Aberdeen Artists Society Visits Haddo House
by Zelia Bukhari
Haddo House by Richard Sutcliffe
In partnership with the National Trust for Scotland, Haddo House and Aberdeen Artists Society have hosted for the first time ever an open art exhibition in collaboration with the Haddo Arts Festival. Entitled Experimental Use of Space, artworks blur with the estate, as each artist installs pieces specifically in response to the site allotted to them, presenting diverse themes and varying media. As an extension of the Haddo Arts Festival, the art exhibit was created as an opportunity for the local public to enjoy a unique way to engage with art, while providing a space for artistic experience to develop within the community.
Haddo House is a stunning, widespread 18th century estate in Aberdeenshire. Its timeless beauty and picturesque mansion house surrounded by miles of gorgeous gardens, paths and monuments are breathtaking on their own. Aberdeen Artists Society is an organization with a membership basis that encourages the practice of contemporary visual arts and artists throughout Aberdeen. More often than not, the work they display is eclectic, dynamic and lacks a sense of uniformity. The juxtaposition between the venue and the art displayed is what makes the Aberdeen Artists Society Exhibition hosted by Haddo Arts so extraordinary and unconventional in the best possible way.
The exhibit is organized in three sections that represent three specific elements in three areas of Haddo Estates. The Mobil Room, curated by Susie Hunt, displays framed two-dimensional works, such as paintings, photographs, prints, amongst many more. From pieces that are representative of Scotland to aberrant contemporary paintings featuring pears, lobsters and leaves, the work is inspiring and thought-provoking.
The Pheasantry was truly an insight into the mind of a contemporary artist. Set in The Old Pheasantry built in 1884, a modest yet striking structure in the midst of greenery, where pheasants were once bred, resident artists Amy Benzie, Iona Kewney, and Jillian Bain Christie work intently. Providing an interactive experience where the public is able to observe and connect with the artists in residence, they are happy to stop and discuss the visionary items they are actualizing. From sketches to clay sculptures, the residency is nothing short of fascinating.
Finally, the Haddo House South Wing Courtyard showcases three-dimensional work such as sculpture, installations, audio and visual projections, in areas of Haddo House which are only rarely accessible to the public. The experimental use of space, curated by Margaret Preston, Jane Hislop, and Roderik Scott, exemplifies the conjunction of Haddo House and the contemporary art featured. Not only is one in awe of the traditional composition of the Mansion and Estate but when joined with the installations present in special spaces, such as formerly private rooms, an uncanny atmosphere of confusion, delight and entertainment is constructed. The washroom only held artwork by artists under 19: a show curated by Jane Hislop that reflected the importance of encouraging young people in Scotland to participate and yearn for their artistry. A sight to see was the avant-garde kitchen installation, which combined sound with amazing three-dimensional craftsmanship.
From eerie, dark artworks such as the Donnie Darko-esque Donkey by Shirelle Young, to the fascinating Wool Solar System by Rosy Wood, to the stimulating Plastic Bag Octopus by Lucy O’Haggins, the exhibit was extensive and diverse and featured over 100 works of art. The whimsical, paired with the traditional, against a backdrop full of history and formal gardens, made for a treasured adventure from start to finish.
Throughout the month of October, the Haddo Arts festival also features music, theatre, poetry and comedy. The art exhibition itself was warmly supported by Apache and the Heritage Lottery Fund, along with Aberdeenshire council. The exhibition will feature a special opening on the 20th of October for those who are still keen to visit.