Cupar Arts Festival

From Rannoch to St John’s

One of our CAF exhibitions is currently making its way to the Festival via a rather unusual route – Maris is carrying the artwork Reliquary on foot from their studio in Rannoch to Cupar, where it will be housed in St John’s Church on Bonnygate.

Speaking to Jenny Messenger, Maris explained that they were drawn to St John’s Church because of the nature of their project, which reconstructs a lost work based on the ancient Celtic poem The Song of Amergin: ‘Reliquary suggested a ‘sepulchral’ or ‘sacred’ space. A dimly lit chamber, beneath a beautiful church spire, ‘could not be more perfect.’

Maris describes the work as ‘an intricate sculpture’ – a little copper ark containing twelve related artefacts. Each artefact will be carefully fashioned from significant materials, including copper, slate, lichen, peat, gold and bone. Talking about the pilgrimage, Maris notes:

‘The route of the walk follows an aesthetically meandering course of eleventy-one miles; a palindromic measure of liminality which casts the destination as equal to the beginning.’

The walk will also allow for interaction with six other artists along the way, each of whom will be offered one of the orchil-dyed silks in which Reliquary will be wrapped for the journey – this will be a gradual unveiling, to be concluded at St John’s.

Reliquary is based on an original created thirty years ago by an ‘anonymous’ artist, and Maris explains that the creator is not unknown, but in fact chose to ‘disavow’ the art world and ‘disappear’ in order to dedicate his life in service of the creative Muse.

‘We have become custodians of Anonym’s archive and his surviving corpus, and though many of the works were destroyed (or lost), a few notebooks, images, and objects have survived,’ they say. This archive has been documented on Flickr at the Anonym Archive, which will be accessible online for the duration of the Festival and include documentation of the nine-day walk from Rannoch to St John’s.’

Discussing their cooperation as artists, Maris says:

‘Our ‘collaboration’ is founded upon a decision we both made (26 years ago) to live together. Sue was reading philosophy when we met and when I gave her my camera, she started shooting the urban landscape from the back of our motorbike.

Since then we have each brought to our life-work whatever it has required from our own particular skills. ‘Ideas’ are both individually and collaboratively researched, mulled and discussed, developed or discarded. Our work is very slow and multilayered, sometimes obscure, and often unfashionable.’

Muriel Dymock, who has been Session Clerk at St John’s Church for fourteen years, also spoke to Jenny about housing Maris’ project in the church. Muriel explains:

‘Maris’ attention was drawn to this particular room by one of our members, who likes this funny little room at the top of the spire. It’s the original room from which the bell used to be tolled, and the bell ropes were there.’

She adds: ‘When the spire was being repaired, the bell was made to be electrically controlled. We switch it on now; it saves having a rota. It doesn’t sound quite the same though.’

Speaking about recent developments to do with the church, Muriel says: ‘The church was opened in 1878, so the steeple was badly in need of repair by the time work started on it. It was finished in December 2014. When they were doing it, they added a little circlet of ornamentation to each of the 4 small spires. This was included in the original plans but seemingly never completed. It was really rather nice to see that.’

Muriel also explained that the church replaced the original Cupar Free Church, which was built in what is now South Union Street at the time of the Disruption in 1843. ‘But by the 1870s they realised they would need a bigger church. They were given a donation by Sir David Baxter of Dundee, and raised money themselves as well,’ she adds.

In 1900, it became St John’s Free Church, and in 1929 was reunited with the Church of Scotland.

The church was also part of the last Cupar Arts Festival in 2013, when artist Kenny Bean’s video projection ‘Tempting Fate’ was displayed on the steeple of St John’s. Muriel adds that the church was happy to have Kenny’s art displayed there, and says of the festival in general:

‘I think it’s an excellent idea, and I’m all in favour of it.’

Follow the journey of the Reliquary
Visit the Anonym Archive

Reliquary can be found in St John’s Church, Bonnygate, Cupar, KY15 4BY.
Opening times are: Saturdays 10am – 6pm; Sunday 12.30pm – 5pm; Weekdays 10am – 7pm.

Please note: The upper level of this building which houses the exhibition is not wheelchair accessible.
There will also be an information sheet with a brief history of the church available for visitors during the Cupar Arts Festival.