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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 janpatience@me.com (All work © Jan Patience)

Friday, 7 January 2011

Demarco Days For All

This article appeared in issue 74 (Nov/Dec 2010) of Homes & Interiors Scotland magazine.

The 10 Dialogues exhibition at RSA on The Mound in Edinburgh ends this weekend. It's been plagued by terrible weather conditions, but as a treat, the man himself will be in the building tomorrow and Sunday...

Everyone should have a Demarco Day, says the man from the Royal Scottish Academy who set up my interview with Richard Demarco. “In fact,” he adds as an afterthought, “maybe the phrase ‘having a Demarco Day’ will eventually finds its way into the general parlance of the Scottish arts industry; to signify a day that may have been productive, incorporated many intangibles, and was most of all, fun!”
He is not wrong. My own Demarco Day ahead of a major retrospective of his career this winter at the Royal Scottish Academy (RSA) in Edinburgh, begins on a blustery Tuesday morning in the modern wing of a 17th century castle on the outskirts of Edinburgh, where the 80-year-old art alchemist (artist/curator/impresario/promoter/teacher all rolled into one fizzing buzz ball of creative energy) has deposited his incredible archive.
The archive, which will be open to the public during the duration of the RSA exhibition, tracks in words, pictures, poetry, catalogues, posters and other memorabilia, Demarco’s epoch-making contribution to the European arts scene over the last five decades. It’s estimated that more than a million photographs and 10,000 works representing artists from 50 countries are held in this space, with part of it now digitally archived and online for the virtual world to view.
I find the man himself in a small anteroom holding court with a musician and his elderly mother who have dropped in to see the archive prior to the mother catching a plane home to the south of England.
Both are looking a touch bemused as Demarco, his trademark camera slung around his neck, lectures them in the finer points of Scottish garden design, gesticulating wildly and rubbishing the ‘amateur’ work of at least one major figure on the international architectural landscape scene as he goes.
Introductions are made and then we’re off on a whistle stop tour of the archive and the surrounding gardens of Craigcrook Castle. Demarco’s desire to educate is at the heart of everything he does, but as we fly through the rooms containing the archive, it’s difficult to concentrate on what he says as there is so much to take in at every turn.
He photographs us as we go, snapping us with an almost Tourette’s-like energy. Here, we have photographs of Ian Hamilton Finlay’s early excavation of what became Little Sparta, there, Pat Douthwaite’s visceral paintings casually hung in a side room. In another, the walls are festooned with posters from every single Edinburgh Festival since its inception in 1947, including the ones connected to the Traverse Theatre, which Demarco co-founded in 1963.
The archive is thought to include the most comprehensive record of the Edinburgh International Festival and Fringe, in which he has participated in yearly since 1947.
A man who has always had the innate ability to see round corners and across borders, Demarco (who was born into an Italian/Scottish family in 1930), travelled behind the Iron Country 97 times between 1968 and 1989, when no-one else was going. In the process, he brought artists to our attention who have gone on to become internationally acclaimed stars of late 20th century art. It is this element of his career which the RSA exhibition is celebrating in its exhibition, 10 Dialogues: Richard Demarco, Scotland and the European Avant Garde.
As we tour around Demarco’s archive, he regales us with tales of the ‘Road to the Isles’ tour he took in Scotland with Joseph Beuys in 1970, during which the now legendary German artist’s whole approach to his art altered. With Beuy’s moor ‘action’ on the Moor of Rannoch that summer, it could be argued that our own understanding of how art is made in the early 21st century altered for ever. He also points to the work of another major artist, whom he introduced to the western world - Tadeusz Kantor, from Poland
By the time Demarco met both men (and introduced them to each other), he had studied at Edinburgh College of Art and taught art for ten years at Duns Scotus Academy in Edinburgh, but he still describes Beuys and Kantor as ‘the teachers I had always required in order to begin my art education.
The radical thinking of making three-dimensional paintings out of the way in which people related to a space, so the space itself became part of the art work took root and its influence is still reverberating.
As well as the work of Beuys and Kantor, there is work here by the Belgrade-born artist Marina Abramovic, often referred to as ‘the godmother of performance art’ and Romanian artist Paul Neagu, universally viewed as one of the greatest Rumanian artists of the 20th century. The fact that they gained a reputation at all in the west is down to Demarco, who showed their work in The Demarco Gallery, an exhibition space which was in his words ‘born out of the spirit of the Traverse Theatre.
There is artwork everywhere your eye descends complemented by Demarco’s ever-present photographs, documenting a time and the place.
Round another corner, Sean Connery (an old friend from the days when the Bond actor then known as Tommy was a life model at Edinburgh College of Art) and Pulitzer-prize winning author Norman Mailer suddenly appear, captured for posterity as they too take part in a Demarco Day. There’s also work and photographs by and of the likes of Fred Stiven, David Mach and Will Maclean and too many other stellar names in the 20th century art pantheon to mention in one small article.
Next, we’re in a side room which is full of Demarco’s own work. “You have to be able to produce art yourself if you do what I do,” says Demarco. “Artists will always be able to spot someone who’s a fake.”
Demarco’s own work is almost pastoral in appearance – reminiscent of the English landscape tradition. A curious, almost contradictory fact, but it’s all part of the Demarco character which defies being placed into one single pigeon-hole.
On and on we go. The musician’s mother is looking at her watch anxiously. She has a plane to catch and hadn’t banked on having a Demarco Day. “I’ll just show you the castle and the grounds first,” says Demarco as he marches out the emergency exit. There is no way this anxious ex-Wren is going to catch a plane home without hearing the tale of how The Enlightenment originated within the walls of Craigcrook Castle.
Demarco’s life work is laid bare in this bright, airy space and it is clearly his life’s mission to turn this legacy into a resource which can be enjoyed by all long after he has departed this world.
After we meet, an auction of over 100 paintings donated by Scottish artists and private collectors went under the hammer to help turn Craigcrook Castle into a permanent home for the archive. At the same time, Fiona Hyslop, Scotland’s culture minister, announced funding of £15,000 to help catalogue the collection, a portion of which was acquired by the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in 1995.
Two years ago, the Demarco Digital Archive website (www.demarco-archive.ac.uk) was unveiled. The culmination of a three-year-long collaboration between the School of Fine Art, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, the Demarco European Art Foundation and the National Galleries of Scotland, this digital library provide a remarkable insight into the history of the visual and performing arts in Scotland from the early 1950s to the present day.
The artist and academic Arthur Watson, who as well as playing a key role in digitising the Demarco Archive, has also been heavily involved in curating the 10 Dialogues exhibition through his role as RSA Secretary, describes his old friend and colleague as someone who ‘has never been a follower.’
“This whole exhibition grew out of the experience of working on the archive. It became abundantly clear as the digital archive took shape that we were dealing with key images in at history.
“Richard believes he is there to bring artists to people. He is at his best in a room enjoying old style teaching – when it’s all about the charisma of the teacher. He thinks art is all about physical things in a real world and he there is a particular feeling too of him being connected to the artist who made it.
“With Richard, it all comes down to personal contact. He is primarily an artist, gallery director and an iconoclast, who is also spiritually driven.”
To that, from my experience of having a Demarco Day, I’d add that Demarco never stops selling you the notion of the power of art. He wants people to introduce art to their souls. To feel its power, and to appreciate that almost out-of-body sensation which you can sometimes enjoy - of being taken on a journey by discovering art that moves you.
We should all drink to that.

10 DIALOGUES: RICHARD DEMARCO, SCOTLAND AND THE EUROPEAN AVANT GARDE
November 27 - 09 January 2011
RSA Upper Galleries, The Royal Scottish Academy, The Mound, Edinburgh
www.royalscottishacademy.org and www.demarco-archive.ac.uk
Richard Demarco
By Jan Patience

Everyone should have a Demarco Day, says the man from the Royal Scottish Academy who set up my interview with Richard Demarco. “In fact,” he adds as an afterthought, “maybe the phrase ‘having a Demarco Day’ will eventually finds its way into the general parlance of the Scottish arts industry; to signify a day that may have been productive, incorporated many intangibles, and was most of all, fun!”
He is not wrong. My own Demarco Day ahead of a major retrospective of his career this winter at the Royal Scottish Academy (RSA) in Edinburgh, begins on a blustery Tuesday morning in the modern wing of a 17th century castle on the outskirts of Edinburgh, where the 80-year-old art alchemist (artist/curator/impresario/promoter/teacher all rolled into one fizzing buzz ball of creative energy) has deposited his incredible archive.
The archive, which will be open to the public during the duration of the RSA exhibition, tracks in words, pictures, poetry, catalogues, posters and other memorabilia, Demarco’s epoch-making contribution to the European arts scene over the last five decades. It’s estimated that more than a million photographs and 10,000 works representing artists from 50 countries are held in this space, with part of it now digitally archived and online for the virtual world to view.
I find the man himself in a small anteroom holding court with a musician and his elderly mother who have dropped in to see the archive prior to the mother catching a plane home to the south of England.
Both are looking a touch bemused as Demarco, his trademark camera slung around his neck, lectures them in the finer points of Scottish garden design, gesticulating wildly and rubbishing the ‘amateur’ work of at least one major figure on the international architectural landscape scene as he goes.
Introductions are made and then we’re off on a whistle stop tour of the archive and the surrounding gardens of Craigcrook Castle. Demarco’s desire to educate is at the heart of everything he does, but as we fly through the rooms containing the archive, it’s difficult to concentrate on what he says as there is so much to take in at every turn.
He photographs us as we go, snapping us with an almost Tourette’s-like energy. Here, we have photographs of Ian Hamilton Finlay’s early excavation of what became Little Sparta, there, Pat Douthwaite’s visceral paintings casually hung in a side room. In another, the walls are festooned with posters from every single Edinburgh Festival since its inception in 1947, including the ones connected to the Traverse Theatre, which Demarco co-founded in 1963.
The archive is thought to include the most comprehensive record of the Edinburgh International Festival and Fringe, in which he has participated in yearly since 1947.
A man who has always had the innate ability to see round corners and across borders, Demarco (who was born into an Italian/Scottish family in 1930), travelled behind the Iron Country 97 times between 1968 and 1989, when no-one else was going. In the process, he brought artists to our attention who have gone on to become internationally acclaimed stars of late 20th century art. It is this element of his career which the RSA exhibition is celebrating in its exhibition, 10 Dialogues: Richard Demarco, Scotland and the European Avant Garde.
As we tour around Demarco’s archive, he regales us with tales of the ‘Road to the Isles’ tour he took in Scotland with Joseph Beuys in 1970, during which the now legendary German artist’s whole approach to his art altered. With Beuy’s moor ‘action’ on the Moor of Rannoch that summer, it could be argued that our own understanding of how art is made in the early 21st century altered for ever. He also points to the work of another major artist, whom he introduced to the western world - Tadeusz Kantor, from Poland
By the time Demarco met both men (and introduced them to each other), he had studied at Edinburgh College of Art and taught art for ten years at Duns Scotus Academy in Edinburgh, but he still describes Beuys and Kantor as ‘the teachers I had always required in order to begin my art education.
The radical thinking of making three-dimensional paintings out of the way in which people related to a space, so the space itself became part of the art work took root and its influence is still reverberating.
As well as the work of Beuys and Kantor, there is work here by the Belgrade-born artist Marina Abramovic, often referred to as ‘the godmother of performance art’ and Romanian artist Paul Neagu, universally viewed as one of the greatest Rumanian artists of the 20th century. The fact that they gained a reputation at all in the west is down to Demarco, who showed their work in The Demarco Gallery, an exhibition space which was in his words ‘born out of the spirit of the Traverse Theatre.
There is artwork everywhere your eye descends complemented by Demarco’s ever-present photographs, documenting a time and the place.
Round another corner, Sean Connery (an old friend from the days when the Bond actor then known as Tommy was a life model at Edinburgh College of Art) and Pulitzer-prize winning author Norman Mailer suddenly appear, captured for posterity as they too take part in a Demarco Day. There’s also work and photographs by and of the likes of Fred Stiven, David Mach and Will Maclean and too many other stellar names in the 20th century art pantheon to mention in one small article.
Next, we’re in a side room which is full of Demarco’s own work. “You have to be able to produce art yourself if you do what I do,” says Demarco. “Artists will always be able to spot someone who’s a fake.”
Demarco’s own work is almost pastoral in appearance – reminiscent of the English landscape tradition. A curious, almost contradictory fact, but it’s all part of the Demarco character which defies being placed into one single pigeon-hole.
On and on we go. The musician’s mother is looking at her watch anxiously. She has a plane to catch and hadn’t banked on having a Demarco Day. “I’ll just show you the castle and the grounds first,” says Demarco as he marches out the emergency exit. There is no way this anxious ex-Wren is going to catch a plane home without hearing the tale of how The Enlightenment originated within the walls of Craigcrook Castle.
Demarco’s life work is laid bare in this bright, airy space and it is clearly his life’s mission to turn this legacy into a resource which can be enjoyed by all long after he has departed this world.
After we meet, an auction of over 100 paintings donated by Scottish artists and private collectors went under the hammer to help turn Craigcrook Castle into a permanent home for the archive. At the same time, Fiona Hyslop, Scotland’s culture minister, announced funding of £15,000 to help catalogue the collection, a portion of which was acquired by the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in 1995.
Two years ago, the Demarco Digital Archive website (www.demarco-archive.ac.uk) was unveiled. The culmination of a three-year-long collaboration between the School of Fine Art, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, the Demarco European Art Foundation and the National Galleries of Scotland, this digital library provide a remarkable insight into the history of the visual and performing arts in Scotland from the early 1950s to the present day.
The artist and academic Arthur Watson, who as well as playing a key role in digitising the Demarco Archive, has also been heavily involved in curating the 10 Dialogues exhibition through his role as RSA Secretary, describes his old friend and colleague as someone who ‘has never been a follower.’
“This whole exhibition grew out of the experience of working on the archive. It became abundantly clear as the digital archive took shape that we were dealing with key images in at history.
“Richard believes he is there to bring artists to people. He is at his best in a room enjoying old style teaching – when it’s all about the charisma of the teacher. He thinks art is all about physical things in a real world and he there is a particular feeling too of him being connected to the artist who made it.
“With Richard, it all comes down to personal contact. He is primarily an artist, gallery director and an iconoclast, who is also spiritually driven.”
To that, from my experience of having a Demarco Day, I’d add that Demarco never stops selling you the notion of the power of art. He wants people to introduce art to their souls. To feel its power, and to appreciate that almost out-of-body sensation which you can sometimes enjoy - of being taken on a journey by discovering art that moves you.
We should all drink to that.

10 DIALOGUES: RICHARD DEMARCO, SCOTLAND AND THE EUROPEAN AVANT GARDE
November 27 - 09 January 2011
RSA Upper Galleries, The Royal Scottish Academy, The Mound, Edinburgh
www.royalscottishacademy.org and www.demarco-archive.ac.uk

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