Dunol­lie col­lec­tions in­spire new art­works and projects

The Oban Times - - News -

ONE of the most fas­ci­nat­ing things about Dunol­lie Mu­seum, Cas­tle and Grounds is how the an­cient col­lec­tions are in­spir­ing new, in­no­va­tive projects to­day.

Ja­cobean bed hang­ings were the in­spi­ra­tion be­hind a se­ries of new em­broi­dery work­shops for the com­mu­nity, Oban High School stu­dents have been un­cov­er­ing local tales in the archives to in­spire cre­ative projects and Vic­to­rian recipes are now on the Ket­tle Gar­den Cafe’s menu.

Artist Al­ice Strange has cre­ated a num­ber of recog­nis­able art in­stal­la­tions through­out Oban, in­clud­ing The Catch which fea­tured as part of Oban’s Fes­ti­val of the Sea and saw 900 tex­tile fish hung along Oban Esplanade in 2015.

On a visit to Dunol­lie’s 1745 house mu­seum, Al­ice’s at­ten­tion was drawn to Hope MacDougall’s large wooden spoon col­lec­tion. She said: ‘I was par­tic­u­larly in­ter­ested in how the hum­ble wooden spoon be­came a sig­ni­fier for Hope’s thoughts or mem­o­ries, sim­ply by things be­ing pinned on a map at its point of origin.’

Ms MacDougall was the aunt to the cur­rent clan chief, and started her col­lec­tion in the 1950s. She amassed thousands of items be­fore her death in 1998. Her keen in­ter­est was the or­di­nary work­ing and do­mes­tic lives of the peo­ple of Scot­land.

The col­lec­tion spans a wide range of tra­di­tional crafts, skills and pro­fes­sions, in­clud­ing agri­cul­tural prac­tices, early dis­till­ing, shoe mak­ers, trav­el­ling camps and many more. Each of the items is backed up with clear doc­u­men­ta­tion of its origin, its own­ers and often Miss Hope’s own re­search.

Af­ter a visit to the 1745 house, the con­cept of a unique art in­stal­la­tion at Dunol­lie soon be­gan to take shape for Al­ice, who headed to the studio to cre­ate a se­ries of 68 spoons, each con­tain­ing its own in­di­vid­ual Tyvek la­bel. ‘The at­tached la­bels con­tain phrases, num­bers, sym­bols and equa­tions which have sig­nif­i­cance for me, so it could be in­ter­preted as a self-por­trait,’ she ex­plained.

Al­ice in­stalled her cre­ative work ti­tled The An­swer is Blow­ing

in the Wind (re­fer­ring to the se­ries of philo­soph­i­cal ques­tions posed by Bob Dy­lan in his fa­mous song) in the Faerie Gar­den at Dunol­lie Mu­seum, Cas­tle and Grounds at the be­gin­ning of May, and the ex­hi­bi­tion will be on dis­play for vis­i­tors all sea­son.

Al­ice hopes the com­mu­nity as well as vis­i­tors to Dunol­lie will go on to add to the colour­ful dis­play.

She said: ‘I hope the in­stal­la­tion will de­velop into a wider com­mu­nity por­trait as vis­i­tors hang their own spe­cially-cre­ated spoons in the trees, us­ing dec­o­ra­tion or la­belling to cap­ture sig­nif­i­cant thoughts or ex­pe­ri­ences.’

Dunol­lie plans to host a ‘clan month’ in Au­gust to cel­e­brate the Year of Ar­chae­ol­ogy, Her­itage and Cul­ture through a se­ries of events in­clud­ing wooden-spoon dec­o­rat­ing. This sea­son will also be the last chance to catch the cur­rent Hope MacDougall ex­hi­bi­tion on dis­play, as the team at Dunol­lie is work­ing on a new ex­hi­bi­tion of child­hood for 2018.

Al­ice’s next in­stal­la­tion will be fea­tured in the Oban Choco­late Com­pany on the Esplanade.

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