Monday, 10 September 2012

Guest blog for the John Gray Centre

My second month at the John Gray Centre has flown by as I started to explore the archive and museum collections. At the start of the month the archivists invited me to contribute to the exhibition they were currently curating, a celebration of ‘Sport in East Lothian’ to coincide with the Olympics. I was told the story of the ‘Musselburgh Silver Arrow’ – the oldest Sporting Trophy in the world and created an artwork in response to the story.

A record from the ‘Baillie Court Book’ in 1647 describes the annual event where archers take it in turns to shoot two arrows at a target, then walk to the opposite end of the field and do the same in the opposite direction. The archer with the highest score after ten rounds is declared the winner and takes the silver arrow home. Tradition has evolved it seems that winners no longer take the arrow home with them, but add a medallion to the silver arrow claiming their victory, and return it to the safe keeping of The Royal Company of Archers.

In response to this account I created a sculptural book, a quiet scene where a lone archer takes aim. The ‘Baillie Court Book’ is a fascinating artifact in itself so I decided to reference it within the artwork. The figure is collaged from reproductions of pages of handwritten text on worn and discoloured paper, this provided a beautiful surface to work with.

The exhibition ‘Sport in East Lothian’ can be seen at the John Gray Centre until the end of October.

Over the last few weeks I have also been out and about exploring the county of East Lothian with a sketchbook, partly in an effort to see where the archive material came from, and also to see where the shadows of the past can still be discovered. Through observational drawings I have been exploring some well-known places like the ‘Prestongrange Museum’, which explains the industrial history of the area, and the historic ‘St Mary’s Church’ in Haddington.

I have also been seeking out places that might be more often overlooked, such as the graceful ‘St Mary’s Pleasance’, Haddington a beautiful and well cared for garden in the heart of Haddington. As I visit different locations I have discovered characters or events from those places, which I can bring back into the archive to research further. This research will build up into a broader project about the communities of East Lothian.

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