Scotland’s WW1 story is set to be told from the perspective of 100 young artists from across the country as part of an innovative new installation, announced today by WW100 Scotland in partnership with the Scottish Parliament.
Students as young as 14 have contributed pieces for the exhibition, entitled “What Do We Learn From All Th1s?”. It will combine traditional printmaking with innovative technologies to tell 100 stories gathered from all corners of Scotland.
The matrices used to develop each of the artists’ 100 unique prints will be mounted on wooden plinths arranged in a map of Scotland, with augmented reality technology allowing visitors to explore each of the stories in detail with an iPad.
Facilitated by the Scottish Print Network, which comprises five print studios in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness, the project marks the culmination of Scotland’s WW1 centenary programme.
The exhibition will open at the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday 3 September, where it will be on display until Friday 20 September. Entry is free. Further plans for it to tour throughout Scotland are in progress.
Some of the artists were today finalising their prints at the Edinburgh Printmakers studio at Castle Mills, once home to the North British Rubber Company which features in the installation. Originally manufacturing a wide range of rubber products, at the outbreak of war, over 4,000 workers at the factory set to work 24 hours a day to meet demand for durable, rubber-soled boots for the trenches. By the end of the war, they had produced a total of 1,185,036 pairs of wellington boots to keep trench foot at bay.
Illustrator and printmaker Mhairi Braden, a graduate of Edinburgh College of Art and member of Edinburgh Printmakers, was given the story of the factory. Mhairi commented: “Producing the rubber boots that were vital in keeping countless soldiers in action, the North British Rubber Company was one of many crucial cogs that helped the UK to survive WW1. Imagining the thousands of workers who, right here, a century ago, worked tirelessly day after day to keep the factory going, I wanted to highlight their invaluable contribution to the war effort. My piece doesn’t focus on any specific individual, as every single worker had their bit to play in the war. It is about ordinary people helping each other to get through such a horrific, confusing and frightening time, together.”
Another of the stories featured in the exhibition is that of brothers Archie and Robert Dickson of Edinburgh, who fought in the Battle of Jutland. Archie, just 16 at the time, went down with the HMS Queen Mary and 1200 other men onboard, while 18-year-old Robert weathered the battle aboard the HMS Benbow. For forty years, until she was no longer able, their mother Kathleen visited the shoreline at Rosyth on the anniversary of the battle and placed a wreath in the Firth in memory of her son.
Edinburgh Printmaker artist Felix Charlton, who was given the story of the Dickson brothers, commented: “I was inspired by the mother of the two brothers, Kathleen, and her annual pilgrimage to lay a wreath in the harbour at Rosyth where the ships departed for battle. The story demonstrates how the terrible memories of the war never left the people of Scotland, with the lives of thousands of women just like Kathleen changed forever as they were plunged into mourning for their sons. My print depicts the wreath which Kathleen made with laurels from the family’s garden and blue forget-me-nots, tied together with a blue and gold naval ribbon.”
The project is being delivered by research and design collective Lateral North, with support from Edinburgh Printmakers, Dundee Contemporary Arts, Glasgow Print Studio, Highland Print Studio and Peacock Print Studio in Aberdeen.
Rt. Hon. Ken Macintosh MSP, Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament said about the exhibition: “One hundred years on from the First World War, the scale of the devastation and loss of life resulting from this horrific conflict continues to move people and in this case, to touch and inspire a new generation of young artists.
“Here at the Scottish Parliament, we have been proud to support the centenary of events commemorating WW1 and we are pleased to be able to host this powerful and striking exhibition.
“It is worth remembering that so many of the Scots who lost their lives a century ago were the same age as the artists contributing to a wonderful installation which explores and re-tells their stories.
“I have no doubt that this artwork will make an impact on all who take the time to visit.”
Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs said: “WW1 affected every village, city and town in Scotland, touching the lives of millions of Scots. The past five years have seen people across the country come together to deliver a diverse programme of hugely poignant events and projects in memory of those who lost their lives 100 years ago.
“It is important that we continue to remember World War One and ensure the stories of bravery and sacrifice continue to be passed on. The ‘What Do We Learn From All Th1s?’ project aims to provide a perspective on the broad impact of the war on individuals and communities, as seen through the eyes of the next generation.
“We look forward to the opening of the exhibition at the Scottish Parliament in September, when visitors will be able to view the fantastic artworks produced by some of Scotland’s top young talent and explore the moving and remarkable stories behind them.”
Tom Smith, director at Lateral North, said: “From individual acts of valour on the battlefield to naval tragedies off Scotland’s coast, from the thousands of workers filling factories at home to the brave members of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals at the Western Front, from innovations in areas such as surgery and aviation to the enduring work of poets and artists in the trenches, the project takes in a wide range of stories and subjects that will resonate throughout Scotland.
“The artists have really embraced the project, throwing themselves into research around their assigned stories and demonstrating real creativity, reflection and insight in their responses. We’re extremely impressed with the quality and variety of prints produced by the students and studios, and we can’t wait for it all to come together into a fitting tribute recognising Scotland’s immense contribution to World War One.”