at Modern Art One will, it is hoped, eventually move to Assynt in Sutherland and become a permanent feature in the shadow of Suilven and Canisp. It is perhaps especially appropriate that a structure created to root art in a remote landscape should find a home in an area bought and owned by the local community. Curator Julie-Ann Delaney visited the area with colleagues and collaborating artist Laura Aldridge earlier this year, when the weather was so mild that they were able to enjoy Assynt’s beaches and even swim in the sea. She recalls the beautiful dappled rocks and yellow lichens that characterise Assynt. It is, she says, a special place.
Bobby Niven builds the bothies on his family’s farm – they are beautiful examples of his skills in natural building techniques. Constructed from larch, douglas fir and oak (all native woods) and other sustainable materials, they are designed to fit the landscapes that they will inhabit. Once completed they are dismantled and re-erected in their new locations. The two existing bothies are already hosting artists all year round. They are designed to function off-grid; multi-fuel ESSE stoves provide warmth and cooking facilities, whilst a platform at one end accommodates a bed.
The design of each bothy is undertaken with contributions from artists, musicians and writers. For the bothy at Modern One, Laura Aldridge (who has a Masters in Fine Arts from Glasgow School of Art) has produced some stunning ceramics inspired by the colours and shapes of the Assynt landscape and the skills of its local crafters. She has also made three beanbags whose covers recall the patterns of Assynt stones; some of these pieces are on display inside the bothy whilst it is in Edinburgh. Laura has also been given the privilege of naming the building, and has called it Pig Rock Bothy after a pig-like dappled stone that she brought back from the peninsula. One of the beanbags is entitled The World Works (pig rock): its motif replicates the spotty skin of a pig.
A programme of talks, performances, discussions, residencies and events is being planned for the Bothy whilst it is in Edinburgh – Scottish art schools have each been offered a week’s residency, and many other ideas are in the pipeline: details will be shown on the NGS website.
Simon Groom, Director of the Gallery of Modern Art, says:
‘(The Bothy)..gives visitors the opportunity to experience and engage with an extraordinary project which would otherwise remain very much hidden because of the typically remote and isolated locations of these unique structures. Its practical and beautifully handcrafted space provides the perfect setting for a whole host of diverse activities beyond those traditionally associated with a gallery, and we hope it will become a hub of creative activity over its three month lifespan here. The enthusiasm, energy and creative input from The Bothy Project team and Laura Aldridge has made working on the project a truly exciting experience.’
The Bothy will be formally opened on the evening of Thursday 31st July 2014 as part of the launch of the Edinburgh Art Festival. It will remain at Modern Art ONE (75 Belford Road) until the end of October 2014; please contact the gallery for opening hours. A free bus connects the gallery with the Scottish National Gallery on The Mound: times here.