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Speech for the opening of the exhibition Spirit of Air: Inscriptions by Lizzie Farey



Edinburgh City Arts Centre 19 November 2010

"Councillor Mrs Brock

Thank you for your kind words of welcome.

It is an especial pleasure for me to return to Edinburgh and a privilege to have the chance to reflect for a short while on Lizzie Farey’s wonderful exhibition Spirit of Air. I had the enjoyable task of opening the exhibition at the start of its tour at the Gracefield Arts Centre in Dumfries, so this is a full circle for me, too.

The exhibition has had a full life. It looks in good heart and has been magnificently displayed on the fourth floor of the City Arts Centre. The role of the art or craft object in the museum and gallery reminded me of a sentence in Bruce Chatwin’s novella Utz when the author remarks: ‘in any museum, an object dies of suffocation and the public gaze – whereas private ownership confers on the owner the right and the need to touch…[this touch] restores the object to life’.

I want to say that I don’t believe this to be true.

In the museum we are in the public square: and the value of the public square lies in its openness, its civic freedom and its accessibility. In this public square, the artist and the museum confer the right to view, the right to private reflection and the right to public discourse. These are the marks of civilisations.

Lizzie Farey’s work, drawing deeply on the manipulation of seemingly intractable materials, brings poetic, rhythmic order to sculptural forms. She energises willow and ash with the sense of fleetingly caught motion. Her work is touched by respect for organic materials and yet it challenges that material to the limits of endurance. She does this with a compelling modesty and a subtle force. She finds the telling contrast of stillness and motion; of solidity and airiness.

I think this may have as much to do with the tranquillity of the elegant landscape of Dumfries and Galloway as to an Oriental sense of calm.

Her craft works on an International stage, where it is now properly celebrated. She is one of Scotland’s craft stars.

This is a resonant conclusion to the exhibition tour. Inscriptions has found a fine point of ending. Lizzie Farey and the City Art Centre have forged a notable partnership here: I hope not the last.

It is to their public, private and telling credits."

by Professor Simon Olding