Clock Towers, Theatres, Seaside Cottages – the Sites of Spring Fling

Meet amazing artists and makers and see remarkable places during Scotland’s top open studios visual arts and craft weekend

Spring Fling is a fabulous chance to meet amazing artists in wonderful places from castles to cottages and kirks to clock towers.

Thousands of visitors are expected to enjoy the 15th annual open studios event, taking place across Dumfries and Galloway this Bank Holiday weekend.

Unusual venues

Among the unusual venues where the 93 painters, photographers, jewellers, ceramicists, print-makers, wood workers, sculptors, textile designers and others will be exhibiting are:

  • The Tower House, Moniaive: Each week painter and mixed media artist Silvana McLean and her husband Alasdair wind the village clock that keeps the local community ticking along on time. It is located in the high tower on the front of their home. The building including the bell tower was started in 1865 and finished in 1867. Much of Silvana’s work, though, is inspired by Iceland. “I was interested in glaciation and visited Iceland to find out more – once I got there I was absolutely smitten by it’s beauty. I also love the people’s ‘can do’ attitude and the way they work with nature. In my work I try to capture the island’s landscape and its culture.”
  • The Laundry, Kirkandrews: Situated beside a remarkable castle-like St Andrew’s kirk, which is open for teas and coffees during Spring Fling, Linda Mallet’s home and studio was originally a community laundry built by philanthropist James Brown of Knockbrex. An abstract painter who makes her own pigments from local rocks and clays, she said: Rather than painting the landscape I now paint with the landscape.” Linda is also deeply concerned about the environmental harm caused to the nearby beaches and wildlife by litter and pollution and litter at sea. In response she has started to collect the lengths of marine cordage she finds washed up and weave it into placemats, coasters and miniature baskets. She said: “There is a real litter problem, which is bad for the environment and for wildlife. I’m turning it on its head in a small way by picking up some of the things that other people throw away and trying to make something beautiful from them. At the same time I hope to draw people’s attention to the problem of litter and environmental damage.”
  • The Little Theatre, Lockerbie:The former temporary classroom was converted into an 88-seat theatre in 1964 and fitted with seats from a Glasgow cinema. It’s home to the Lockerbie Drama Club which produces two or three plays a year. This year it will have a new role as the entrance hall and stage become Bella Green’s exhibition space. She said: “I went to a production at the Little Theatre and thought what a wonderful exhibition space it would make, and I’m delighted that they have agreed.” Bella loves exploring multiple images through the form of triptychs and creates a wide variety of works, including transparent window pieces. She said: “I make playful, colourful compositions from observing everyday objects and places, and also inspired by my visits to places like Venice.”

Abbots Tower, a small castle outside New Abbey, is home to photographer Laura Hudson Mackay, whose studios are in the converted outbuildings. Potter Archie McCall’s studio is in the lovely garden of the converted mill where he lives, also at New Abbey. Another former mill, Mill on the Fleet at Gatehouse of Fleet will be the location for collage maker Gail Kelly and Photographer Caroline McQuistin.

Fascinating art and artists

One of the great appeals of Spring Fling is the wonderful art, artists (and pets) that visitors will meet along the way.

  • Ailsa Black: There’s a Beryl Cook quality about Ailsa Black’s gentle artwork, with its charming depictions of people and animals and villages. Many of Ailsa’s paintings show moments of companionship between humans, birds and animals. Indeed, Jack her six-year-old Collie and her husband make frequent appearances in her pictures as they wander the shorelines near their home in Carsethorn. She said: “I love the Scottish seaside and the villages that cling to its shores. It’s these places and the birds and animals I see that tend to feature strongly in my paintings. And whether it’s squirrels and butterflies, cats and mice, hares and robins, they often seem to be having a friendly chat.” Ailsa will be exhibiting at Kirkbean Village Hall.
  • Victor Henderson: Renowned for his striking use of colour, Victor’s work is full of variety – vivid flowers, scenes of Venice, through to images of the martyrdom of St Sebastian. A former psychotherapist, Victor’s life has been spent helping others. During his career he supported people who had experienced everything from childhood traumas to torture in war zones. He believes that much art emerges from the unconscious. Victor said: “My own paintings begin with a mark, sometimes an accidental one, and develop from there. They are always going from the known to the unknown.” During Spring Fling he will be exhibiting at Cannonbridge Village Hall, though the studio where he works (and often shares with Ru the whippet) is at Drumlanrig Castle, and the flowers in castle gardens sometimes appear in his work.
  • Sarah Keast and Melville Brotherston: Moniaive is famed as Scotland’s Festival Village, but it is also a hotbed of visual art. Sarah Keast, a former geologist, is a well-established painter and original printmaker who is using aerial photographs to create semi-abstracted birds-eye views of the landscapes near the village. These often feature the stone walls and circular sheep pens that were so important to past farming practices and are now gently collapsing back into the land. She said: “All my work is motivated by my life-long connection to the environment. It’s been amazing to compare the aerial photographs taken just after the Second World War to modern ones. You really notice how the sheep pens and walls that took such immense human effort to build are falling into decay and how the fields have enormously increased in size as farming practices change.” Melville, known for his dramatic use of colour, light and tone, is also working on a series about Moniaive. These ground-level paintings are studies of the three glens that lead to the village – Dalwhat Glen, Craigdarroch Glen and Castlefairn Glen. He said: “Many of my paintings were inspired by the far north of Scotland, but now I’ve turned my attention to the landscapes all around me, with the glens, burns and rivers that flow to and from Moniaive. This is such a wonderful place – it has a lovely quietness and beauty all its own.” Sarah will be exhibiting at the Masonic Hall in Moniaive and Melville about a mile away at Mill Studio, Dungalston Farm.

Joanna Macaulay, Events and Exhibitions Manager for Upland Arts Development, which runs Spring Fling, said:“The magic of Spring Fling is the way it combines lovely visual arts and craft, remarkable people and wonderful places that visitors often don’t have the chance to see. This year is our 15th anniversary event, so we are particularly looking forward to welcoming visitors to Dumfries and Galloway to enjoy everything it has to offer.”

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