As Ithers See Us


As Ithers See Us is the latest exhibition in the contemporary programme at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum and includes work by:

Tracey Bush, Patxa Ibarz Gil, Alison Jackson, Hironori Katagiri, Masakatsu Kondo, Ivan Lebedev & Mikhail Magaril, Rachel Maclean, Samantha McEwen, Hadi Mehrpouya and Robert Powell, Neave Shackleton, Francisca Prieto, Thurle Wright – Venue: Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, Alloway, Ayr, KA7 4PQ (Map) – Dates: 10 May 2014 – 21 September 2014 – Times: Every Day 10am – 5pm (Admission free)

“As Ithers See Us”, a mixed group contemporary art exhibition. The much quoted title of the show was taken from Robert Burns’s “To a Louse” and, on display, will be an interesting and varied selection of artwork, almost exclusively, by artists from countries outside Scotland, including Chile, Iran, Spain, Japan, Russia and Zimbabwe. With a Public Opening at 11.00 am on Saturday 10 May, the exhibition will run until 21 September. As Ithers See Us brings together our trademark eclectic range of work by an exciting group of artists and will include work ranging from a pair of customised Y-fronts to a Scottish search engine. Programme manager Sheilagh Tennant says:

“2014 is an important year for Scotland and we thought it appropriate to mark this year’s events. However, rather than go down a more politically obvious route, we decided it would be more interesting to have an exhibition displaying work conveying views or impressions of aspects of Scotland by artists who have not grown up immersed in our culture.”

Museum Director Nat Edwards says:

“This exhibition is a very timely reminder that the culture and future of Scotland has an international dimension. Who better than contemporary artists to hold up a critical glass that shows us on one hand how much we matter to the world while, on the other stopping us from getting too self-important? Burns would have thoroughly approved.”

Savage and Tender

Contemporary mixed group/ mixed media exhibition of work by:

Sophie Barnard, Phil Braham, Scott Campbell, Jonathan Delafield Cook, Susan Derges, Laura Ford, Vivienne Haig, Kenny Hunter, Masakatsu Kondo, Polly Morgan, Kyle Noble, Mary-Ann Orr, Kiki Smith, AM Sutton, Hanneline Visnes, Fiona Watson, Matthew Wilson – Venue: Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, Alloway, Ayr, KA7 4PQ (Map) – Dates: 17 November 2013 – 23 March 2014 – Times: Every Day 10am – 5pm (Admission free)

Savage and tender‘ were words chosen by Robert Burns, a keen observer of the world of nature, for inclusion in a song he wrote – “Song Composed in August”, more commonly known as “Now Westlin’ Winds”. Seventeen artists have been invited to submit work on this theme. The resulting work can be seen in a stunning exhibition of contemporary art at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum. Savage and Tender brings together an exciting group of artists, working in a range of media such as drawing, painting, printing, sculpture and taxidermy. Most of the artists selected are internationally known, but there is also some new, emerging talent on show. Alongside the established artists, Programme Manager Sheilagh Tennant has chosen an artist from each of this year’s Scottish Art College Degree Shows: Kyle Noble, Mary- Ann Orr, AM Sutton and Matthew Wilson. These are all selling exhibitions, with a proportion of sales going towards caring for the nation’s premier Burns collection. Programme manager Sheilagh Tennant says:

“In our next exhibition, “Savage and Tender”, each artist’s interpretation is very interesting and highly individual. Their work is both thought provoking and sometimes, perhaps, surprising”.

Museum Director Nat Edwards says:

“With each new exhibition, the contemporary exhibition programme offers yet another opportunity for the museum’s permanent collection to be seen in a different light.”

This programme is part of a new project, “Burn Bridges: New Perspectives on Robert Burns” which is supported by a recent award from Museums Galleries Scotland


Contemporary mixed media exhibition Solo show of recent work by Calum Colvin

– Venue: Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, Alloway, Ayr, KA7 4PQ (Map) – Dates: 7 June – 15 September 2013 – Times: Every Day 10am – 5pm (Admission free)

Introduction by Janice Galloway A lad o pairts

I don’t know if you have a just idea of my character, but I wish you to see me as I am. – I am, as most people of my trade are, a strange wil o’ wisp being; the victim too often of much imprudence and many follies. – My great constituent elements are Pride and Passion: the first I have endeavoured to humanize into integrity and honour; the last makes me a Devotee to the warmest degree of enthusiasm in Love, religion or Friendship…

These are words Burns wrote about himself. It’s a consolation after hundreds of years of bottling the man, trying to pin him down, that the man himself understood he was more than just one thing. Calum Colvin’s blends – the photographic and the painterly, the traditional and surreal, the lasting and the ephemeral – have fascinated me from the first time I clapped eyes on his work. It was a portrait of James MacMillan, the stellar contemporary composer from Cumnock, Ayrshire: his face made of a perspective 3D trickery of objects that invited the onlooker’s collaboration in assembling the disparate parts into the man. It was on exhibition in Edinburgh, the article said. I got my coat. There, I found not only one Ayrshire boy but two: beside MacMillan, another musician as stellar as they come: misunderstood, misaligned, shamelessly misappropriated by the Heritage industry, but whatever they did to him, wholly recognizable. It was Robert Burns. I grew up in Ayrshire so knew Burns as only a child from Ayrshire can: way too little, too reductively and for just one thing. He was who you did once a year for the school poetry competition whether you liked it or not. To a Mountain Daisy (served up as no more than a ditty about a flower), Address to a Haggis (served up as serious). Burns, in other words, reduced, hog-tied, compulsory. What Burns actually meant as opposed to signified to the national psyche took much, much longer for me to unravel. It involved reading the man’s own words about himself as well as the poetry as poetry, not shamanic slogans. It involved reading him as a working author and man of his times like no other. It involved fiercely reclaiming him from a hundred tartan shortbread tins – and I was glad, glad, glad I did it. Burns, afresh, was a liberating discovery. Seeing him through Colvin’s eyes was that fresh discovery all over again. Like a fine novel or an excellent collection of poems, the work suggested new ways of seeing not only the subject but the subject’s context, the mythology grown around him without his compliance, and a homage to what might be the sum of these parts. This exhibition begins with Burns and wraps its arms around Burnsiana as bastard children the poet himself never conceived. Through everything, Burns rises serene, waiting for us to make him into something whole. Notoriously devout and rebellious; crude and tender, acutely aware of his lack of social standing and cocky; sure of his talent yet apprehensive of his ability to succeed, Burns is not so much a mass of contradictions as a mass of unresolved energies. Calum Colvin shines light not only on this but on all that surrounds it. In the increasingly fraught run up to our votes being cast for Scottish Independence, Now is indeed the Day, and Now indeed the Hour. How are we to find meaning in the complexities of our histories? How are we to interpret the melancholic past, acknowledge the present and aspire with honour, not cheap sentiment or mock heroics, to the future? Burns asked these questions. Calum Colvin reframes them now. The Bard himself is beyond caring what we think of him, if he ever did. What he’d prefer we care about is the work, its speaking to us. The tangle of the deeper, darker, childish heart. The wonderfully multi-layered work in this exhibition, as direct as it is allusive, is a great way to begin the process of that rethinking.

Sheilagh Tennant – Curator

“The way in which Calum incorporates so many different (influences and) disciplines into his work is truly innovative.”

Calum Colvin – Biography Born in Glasgow in 1961, Calum Colvin was a winner of one of the first SAC Creative Scotland Awards and is a holder of a Royal Photographic Society Gold Medal. He was awarded an OBE in 2001 and is Professor of Fine Art Photography at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, University of Dundee.

Ca the Yowes

The artists involved ware Helen Denerley, Amanda Gizzi, Alasdair Gray, Patrick Hughes, Angela Hunter, Fiona Hutchison, Chad McCail, Moy Mackay, Robert Powell, David Shrigley, Joana Vasconcelos, Jill Watson, Silvy Weatherall and Adrian Wiszniewski.

Many of the artists, most of whom are based in Scotland, are already well known internationally. However this is the first time that work of Portuguese Vasconcelos has been shown in Scotland. In 2014 she will be representing Portugal at the Venice Biennial, arguably the most important event in the contemporary art calendar. Although this exhibition has finished, some of the work, or something similar may be available. If you would like to find out more please contact via email or call on 07788 433 704.


As part of the Year of Homecoming 2009, in partnership with Culture Sport Glasgow, artruist organised “Inspired”, a major exhibition celebrating the life and work of Robert Burns.

“Inspired” was on display in the Old Reading Hall at The Mitchell Library, Glasgow. The exhibition featured around 50 contemporary works of art inspired by Burns’s life and works alongside a small selection of Burns related relics. Also, a limited edition print was created, incorporating the Inspired design, and there are still some available – further details on this page. We recently learned that, not only is the Inspired Limited Edition print on display in the reception area at St Andrew’s House, headquarters of the Scottish Government, it’s also hanging on the wall in Colin and Justin’s kitchen!

Since the death of Robert Burns in 1796, there have been several musical and literary events, inspired by the works of Burns. Many great poets, including William Wordsworth and John Keats have found his words inspirational as have other men of great distinction such as Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Carnegie. However, a truly international contemporary art exhibition, on the scale of ‘Inspired’, is unprecedented. There is on display, as an integral part of the exhibition, a selection of relics which have been unseen since 1896. These include an original letter from Burns, written in 1788 and the “Auld Alloway Clootie Horn”, alleged to have been an inspiration for Burns’ epic poem “Tam O’Shanter” which, in turn, has proved to be an inspiration for some of the ‘Inspired’ artists, including Vivienne Haig. For ‘Inspired’, artists were invited to submit work inspired by the life, songs and poetry of Robert Burns. As can be seen, they clearly found much to inspire them and they have been remarkably successful in conveying the contemporary relevance of his work: Mikhail Magaril, the Russian artist, makes a strong and clear statement with his contemporary interpretation of one of Burns’ epigrams; the current state of the economy has clearly not gone unnoticed by the Chapman Brothers: in their choice of medium, however, it was Burns who set a precedent in 1786 when he wrote a short tirade against Banks on a guinea note (“Lines Written on a Banknote”). There were many facets to Burns’ character, reflected in the broad range of his poetry which extends from the philosophical to the hilarious. While being perhaps best known for ‘Auld Lang Syne’, an inspiration for Ed Wright, Australian artist, Burns equally made no secret of his interest in erotic verse and bawdy songs. Many of these are included in the “Merry Muses of Caledonia”, containing poems with titles such as “Nine Inch Will Please a Lady”, which is the work which inspired Tracey Emin. He was also wonderfully irreverent with his assaults on intolerance and hypocrisy in both the social and religious spheres – as can be seen in works such as ‘Holy Willie’s Prayer’, an inspiration for John Bellany. As a democrat and an advocate of social and electoral reform, he was well ahead of his time politically, as evinced by ‘The Twa Dugs’ beautifully depicted by Whyn Lewis. The issues explored in these poems are as alive and relevant to us now as they were in the 18th Century. Burns also gave the world some of the most beautiful love songs ever penned, one of which, “My love is like a Red, Red Rose’, has been an inspiration for both Graham Fagen and Holly Johnson. Others have taken a particular moment or period in his life as their reference point: David Ersser has looked at the latter period of Burns’s life when he was an Exciseman. It is often forgotten that Burns never had the luxury of being a full time writer and always had to have a ‘day job’. He had a hard life by contemporary Western standards, which makes it all the more impressive that he was able to produce such a vast body of work in his short life – 368 songs , 400 poems and over 600 letters. Ed Ruscha’s work echoes an incident in Burns’s life when he left Ellisland Farm. Burns asked the new tenant to pay him for dung he had left in the farmyard and, when he refused, Burns arranged for his brother-in-law to go to the farm and break any window on which he had etched his poetry. Even in those days, Burns’s work had some value and clearly (and quite rightly of course),he wasn’t keen for the new tenant to benefit in any way. Even the way Robert Burns actually looked is a source of inspiration and there are several personal interpretations of his physical appearance in ‘Inspired’. As Murdo Macdonald, Professor of History of Scottish Art at Dundee University, says in his essay, “Envisioning Burns”, “Robert Burns has had an enduring fascination for artists. Not just the detail of his face and the subjects of his poetry and songs, but anecdotes of his life, the extent of his friendships as revealed in his letters, the places he frequented, all come together in an extraordinary web of imagery.” Two of the works in ‘Inspired’ are film-based, one of which also incorporates wooden sculpture. The artist is Itamar Jobani, an Israeli artist, who first encountered Burns while studying philosophy in Tel Aviv. The Japanese artist, Masakatsu Kondo, explained that he has been aware of Burns from an early age, many children in Japan being taught “Auld Lang Syne” at school and the song is sung at every graduation ceremony in Japan. When I began to speak to artists about the idea of a contemporary exhibition around the life and work of Robert Burns, I was overwhelmed by the response. Inspired includes over 50 works in the show from artists representing different cultures, working in different media and varying in age from 21 to 83. Clearly, their experience of life must vary enormously, as does the way in which they express Burns’s influence., Giving the artists free rein to express their inspiration was quite deliberate. Perhaps inevitably, not all the images offer an immediate clue as to the source of their inspiration. However, on the other hand, it can be argued that the eclectic range of the exhibits in Inspired offers a sense of the remarkably broad range of his work. What has united the artists is that they have all, in some way, been touched by Burns. It is truly remarkable how the power of one man’s thoughts and feelings, expressed in his poems and songs can be carried through two and a half centuries and still be so relevant today, not just in Scotland, but worldwide. Burns’s poetry has been translated into over 35 languages including Punjabi, Russian, Japanese, Chinese and Hebrew. Sheilagh Tennant Curator, Inspired

Artaid 2002

– Date: 17 October – 02 November 2002
– Venue: Bloomberg Space, 50 Finsbury Square London EC2A 1HD

“The Adapt NOW exhibition, sourced and curated by Sheilagh Tennant was one of the most successful contemporary shows ever held at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum, Glasgow. Over a period of three weeks it attracted more than 50,000 visitors. Sales contributed to ADAPT funds and more importantly the exhibition helped to raise the profile of the Trust’s work in improving access for disabled people to the arts.”

Stewart Coulter, Director, ADAPT Trust (former Deputy Director for Glasgow Museums and Art Galleries)