Richard Jackson is a Los Angeles based artist. Conceived specifically for The Fife Arms, ‘Red Deer Chandelier’ (2018) is composed of machine milled enlarged replicas of bag pipe drones and glass antlers. The glass antlers’ form is based on the antler of red deer, taken from the nearby Invercauld Estate. Each piece was made by hand – blowing, pulling and rolling the glass to produce uniquely coloured, textured form. There are two types of Antlers. The first consists of solid glass in various shades. The second is of hollow glass antlers filled with neon. The long support of ‘Red Deer Chandelier’ consists of comically scaled up steel bagpipe drones, painted to look like their wooden inspiration, interspersed with delicate bands of stainless steel, carefully etched with traditional Celtic knots and patterns. The chandelier is a visceral and humorous interrogation of a classic light, in which Jackson has combined the heroic and the slapstick.
Zhang Enli is a Chinese artist who captures everyday items. In ‘Ancient Quartz’ (2018) Zhang took inspiration from cross sections of Scottish agates, whose deceptively simple exteriors conceal a dazzling array of colour and texture. And also the Cairngorm crystal, which features beautiful lines traversing their surfaces, much like Zhang’s artwork. These crystals are both made by the unique landscape here in the Highlands and are also evocative of the peaks and troughs of the landscape which formed them. We might also image them to be the contour lines of a topographic map describing the surrounding ups and downs of the Highland landscape. Zhang has created this work in his signature style of lines, curves, drips and smears applied in thin, diluted layers of paint – a direct influence of the loose washes of traditional Chinese brush painting. ‘Ancient Quartz’ belongs to Zhang’s series of ‘Space Paintings’. These ambitious pieces are site-specific installations which Zhang Enli paints directly onto the walls or ceiling of a room to create immersive, nostalgic environments.
Guillermo Kuitca is an Argentinan artist. He works in a distinctive ‘cubistoid’ style and is influenced by architecture, music and theatre. The mural, ‘Untitled’ (2018), that he painted for The Clunie Dining Room emerges from a cubist tradition but subverts its art-historical influences by virtue of scale, method, and meaning. Painting the mural was a physical process inspired by choreographer Pina Bausch’s mantra, ‘in dance, walking is enough.’ Pacing the length of the room, Kuitca would tilt his abstractions to the rhythm of his footsteps. It was not only figurative movement that inspired Kuitca, but also the fast flowing waters of the Clunie, directly outside the dining room. We can feel the river‘s swelling and ebbing waters in his painting, the forms of the rocks that sit beneath its surface and the colours of not only the Clunie, but of the majestic Highland landscape. In this way, the mural invokes figuration – though nothing recognisably ‘human’ is visible – each painted gesture represents a deliberate movement and consequently the artist’s body. Combined with Kuitca’s interest in theatre and stage design, it is easy to imagine this mural as the backdrop of a stage, with the diners becoming the actors.
Subodh Gupta is an Indian artist. His work incorporates everyday objects that are ubiquitous throughout India, such as steel tiffin lunch boxes, thali pans, bicycles and milk pails. These objects are often seen by those in the West as exotic and representative of Indian culture, to those in India they are universal items, used daily in almost every household. ‘Untitled’ (2018) was developed specifically for the Fire Room at The Fife Arms. Gupta has assembled the chandelier using numerous and varied glimmering mass-produced pans, pots and pails, embellished with colourful bulbs. The abundance of objects addresses issues of consumerism and materialism and the challenges they present to sustainability within an ever-expanding global economy. The composition is also reminiscent of a cityscape, which we can weave our way through guided by the various lights, like the busy hub of a homogeneous metropolitan city.
Bharti Kher splits her time between the UK and India. Her triptych of installations titled ‘Cipher’ (2018), commissioned specifically for The Fife Arms, utilise bindis as their medium, much like another artist might use paint or clay. The bindi is an iconic personal affect of Indian women and a loaded symbol. Kher explains: ‘Many people believe it’s a traditional symbol of marriage while others, in the West particularly, see it as a fashion accessory... But actually the bindi is meant to represent a third eye – one that forges a link between the real and the spiritual-conceptual worlds.’ These works speak of the part and the whole, the bindi is both the micro and macrocosm, spatial and bodily. The ‘Cipher’ works have the appearance of a vortex or time tunnel that you might climb into, equally you might imagine a womb or safe space. The spiral geometry, bearing in mind Kher’s interest in Eastern mythologies, is reminiscent of the quasi sacred geometry found in Buddhist motifs. Kher chose a rose-lilac, an Indian yellow and a moss lake green – colours that reference not only the green algae covering a water body in a South Indian temple that once bathed the goddess Kali, but a green fern of the Scottish moors. Equally they might evoke autumnal Scotland or the balmy seasons of the East.