Finding beauty in a lost world
painting”. Elsewhere in the exhibition, there is an example of a rare 18th-century pinprick painting of a lady, in which her hands, face, feet and basket are painted but her dress is made up of thousands of pin pricks, arranged to suggest folds of fabric. The old rusting skates, which looked like they would have been suitable for a child, are also on display.
Drawn from the Past is not one of those exhibitions you might stumble across as it’s tucked away in the second floor galleries space of Callendar House while the usual “Park Gallery” space on the ground floor is transformed into a Victorian Christmas wonderland aimed at young people and families.
But when you get there, it’s like falling, Alice in Wonderland-like, into a parallel universe of Asquith-Lamb’s making.
Gillian Smith first came across the East Lothian-based artist’s delicate and beautiful paper cuts around 10 years ago when she took part in a Winter Warmth exhibition at the Park Gallery. Smith says: “I wanted to engage an artist who would be able to immerse themselves in the Callendar House archives and respond in an interesting and thought-provoking way. I remembered Tessa’s work and instinctively knew she was the right person for the job.
“At the opening of the exhibition a few weeks ago, which was a joyous occasion altogether, one of Tessa’s friends came up to me and said it was as if her brain was on show in two rooms. She felt that it was the exhibition Tessa had been itching to do for years and that the invitation to trawl the archives had triggered a real outpouring of her imagination.”
Asquith-Smith graduated from Edinburgh College of Art in 1998. Since then, she has continued to create her etchings and paper-cuts – often including her trademark fox, Reynard – alongside working as a freelance art educator. Her work is in many private collections and recently she was commissioned by the V&A Dundee with designer Martin Baillie to create a giant paper-cut pop-up book.
As a child, her father used to allow her to stay up late if she was drawing, and some of the etchings have a feel of a young girl doodling dreamily in her bedroom.
The exhibition’s showstopper was inspired by a 19th-century paper cut created by a Camelon man called
H Knox in 1870. Asquith-Lamb found this intricate painted paper Valentine token in the museum stores and it prompted her to create her own versions, featuring items from the house alongside a new poem mirroring