PEACOCK VISUAL ARTS
35 YEARS OF GREAT STUFF
Peacock Visual Arts Centre
21 Castle Street
From today until July 25
Whether you’re an individual or an arts organisation, hitting the age of 35 is a wake-up call. Suddenly you’re no longer in the first flush of youth and responsibilities start to hit you squarely between the eyes. It’s also a time for reflection and repositioning, which is exactly what’s happening in Aberdeen at Peacock Visual Arts, as it enters into the most uncertain periods of its 35 year long history.
Peacock was started up in 1974 as Peacock Printmakers by a group of artists led by Arthur Watson, who was actively involved with it until 1995. The aim was to create a facility in the north east for making fine art prints and since then, it has gained an international reputation for providing high quality support, not only to printmakers, but also to artists working across various disciplines. It has also played a huge part in art education and outreach projects to some of the city’s most deprived areas.
As the exhibition timed to celebrate Peacock’s 35th birthday reveals, the roll call of artists who have moved through its draughty corners is endless. From Ralph Steadman through to John Byrne, Steven Campbell and latterly Toby Paterson, all have produced outstanding work within its walls.
The next stage in its history should be a move from its current home in the Castlegate area off Union Street, into custom-built premises in Union Terrace Gardens right in the heart of Aberdeen, but plans for the £13.5m development have stalled because of a new proposal by Sir Ian Wood to fill in the Gardens and create a new civic square in its place.
The arts organisation’s Centre for the Contemporary Arts was not only meant to rehouse Peacock, which has been renting property for 35 years from St Andrew’s Cathedral, but also a number of city council’s arts departments. Now, as they celebrate a milestone birthday, staff at Peacock are nervously waiting to see how a newly-published feasibility study on Sir Ian’s proposals will affect their plans.
According to Ellie Rothnie, campaign director at Peacock, the Wood scheme has placed the entire Peacock project in jeopardy. “We need to press on with things as we will be homeless in two years,” she explains. “The Cathedral has plans for the buildings we’re in at the moment and they need to move on too.
“We had hoped to break ground with the new centre, which had been granted full planning permission, but now we’re being forced to sit and wait. It seems there will be a place for is in it, but Sir Ian Wood’s scheme necessitates the abandonment of all Peacock’s plans.
“The most immediate fear is the delay will force Peacock to hand back the £9.5 million it has raised to date and we will lose a badly needed new home.”
Back at the drawing board, the real business of Peacock continues with the opening last night of a vibrant exhibition celebrating the outstanding work that has been produced over 35 years.
“We invited thirty-five people with a connection to Peacock to select their personal favourite from the vast selection of prints we’ve produced here since 1974,” says Rothnie “Each work is accompanied by a statement from the person who picked it, explaining what inspired their choice and giving a personal glimpse into our history.”
The result is a visual symphony of artistic brilliance achieved through technical genius. Writer and advertising executive Roddy Phillips puts it neatly when he explains why he chose Busy Lizzie by Claire Roberts. “For me, she symbolises the ethos of Peacock which gives the artist space and time to create,” he states. “In Busy Lizzie, she has harnessed the procedural method of printmaking to her own ends and created a spectacle that is vividly alive and ultimately moving.”
- The story so far
- I'm an arts journalist & PR consultant living and working in Scotland. I've been a journalist for more than 25 years. I write a regular column for Scottish quality newspaper, The Herald. I deliver a PR service with an arty bent and work on a consultancy basis with arts organisations, including Scotland's leading creative industries festival, XpoNorth & broadcast support body, ScreenHI. I am currently co-writing a book about the celebrated Scots artist, George Wyllie, with his daughter Louise. Instrumental in making a celebration of his life's work happen in 2012. For more information, see www.georgewyllie.com When I'm not being a mum/working, I talk to my dog. He laps it up. Contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org (All work © Jan Patience)