Jan 192017

With thanks to Charlie Abel.

Joanna Lumley has become the first award recipients of the 2017 Scottish Samurai

Besides being a well known BAFTA TV award winning actress, former model, author and voice over artist, Joanna has been a great advocate for human rights for Survival International and the Ghurka Justice

She is also a great supporter of Animal welfare charities such as Compassion in World Farming and Vegetarians International Voice for Animals.

Her recent documentary ‘Joanna Lumley’s Japan’ was a great hit with the Samurai Award’s membership and U.K. audience. 

The Scottish Samurai awards were founded in Aberdeen by Culter resident and international 9th Dan Karate instructor Ronnie Watt OBE, ORS to celebrate those who serve and excel. The award of Great Shogun recognises those who have reached the ultimate achievement in their field.

Joanna Lumley has said she is very proud and very humbled to receive the honour and she is:

“thrilled to be a Scottish Samurai.”

Ronnie Watt is delighted to add Joanna to the ever-growing list of Samurai.

Some of the previous award winners include Sean Connery, Billy Connolly, Alex Salmond, Aberdeen City Council, Sir Ian Wood, Lord Charles Bruce, Compton Ross, Tommy Dreelan and the current and former Japanese Consul Generals of Japan in Edinburgh.

Each year the Scottish Samurai awards grow and continues to encourage and recognise people from different walks of life for their positive contributions to society and those around them.

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Oct 202016

Aberdeen-based artist Brian Keeley tells Aberdeen Voice about his new exhibition. With thanks to Suzanne Kelly.


The piece records one year of artist, Brian Keeley’s new post-transplant life

Brian Keeley required a heart transplant. He spent months in hospital, and was able to come through the other side.
The NHS teams that helped keep him alive were the subject of a series of portraits he painted. His observations powerfully record his experience, his carers, and blend art and technology from a unique perspective.

Now he brings us new work. In his own words, this is what will be on show starting 3 November at Aberdeen University.

“The piece I am creating will incorporate imagery created from MRI scans.  I am working in collaboration with staff at the University of Aberdeen’s Biomedical Imaging Centre to produce the images which will form the basis of my work.  

“It will be a ‘self-portrait’ showing my body from the inside, as opposed to the recognisable likenesses we see when artists generally portray the ‘outside’ surface.

“The title ‘Renaissance’ refers to my personal sense of rebirth following my heart transplant in November 2013. That experience now informs my work in a very direct way.  The long recovery and ongoing physical constraints it placed upon me has meant that I no longer work in a teaching capacity.

“It has, however, afforded me the opportunity to prioritise my energies towards revitalising my own creative practice.

“I am interested in the way that the technology of today allows us to see my new heart, which I share with its previous owner.

brian-keely-image“The piece also records one year of my new post-transplant life, which I will represent by all of the empty packets from medication I have used in the last year. Without this medication I cannot survive, and so it acts as a protective ‘shield’ against organ rejection.

“The full-body image references the familiar image of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man.

“Da Vinci was an an artist with a fascination for the medical and anatomical functions of the human body – at a time when the very idea of heart transplantation – and of creating images from inside the body – would have been unthinkable.”

(Artist’s external website   https://briankeeley.wordpress.com)

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Sep 212016

penny-wellsBy Penny Wells.

Well, today is International Day of Peace 2016, and as I sit with a coffee at home I ask myself the question ‘does Aberdeen care about peace?’ It does, and this is how.

In the seven years I have been singing at folk/open mics clubs in the area (Tin Hut, Fyvie, Cellar 35, Musa, Stonehaven, Blue Lamp) I regularly hear songs and poems about peace, although to be fair, there are also many which seem to revisit various historical battles and indeed, almost glorify war.

It is responsible reporting to mention both.

To see real imbalance, try looking around a good bookshop. How many books are there on wars? How many are there on peace building?

I consider myself a peace activist, although a passive activist (if that is not an oxymoron), and as this is International Day of Peace, naturally, it is peace I wish to focus on and reflect on how it connects with my musical activities.

I sing either solo or as part of a duo (Millbrig) with Steve Allan, and when not job-hunting (no easy task in Aberdeen’s current oil recession) I am busy writing/recording in my spare time.

There is an excellent series of events currently underway, and more being planned by local musician, Nigel Lammas, in which musicians and poets express themselves as pro peace.

I took part in one such event last Sunday at St Andrews Cathedral. Much of the material performed, by about ten very different acts, was self penned – as were my own contributions ‘Old Soldier’ and ‘Song for Syria’. However, most of the targeted audience from other cultural backgrounds were enjoying Eid in the Park … so perhaps I was at the wrong venue at that time.

‘Old Soldier’ empathises with ex-combatants. The song suggests that peace talks may be more productive than combat. Admittedly, the song was originally gendered as it included the line ‘Women prefer to hold peace talks’. I changed this to ‘Many prefer to hold peace talks’ at the request of men who wish to be considered as part of this.

‘Song for Syria’ was written after hearing Dr Samer Attar on Radio 4 (26.07.16). Dr Attar is one of many medics who volunteer to help in conflict zones, at considerable risk to themselves. An mp3 copy of the song was sent to Dr Attar in Chicago as a world exclusive, as a gesture of thanks and appreciation for his work and that of his colleagues. Steve and I were pleased to tell this story on Keith Community radio recently as guests on their ‘live lounge’ programme (an hour of chat and music).

The song expresses the wish that a safe place to live could be found for children of conflict, and bewilderment that we train medics to the highest standard, yet despatch them to places of conflict to patch people back together again after man made conflicts, which seems counterproductive.

A major contribution that Aberdeen makes, in my humble opinion, comes at grass roots level, as there are many musicians who think similarly. But it is not always considered acceptable to express these views at work, or in certain social circles, and some are reluctant to be named for fear of reprisal.

However the freedom to express oneself through song, poetry, spoken word or art is clearly evident in Musa café/wine bar, which I have enjoyed going along to since last November.

Musa is presenting a themed peace evening this coming Monday. Billed as ‘A Night of Peaceful Protest through Songs and Spoken Word’, Performers, including those who regularly attend Musa’s open mic sessions will be joined by invited guests from the UN Association Aberdeen. All are welcome to come along, whether to do a turn, watch, listen, or chat in celebration of peace. That my friends is how Aberdeen ‘does’ peace.

A Night of Peaceful Protest through Songs and Spoken Word’

Monday, 26th September – 8pm to 12 midnight
Regulars welcome!
Plus participation from UN Association, Aberdeen

33 Exchange St,
Aberdeen AB11 6PH

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Sep 012016

With thanks to Leanne Carter, Account Manager, Tricker PR.

Abseil 2a

Hall Morrice’s intrepid trio, Richard Stephenson, Jasmin Corbett and Emma Crossan will be abseiling to raise money for Grampian Hospitals Art Trust.

Three accountants hope that a daredevil stunt will add up to a significant donation for charity when they take the plunge and abseil 60ft down the side of Aberdeen Royal Infirmary next month.

The fearless threesome from Hall Morrice LLP – Richard Stephenson, Emma Crossan and Jasmin Corbett – will take on the challenge in aid of the Grampian Hospitals Art Trust, which is a client of their firm.

They will be among dozens of brave fund-raisers lining up to carry out the abseil from one of the oldest healthcare buildings in Aberdeen on September 18.

It is not the first time that Richard has undertaken such a stunt – just a year ago he completed an abseil from the tower of the Aberdeen Conference and Exhibition Centre in aid of another of Hall Morrice’s clients, Transition Extreme.

On that occasion the height of the tower was 40ft but the added 20ft on the ARI building does not faze 29-year-old Richard.

He says,

“The last abseil was great fun: it was the first time that I’d ever done one, and I’m looking forward to the added challenge of that extra 20ft.

“I’m also really pleased that this time I’ll have company. Emma and Jasmin are both really excited to be doing it, and it’s great that we can do it as a team.

“We are always looking at ways that we can add value to what we do for clients, but this is certainly one of the more unusual ways of approaching that.

“However, we think the Trust does fantastic work that impacts on people from all walks of life in the communities we operate in, so we are only too delighted to support what they do.”

Grampian Hospitals Art Trust has been working to create a positive, calming and welcoming environment at hospitals and clinics throughout the region for the past 30 years.

The charity now holds the largest art collection within the health care sector in Scotland – some 4.500 pieces in total – and these are located throughout the Grampian area in order to make medical buildings less daunting.

In addition to curating the works of art, the Trust also organises special projects in some of the region’s hospitals where patients can create their own art to take home with them. This process helps patients associate the experience of being in hospital with something positive.

Hall Morrice partner Shonagh Fraser, who specialises in charities and the third sector, adds,

“We are all extremely proud of our three team members for volunteering to do this. It’s very brave and definitely goes above and beyond the call of duty.

“I think this just goes to underline the ethos of the whole firm in that we want to provide an excellent service, but want to ensure that we can support our clients beyond the services that we offer.”

An online fund-raising page has been set up to help the trio raise sponsorship money at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Hall-Morrice-ARi-Abseil-2016

Founded in 1976, Hall Morrice celebrates its 40th anniversary this year and is one of Scotland’s leading independent firms of chartered accountants with offices in Aberdeen and Fraserburgh. Based at 6 and 7 Queens Terrace in Aberdeen, Hall Morrice can be contacted on 01224 647394 or at accounts@hallmorrice.co.uk

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Jun 302016

Gary Shand George Sq sculpture prior to oiling 2By Duncan Harley.

Inverurie has a new and exciting piece of artwork courtesy of north east based chainsaw sculptor Gary Shand.

When Aberdeenshire Council Landscape Services Officer Ken Regan realised that he had a dead elm tree on his hands he decided to approach Gary in the hope of persuading him to transform the 25ft high stump into a piece of public art.

“I had seen carved tree stumps in the parks of Barcelona … the notion that folk could almost randomly stumble upon them appealed and when this opportunity arose it seemed appropriate to create one for Inverurie” said Ken.

Sited in parkland on George Square outside Inverurie’s St Andrew’s School, the sculpting process immediately drew comments from local residents. Carving a tree trunk with a power-saw is after all a very public process.

Says Gary,

“It was really interesting overhearing the comments. At the beginning folk were mainly asking what it was for and what did it mean. Towards the end of the week I detected a sense of ownership. Folk had literally adopted the piece as a part of their local environment.”


Chainsaw sculptor Gary Shand

The design stage involved consultation with St Andrew’s School pupils. Drawings were produced and, as Gary puts it “the ideas were put into the blender.” The image of the children with arms around each other, lifting each other up and reaching for the sky was the result and “Aspire” was born.

With a background in forestry and a lifelong interest in the creative arts, Gary was an obvious choice for the project. “In fact we were fortunate that he was able to commit to the work” said Ken Regan.

Alongside his “Stump Sculptures” Gary creates bespoke pieces, often from elm, suited to the average size home.

“Dutch Elm disease has been a mixed blessing” he says.

“it’s not quite so good for forests but is useful if you are a carver … Elm is an ideal timber for outdoor sculpture and providing you keep it moist, which is easy in Scotland, it will last forever.”

Given that the Romans utilized elm for water-pipes, Gary is not far wrong.

Samples of Gary’s work can be seen at www/garryshand.co.uk/

Images and text © Duncan Harley

First published in the June 2016 edition of Leopard Magazine

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May 192016

artgallerypicBy Scott Shaw.

I was the longstanding Insurance Officer at Aberdeen City Council and had held that position for nearly 17 years. My main duties were the running of a small insurance section which handled all the councils insurance claims such as pavement slips/trips, road pothole claims, council motor fleet accident claims, fire and employers liability claims etc.

Part of my duties also involved liaising with council insurers over insurance issues/covers which also involved insurance tender work at 5 yearly intervals. I am a fully qualified associate of the Institute of Risk management.

During March 2012 I had very good reason for believing that wrongful activity was occurring on a key insurance policy used to insure the high value art collections of Aberdeen Art Gallery and this activity had been longstanding.

The value of the Art Gallery collections are huge and at March 2012 was £240 Million. I blew the whistle, which is more accurately defined as making a public interest disclosure under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998. I was suspended immediately after doing so.

The wrongs concerned key insurance covers.

The disclosure activated the Councils Whistle Blowing Charter which fell under the responsibility of the former Head of Legal & Democratic Services and a formal investigation was conducted by the Councils internal auditors, Price Waterhouse Coopers.

I met with PWC on 25th June 2012 at PWC’s Aberdeen office where I presented further evidence regarding the wrongful conduct of the underwriting unit of the Councils insurers, Zurich Municipal.

The concern I raised was that a letter from the underwriters, in response to my request for clarification, presented information which was (to put it mildly) inconsistent with the terms of the actual active insurance policy in that it sought to reassure that theft was not limited to ‘forcible or violent entry to or exit from the premises’.

No such assurance is apparent in the pertinent section of the actual policy.

My suspension lasted an entire year which is incredible to say the least and at the end of that year I was dismissed and handed a PWC investigative report, the contents of which I considered to be inaccurate and in parts unfounded. This report was then used by the Council at Tribunal Court in Aberdeen where I firmly believe it misled a court and denied me fair judicial hearing.

The report was unfairly weighted against me and included what I consider to be inaccuracies with regard to the content of emails and time events. The most worrying aspect however, was the omission of the aforementioned letter from the underwriter, despite this having been examined by the report writer, which was key to my case.

The writer of the report was also allowed to destroy all the supporting e-mail documents he alleged to have examined in his report (thus removing an audit trail) which contravenes documentation retention surrounding fraud / whistle blowing investigations.

It has taken me literally thousands of hours and extensive use of the Freedom of Information statute to validate the disclosure and to expose the activities of PWC with regard to this matter. The covering up of wrongs is highlighted itself as being wrongful activity under the Protected Interest Disclosure Act 1998.

Based on all the evidence I have gathered and studied, it is apparent to me that, for decades, Aberdeen City Council had been diddled out of fire insurance cover on what is effectively the largest fire insurance risk north of Edinburgh.

If that was not bad enough this activity went right around the UK with Councils up and down the Country not having fire insurance cover on their high value art collections.

The FOI returns I have show that over 95% of UK Councils had inadequate fire cover.

There were other wrongs on the arrangement dating back to 2003 including wrongful activity in relation to specific covers including the important theft cover.

It took me over 2 years to produce a 160 page investigative report into the matter which validated the disclosure and on 9th November 2015 this report was presented to the Chief Executive Officer of Aberdeen City Council and the Deputy Provost who sits on the Councils Audit, Risk and Scrutiny Committee.

In late December I had managed to arrange a meeting to discuss the report and during this meeting (which included Councils Head of Legal ) the Deputy Provost suggested the Police should be notified due to the nature and historic matters concerning the insurance arrangement.

The months ticked by and after several prods and chase-ups, I received a nine line e-mail from the Council’s Legal Head and a four line letter from the Councils Chief Executive Officer declaring their satisfaction with the insurance arrangement and the Price Waterhouse Coopers report – this outcome being contrary to discussions at the meeting of 20th December 2015.

I have now taken the matter up with the head of complaints at the Chartered Institute of Public Finance Accountants (Cipfa) who are the professional body of the PWC Senior Manager (who carried out the PWC investigation/report) and also the CEO of Aberdeen City Council. For any interested reader, Cipfa publish the findings of misconduct/ethics hearings on their web page which is www.Cipfa.org

A recent Freedom of Information enquiry I sent to all 32 Scottish Councils indicates that for PIDA whistle blowing cases in local government approx 70% find no wrongs.

It is my firm belief that this figure is far too high and likely to be due to extensive nullification/turning a blind eye/cover ups of said disclosures.

I have presented my case to members of the Scottish Parliament and requested that the Scottish Parliament look at the matter. This they failed to do back in 2013 when a Public Petition was raised in the Scottish Parliament specifically concerning possible cover ups of whistle blowing disclosures. This petition can be seen on www.scottish.parliament.uk under PE01488.

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[Aberdeen Voice accepts and welcomes contributions from all sides/angles pertaining to any issue. Views and opinions expressed in any article are entirely those of the writer/contributor, and inclusion in our publication does not constitute support or endorsement of these by Aberdeen Voice as an organisation or any of its team members.]

May 162016

White Wood ForumWith thanks to Kate Sargent.

For millennia, storytellers, musicians, artists and indigenous thinkers have engaged with the sensitive nature of our planet, exploring the complex relationship ecologies, economies and cosmologies have with people and all matter.

At the core of all this is a concern for the environment and obtaining peace.

The White Wood Forum is a continuation of thinking about art and ecology began by Joseph Beuys, whose practice both literally, with acorns from his 7000 Oaks, and conceptually sowed the seeds for The White Wood.

As a living monument to peace, created by the people of Huntly, the wood will grow and change as the oaks mature over the next 300 years. Working as an artist, pacifist and environmentalist, Beuys’ work acts as a confluence between social and cultural perspectives of sustainability: local and global understandings and lived practices around the world.

Our current eco-political system is designed by and for the very few, resulting in unending conflict and ecological decay. What world can we dream of for future generations? And what contributions can art and community make?

Focusing on the nexus between art, peace and ecology the White Wood Forum will ask how art can be in harmony with the key principles of sustainability, including next to ecology – social justice, grass roots democracy and non-violence.

By bringing together people from arts, anthropology, ecology, politics, peacemaking and locality, The White Wood Forum will ask how we can foster a culture of complexity, an art and a community that impacts the future, to the benefit of generations to come.

White Wood Forum

Thurs 26 May 7pm: Ex-Servicemen’s Club, Huntly.

Prof Tim Ingold: The Sustainability of Everything
Screening of 7000 Oaks with Q&A

Fri 27 May 9am-7pm, Stewarts Hall, Huntly.

Chair: Deirdre Heddon, Prof. Contemporary Practice, University of Glasgow;

Keynote: Satish Kumar, long-term peace and environmental activist;  Loïc Fel, Philosopher and Cofounder of The Coalition for art and sustainable development; Tim IngoldChair of Social Anthropology, University of Aberdeen; Robin McAlpine,Director of Common Weal; Shelley Sacks, Prof. Social Sculpture, Oxford Brooks University; Georges Thierry HandjaMapping Coordinator at the Rainforest Foundation UK; Rhea Thoenges-Stringaris, 7000 Oaks Society/Kassel; Caroline Wendling, White Wood artist; and others….

7pm Peacemakers’ Ceilidh with the Strathspey Fiddlers, Gordon Arms Hotel

Sat 28 May White Wood Opening Ceremony and Gala day. More info here.


White Wood Froum: £25 Early Bird/£35 regular; £10 Students/AB54 Citizens/White Wood planters (includes ceilidh)

Peacemaker’s Ceildh only: £5

White Wood Gala: free event

May 132016

Neale Bothwell is one of several artists who exhibit at Under The Hammer on North Silver Street. The candlelit venue has hosted many group shows; Neale and I have been in group shows together there before, organised by local artist and WASPS studio member Keith Byers. This is Neale’s most recent exhibition at UTH. Suzanne Kelly interviews the artist.

Neale Bothwell oneSK – ‘There are 6 new pieces and one print which was exhibited in 2007. The work is abstract expressionism with bold colours dominating.’

NB – “I painted the new ones between last November and February this year. I found myself in a more workmanlike mode. A bit of discipline and structure to my approach. Normally I’ve tended to paint when it has felt… right like the right time. When everything is in place. 

“There was intensity to it. A more structured approach seems to have allowed me more freedom and a different kind of tension.”

We talk about the colours in the paintings.

NB – “I’ve always been fascinated by the way certain colours act with and work upon each other. My earlier works included black & white, brown & yellow, pale blue and dark brown. and even pink, gold and black. I’m enjoying using greens, blues and browns at the moment. Whatever captures my interest really.”

SK – ‘I note that in some of them, faces come out after you’ve looked at them for a while.’

NB – “It’s never intentional to begin with. If it is happening and it works, then fine. A good example of that is my piece titled “Bless My Soul” (detail, pictured). It took a long time, a lot of moving colours around the canvas. It began to feel right and start to make sense. Face, arms, all that was missing was a ‘mouth’. So I quickly finished off with a smile of sorts. Luckily it didn’t ruin the whole thing!

“Materials are affordable for me at present; I also got involved in situation at Market Street – a Chinese restaurant with lots of things lying about – it was the only place I could get any peace and quiet. We were trying to tart the place up. The materials were around.  I came upon a huge pile of big industrial cans of paints and some tinsel – and it just looked ready to go. I was in a basement, completely silent and bleak as hell.

“I was in a good mood to work in the silence and just went for it.  I exhibited it later; Peacock framed it for me.”

We talk about the disgraceful situation Peacock Visual Arts found itself in – through no fault of its own – and we both love the place and wish it well.

NB – “I was later painting in an attic, mainly using whatever colours caught my eye. I did one with tippex – sold it – very nice people.”

We talk about the print.

NB – “I was told to do collages by afriend. I thought I’d do it for a laugh but it was good advice really. I cut that image out – someone’s face – and painted it over, folded it up, tied it up with string and then 5 years later opened it up. Now it looks like all this trendy phone art that’s on the go now.

Neale Bothwell two“I’m really enjoying just moving paint around, making something pleasing.

“The red one – I just liked the colours and that’s how it turned out. 

“The green one – there was something about that one, just walking through the town – mud, rubbish, cracked pavement – passing tonnes of cranes with trucks flying about the place. 

“I went home and painted that  – I was in a punk rock kind of mood.  I put myself through the mill when I look at my own stuff.  I did one, looked at it for a couple of days, and rejected it.  But I did that one, and part of it caught my eye.  To me it’s modern, it’s contemporary, pleasing to the eye, but it’s got something going on.”

Neale talks me through more of his paintings; he painted one piece for the first time not in a silent atmosphere, but listening to music. The music impacted on how he used colour and his brush strokes. I recommend he keep using music (which I find indispensable when painting).

I keep seeing faces in these paintings.

NB – “The green one with the white bands that could look like teeth – it was a warm kind of painting going in that direction.

What informs my work? It’s colour, doing my own thing, and enjoying it. I enjoy painting; it’s a lovely experience.  It’s as close to a state of honesty as you can be is how I see it.”

We talk about some of the more gimmicky high-profile art prizes and whether or not they have much to do with painting. I mention the Glaswegian woman who got a Creative Scotland grant for… staying in Glasgow for a year without leaving the city limits.

NB – “It’s absolute rubbish; it’s little narcissistic kiddies getting it wrong every time. It’s like putting words in your painting. Gets my goat.”

We agree that a painting that needs a long explanation can’t be doing much talking itself.

NB – “The last artist in the Turner Prize nominee that I rated and thought had any gravitas was Gillian Carnegie; I remember her getting slated. Some artists lap up all the attention from the media and I don’t want to be too critical – but…”

We discuss how much craftsmanship some prizes-winning artists actually personally invest in their creations; we agree that some artists either don’t value craftsmanship in others – or pay others to carry out tasks they are not competent to do – yet want to put their name on a finished work they had little real hand in making.

NB – “I don’t even think too much about that kind of art. The artists if they are trying to make us understand more about certain things, I think it’s rather a bland way about going about it.”

We talk about Keith Byers the portrait painter who arranged this exhibition.

NB – “He’s a lovely guy; fantastic portrait painter. He’s been a great help.”

Neale Bothwell“I’m very much influenced by the punk spirit. I grew up with punk and it always stays with you. Follow your own path. And avoid people who use idiotic phrases like ‘cultural strategies’.

As for painters, I very much love the work of William Gear, Joan Eardley and Anne Redpath. Whether they influence my work, I don’t know, perhaps they do.

“They all manage to communicate the artist’s feeling in response to their subject. I think that is the best achievement for an artist. That’s what I try to do and hopefully keep it enjoyable to look at. I’d also like to thank Keith Byers and Colin at Under the Hammer for their continued support.

“I think it’s very important to show how you’re feeling at the time through your art. It’s a sweet little landscape and it worked because it was exactly how I felt at the time. I think if you can achieve getting that feeling over to the person viewing it, then that’s a success.  

“A lot of the stuff I do might be from immediate experience or some of it comes from somewhere in the past – you’re not always sure where it comes out from – I take everything I see, everything I’m feeling and just try to get it out in a certain way so if I can achieve people understanding exactly how it came about and what it means.  I think that’s the best intention of the whole thing.”

SK – ‘When you capture some kind particular feeling, some emotion and other people get it that means the art’s worked.’

NB – “It’s worked on a few occasions and it’s always been surprising people; and they’ve all been nice. I’ve pinpointed some people immediately go for (he points to a vibrant painting in the corner in reds and black).  The last exhibition there were two very simple landscapes; it was the combination of the colours I used and ‘a flick of the wrist’ – and most people went for it and I kept saying ‘the other one’s the better painting’ – people just saw it another way.

“I’m moving into more landscapes; I’m walking for miles every day with a dog; it’s a lovely environment to be in – down by the river. The movement of the land; the way the little roots of trees will form a little disjointed path; the nuances that go on – the importance of the landscape.”

Neale’s work is up for another few weeks at Under The Hammer.

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May 052016

Under_New_Moons_We_Stand_Strong2With thanks to John Morrison.

Inspired by science fiction scenography and the hardware of the “control society” (Deleuze, 1995, 1990; Burroughs, 1978), Under New Moons, We Stand Strong reflects on the meaning of solidarity, infrastructural literacy, and symbolism within digital-civic governance and society.

The piece is composed of a large-scale cardboard model of a CCTV camera with accompanying bird spikes. Spikes are most often positioned on top of cameras so as to ward off birds.

On the 3rd January 2016 the CCTV camera, positioned at the intersection of Autoroute 40 and Boulevard des Sources, in the West Island of Montreal, Quebec captured a stunning image of a Snowy Owl, in mid-air. Quebec’s Transport Minister Robert Poëti tweeted about the owl on January 7, and the province later released the captured video footage and images, which went viral.

Mythical, owls are considered as symbols of wisdom and intelligence, as well as guardians of the underworlds, protectors of the dead and seer of souls. A special edition print of the image of the Snowy Owl will be presented alongside the sculpture.

Drawing on various rituals and traditions on Sat 7th May, 20.00 the public are invited to take part in a procession of paper-based CCTV cameras starting at Peacock Visual Arts and continuing through Aberdeen city centre and onto the beach, where in ceremonial fashion the models will be set on fire.

Date: Thurs 5 – Sat 28 May 2016
Location: Seventeen, 17 Belmont St, AB10 1JR, Aberdeen
Procession: Sat 7 May, 8pm from Seventeen, 17 Belmont St, AB10 1JR, Aberdeen

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Apr 292016

Peter_Anson__courtesy and copyright Andrew Paterson Scottish Highlander Photo ArchiveBy Duncan Harley

Born in Southsea and from a naval family, Peter Anson (1889 – 1975) took a keen interest in ships and seafaring from an early age.

Initially he sketched from photographs but at age nine, during a family holiday at Robin Hood’s Bay, Peter began drawing the Fifies’ and Zulu drifters beloved by his mother, a Scots born water-colourist. Peter attributed his status as a ‘Domiciled Scotsman’ to her strong maternal influence. She died when he was fourteen and from this point on, his naval officer father began to have more input.

On one memorable occasion Peter found himself, age 15 alongside his dad, on-board the cruiser HMS Argyll – sister ship to the ill fated Hampshire which went down off the Orkney’s in 1916 with Lord Kitchener, of ‘YOUR COUNTRY NEEDS YOU’ fame, on board.

This was his first experience at sea in a warship and he writes that he did not enjoy “the terrific noise of guns firing” during a naval exercise in the Bay of Biscay. Despite this, he was by now smitten by seafaring and felt himself a hardened sailor following this experience.

Private tutoring followed and in his late teens Peter enrolled at the Architectural Association School in London’s Westminster. Even here however he found that he couldn’t resist maritime subjects. He obtained a sketching permit which allowed him to wander at will, sketchbook in hand, around London Docks. Wapping, Blackwall and the Isle of Dogs became favourite haunts and Thames river traffic became his subjects.

By 1906 Peter was in touch with the Anglican Benedictine community on Caldey Island near Tenby and despite family pressure to follow an architectural career found himself drawn to the monastic life.

In 1910, he tested his vocation as a monk. Following an initial two weeks on Caldey Island he decided, at age 20, to join the Community. Many years later he writes:

“I might be giving up the world, but this would not involve abandoning the sea … I don’t think that I could have faced the latter sacrifice! It would have been too much to ask!”

For the next decade, Caldey Island became his home.

Six miles in circumference and less than a mile long, the island had been home to monks from early Celtic times. In 1906 it was purchased by a Yorkshire based community of Anglican Benedictine’s.

It is a place of jagged coastal rocks, Atlantic storms and red sandstone cliffs and it was here that Peter became firm friends with Aelred Caryle, his monastic Superior, who helped him realise the Apostolate of the Sea – a mission to attend to the moral and spiritual needs of those who go to sea in ships.

An article on the subject penned by Peter appeared in The Catholic newspaper ‘Universe’ and soon letters began to arrive from all parts of the world endorsing his view that the spiritual welfare of seafarers in general went largely uncared for. One correspondent commented that:

“the mercantile marine have no chaplains and the priests in seaport towns are too overburdened with work already to give ships much individual attention”.

Macduff_1958_image_courtesy_Moray Museums Service

The Catholic Times soon took up the issue and in 1920 the Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano published a condensed Italian translation of Peter’s article. Peter had by then, as always, moved on to fresh projects. In what he later realised was an attempt to escape from monastic life and a return to the maritime world, Peter asked permission from the Abbot of Caldey to make a survey tour of the seaports of the UK.

He made many sea journeys during this period and travelled from the Shetlands to the Scillies.

He sailed in dirty colliers and smoke stained steam trawlers and at one point spent so long in an Italian cargo vessel that he almost forgot how to speak English. In Buckie he found a fleet of over a hundred brightly painted steam drifters and wondered why no artist had ever painted the confused mass of funnels, rigging and masts.

In Aberdeen he observed:

“big dirty, untidy vessels which were a stark contrast to the tidy vessels of the Moray Firth.”

Everywhere he travelled he met clergy who had largely given up on ministering to ships and abandoned seafarers whose spiritual needs were left largely neglected.

The question of what could be done for Catholic seafarers had been the catalyst for the setting up of the Apostleship however when Peter moved to Portsoy and then to Macduff in the 1930’s it was soon apparent to him that the crews of the herring drifters were made up of men from various persuasions.

Methodists, Baptists, Episcopalians and Presbyterians; Brethren, Salvation Army and Catholics were all happy to discus both the state of the tide with him and debate the finer points of infant baptism or the mysticism surrounding the crucifixion.

The painting and the sketching carried on throughout this period, as it did indeed throughout his long life. The Apostleship of the Sea had become an international affair complete with annual congresses attracting delegates from up to 14 countries. By 1936 however, Peter had withdrawn from the official life of the organisation.

Gardenstown_Image_courtesy_Moray Museums ServiceIndeed he took great pleasure in the fact that on the occasion of the Congress’s meeting to honour his colleague Arthur Gannon’s 17 years of devoted work with the award of the ‘pro Pontifice et Ecclesia’ he was pointedly busy making a drawing of a Dutch motor cruiser in Banff harbour whilst chatting amiably with its crew.

Peter had in fact resigned his position as the Apostleship’s Organising Secretary in about 1924 due both to health concerns and the feeling that he had visualised the society much as he would visualize a drawing or a piece of writing.

Once the piece was completed, he simply wanted to get on with the next project.

Further sea journeys followed. Brittany, Vancouver and a much needed pilgrimage to Assisi were just some. In 1938 he published The Caravan Pilgrimage, an account of his year long ‘Pilgrim Artist’ journey by horse drawn caravan from Datchet by the Thames around Scotland’s North East coastline and back.

For many years Peter had been contributing a weekly series of drawings to the Catholic newspaper, The Universe featuring Roman Catholic churches around Britain. This work involved constant travelling by train; he hated road travel, which he found exhausting. One day he simply decided to divest himself of his copies of both Bradshaw and the ABC Railway Guide and purchased a horse drawn caravan.

Since he knew little about horses his next move was to advertise for a travelling companion who did. Out of almost 200 applications he chose a young Yorkshire-man by the name of Anthony Rowe who, alongside a lifetimes experience amongst horses, was a qualified farrier.

Along with horses, Jack and Bill, the pair set off on a year long journey around Britain, sketching churches and meeting folk along the way. Both Anthony and Peter recorded the journey and both published journals of the trip. Around 60 of Anson’s illustrations of the pilgrimage appear in the book of the tour including sketches of St Peter’s in Buckie, St Mary’s in Portsoy and St Thomas’s in Keith.

Along the way, Jack and Bill enjoyed the privilege of overnight grazing in, amongst many unusual locations, the grounds of Huntly Castle and Buckie FC’s football park.

Harbour Head Macduff:
In 1936 Peter moved back to Scotland. He had lately been living in Norfolk but had become weary of what he called:

“the Church of England in it’s most traditional and un-exciting manifestations.”

He had an intimate knowledge of Scottish ports having previously visited most of the forty or so parishes, including the Orkney’s and Shetlands which then made up the diocese of Aberdeen and knew many of the 50 or so secular priests who served up what he termed:

“an undemonstrative type of Catholicism.”

Ferryden 1966 image courtesy Moray Museums Service

The Aberdeenshire and Moray coastline became his home for the next two decades. Ecclesiastical affairs drifted into the background and fishing communities became his focus and his life.

The likes of Neil and Daisy Gunn, Compton McKenzie and Eric Linklater became firm friends.

Indeed both Neil and Sir Compton were to contribute forewords to his books. Compton had reviewed Peter’s writing for the Daily Mail commenting that:

“Mr Ansons books are prized possessions on my bookshelves.”

It has even been suggested that Neil’s Silver Darlings might not have reached publication if Peter had not encouraged the man to publish and be damned.

Peter wrote at the time that:

“In Scotland … so far as I could discover I was the only Papist earning a living by literary and artistic work in the vast diocese of Aberdeen.”

Soon after moving into Macduff ‘s Harbour Head the local parish priest designated Peter’s house as an Apostleship of the Sea ‘Service Centre’.  As a consequence a constant stream of mariners of all faiths and nationalities found their way to his door and in wartime, service folk on leave from the armed forces frequented his open house.

He had begun the Apostleship many years before with the vision of creating a worldwide organisation. At Harbour Head, Peter soon adopted the view that perhaps men rather than administrative machinery were required; Apostles were more needed than an Apostolate.

During this period he wrote and sketched at a furious pace adopting the practice of making at least one drawing before breakfast. He had spent six months in an earth floored fisherman’s cottage in Portsoy prior to moving to Harbour Head during which time he completed The Catholic Church in Modern Scotland. During his years in Macduff his writing included classics such as A Roving Recluse, Life on Low Shore and the best-selling classic British Sea Fishermen.

At the behest of the Scottish Nationalist Party and with a foreword by writer Neil Gunn he penned a vitriolic political pamphlet ‘The Sea Fisheries of Scotland are they Doomed’ which examined in some detail the causes for the decline in the fortunes of the inshore fishing industry in the 1930’s.

Books as diverse in nature as How to Draw Ships and the 1956 Official Guide to Banff followed and are part of his legacy alongside possibly his final work Building Up the Waste Places in which he explores the life and work of Aelred Caryle and Fr. Hopkins, each of whom played key roles in the restoration of Benedictine Monastic life in the post Reformation church.

Perer_Anson_Memorial_Sculpture courtesy Duncan HarleyA founder member of the Royal Society of Marine Artists Anson published over 40 books, and contributed to many more. His artistic output numbers literally thousands of drawings and watercolours and many of his books are prolifically illustrated with harbour scenes and pier head paintings.

In 1958 Peter left Macduff and moved to a cottage near Ramsgate Abbey. A further brief stay in Portsoy followed in 1960 and in 1961 he moved to Montrose.

Made a Knight of the Order of St Gregory by Pope Paul VI in 1966 in recognition of his scholarly work he became, in 1967, the first Curator of the Scottish Fisheries Museum at Anstruther.

His later years were spent back at Caldey Island and finally at Sancta Maria Abbey in East Lothian.

He died in St. Raphael’s Hospital in Edinburgh in July 1975 and is buried in the private cemetery at Nunraw Abbey.

Aspects of Peter’s life remain unclear and some personal diaries and correspondence remain unavailable to historians until 2040. He was seemingly barred from attending a friend’s funeral at Doune Kirkyard in Macduff, shuddered at the loss, but in time recovered and moved on.

Moray Council Museum Service hold a substantial collection of Peter Anson’s work some of which is on public display at the Falconer Museum in Forres. They also hold an archive of his letters and diaries plus his personal library. Buckie Fishing Heritage Centre and Buckie Library also hold Anson paintings.

Courtesy of Stanley Bruce, Macduff sports a sculpture in memory of Peter but perhaps the most fitting tribute to his life are in the words of an anonymous Buckie fisherman quoted on the flyleaf of the 1930 edition of the best selling classic: ‘Fishing Boats and Fisher Folk on the East Coast of Scotland’.

“Peter’s the maist winnerfu’ mannie ah ever met, well kent in scores o’ ports, a man wi’ the sea in’s bleed, a skeely drawer o’ boats an’ haibers an’ fisher fowk, a vreeter o’ buiks, a capital sailor, an’ a chiel … He’s a byordinar mannie.”

© Duncan Harley

With thanks to the Moray Museum Service, the Andrew Paterson Scottish Highland Photo Archive and Aberdeenshire Library Service. First published in the November 2015 edition of Leopard Magazine

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