Recently, I wrote a piece for The Herald's Saturday Galleries page about Peacock Visual Arts in Aberdeen celebrating its 35th birthday. (See blog archive)
Back in the dim and distant 1980s, as a student in Aberdeen, I went to life drawing classes in Peacock Printmakers, as it was then known. It was f-f-f-freezing cold, as only Aberdeen can be in the winter and all credit to the man who routinely took off his clothes of a Wednesday night for us a motley band of would-be artists, clad from head to toe in scratchy wool (fleece was yet to go mass market...)
Peacock is one of these special places in which magic is woven on a daily basis. Artists such as John Byrne, Ralph Steadman, Peter Howson and more recently, Toby Paterson and Kenny Hunter go there to work with some of the conjurers who know more about printmaking than the Queen knows about hand-shaking.
The results can sometimes be breathtaking, as their celebratory exhibition, 35 Years of Great Stuff reveals.
Last year, I toured the fantastic William Littlejohn exhibition put on by the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh and what really struck me about it was how much work the late Arbroath-born artist had done with Peacock throughout a hugely varied and productive artistic career.
Colin Greenslade, who worked at Peacock for many years, is now at the RSA and he was showing round a group so I tagged along. Colin's personal insights into Bill Littlejohn's work made the whole exhibition come alive, particularly his description of working with him on Peacock's 20th anniversary print and the subsequent 'gold dust' experience which always made him think of his old friend.
True to form, Peacock have been busy recently sprinkling more gold dust in an attempt to create a new contemporary arts centre in Aberdeen, a bit like the one which has transformed Dundee's arts scene.
The centre would not only house Peacock, but a number of arts organisations, including City Council arts departments.
Everything was in place - inspiring architectural scheme, a hefty chunk of the required £13.5m funding and most importantly, full planning permission, when Sir Ian Wood, oil tycoon of the parish, came along with a plan to fill in the proposed site at Union Terrace Gardens and create a civic square for the denizens of the Granite City to enjoy.
As a result, the whole development is now in jeopardy. Peacock's work in the wider community of Aberdeen is a key component of its day-to-day life. There's nary a whiff of elitism about the whole set-up and that is the key to its ongoing success.
If you go to www.peacockvisualarts.co.uk, you'll find out more. There's also an online petition appealing to Aberdeen City Council to go back to the drawing board and back the Peacock plan.
This blog posting by Fraser Denholm also gives good background on the subject:
- 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)