Cupar Arts Festival

Several of this year’s CAF artists are exhibiting their work at Cupar’s historic County Buildings on St Catherine Street – and what better place to find artwork responding to historical, architectural and human transformation than such a significant civic building?

The buildings, designed in 1810 by prominent Scottish architect James Gillespie Graham to act as a formal entrance to the town, now house a range of services such as accommodation and registration. The site is currently undergoing some significant changes, as part of the building will soon be affordable housing – over the past few weeks, the exterior of the building has been shielded by scaffolding while new flats are put in and overall maintenance of the site is carried out.

CAF artists are putting empty office space to use, as well as rooms that were previously used for the old Sheriff Court. According to the National Records of Scotland, the earliest records from Cupar Sheriff Court date back to 1515, when the sheriff was a royal official appointed to enable the king to maintain control in regional areas. In 2014, Cupar Sheriff Court closed after hundreds of years as part of a move to modernise Scotland’s court system.

Kate Downie was particularly pleased to be working with the former ‘judge’s chambers’ for her project ‘Gaps, Distortions and Downright Lies: a complete re-configuration of space, in drawing’. Talking to CAF for one of our blog posts, Kate explained the serendipitous nature of being paired with the space: ‘It’s very site-specific in that the drawing I’m doing is entirely based on this space [in the County Buildings], but the idea and the title existed in their own right beforehand – they were completely free-form, looking for a home to land in.’

Other artists exhibiting, performing and giving talks in the County Buildings include Caroline Dear, whose work ‘step into another world’ draws on traditional techniques such as rope-making and materials from natural habitats, in particular peatland. In the County Buildings, she will be creating an immersive installation with pieces made from peatland plants. Also influenced by plants and natural imagery is Cynthia Dinan-Mitchell, whose evocative installation is inspired by the willow motif, while David Faithfull’s work ‘Dotterel’ will include an installation in the County Buildings exploring the uncertain future of several endangered birds.

The County Buildings are also home to ‘Liminal’, an exhibition of drawings and prints by CAF artist curators and invited guests in response to the Festival’s theme of liminality. Part of the exhibition, which reflects transition in various guises, can be found in the Festival Hub.

The Sheriff Court would have possessed a huge range of important documents, recording civil, criminal and administrative matters. Appropriately, history, identity and memory also run as themes through several artworks in the County Buildings. For example, as part of Kenny Bean’s project, ‘there is a place without time’, visitors will be able to view a multi-screen video and text projection exploring the theory that water retains a memory of everyone it comes into contact with. Carolyn Scott’s installation ‘East West Hame’s Best’ focuses on a candid short film documenting a group of women from disparate backgrounds and cultures (including the Philippines, Indonesia, Nepal and Bulgaria), all of whom have settled in Fife.

Tim Fitzpatrick’s artwork, ‘1878: moment to moment’, investigates the pioneering image sequences produced by the 19th century photographer Eadweard Muybridge, while Juliette Losq is colonising a room in the County Buildings with installations, displaying works including ‘Polydorus’. Named after the slain prince Polydorus from Virgil’s Aeneid, this installation explores the anthropomorphic qualities of a found corner cabinet, which appears to have a body, legs and eyes.

In addition to a special screening of her film ‘Feed Me’, commissioned by FVU and Hayward Touring for British Art Show 8, Rachel Maclean’s film ‘Over the Rainbow’ will be screened on a continuous loop inside the County Buildings for the duration of the festival. Commissioned by The Banff Centre, Canada, as part of a 6-month Scottish Arts Council Residency, ‘Over the Rainbow’ is inspired by the Technicolor utopias of children’s television and invites the viewer into a shape-shifting world inhabited by cuddly monsters, faceless clones and gruesome pop divas.

And finally, perhaps in keeping with the County Buildings as a place of registering births, marriages and deaths, PierGiuseppe Di Tanno’s artwork ‘In My Bed I’m My Guru’ takes on the ambitious task of building an instant bridge between life and death via an installation and daily performances.

Words: Jenny Messenger
Image Credits: Kirsty Whiten