THINK CONTEMPORARY ART IS AN URBAN PHEnomenon? Think again. Thanks to innovative galleries, residencies and commissions, work by many of Scotland's top contemporary artists can be seen all over the country this summer, indoors and outdoors. Art lovers seeking a day out are spoilt for choice ...
NATHAN COLEY AT MOUNT STUART
The splendid neo-gothic palace of the Marquises of Bute might not seem an obvious place to find contemporary art, but thanks to the creative thinking of Sophie Crichton-Stuart, the estate has become home to one of Scotland's most innovative summer residencies.
Nathan Coley follows in the footsteps of Thomas Joshua Cooper, Christine Borland and Anya Gallaccio in making work to display in the estate's recently built gallery, landscaped grounds and in the house itself. Coley, who explores belief and religion in much of his work, was quickly fascinated by a colourful character from the house's history. "Like everyone else, I found Mount Stuart and the whole journey to Bute quite extraordinary and overwhelming, particularly the house and its art collection," he says. "I was also drawn to the history of the family, particularly the 3rd Marquis."
This pious gentleman requested that on his death his heart be removed from his body and buried in Jerusalem. "I was fascinated in terms both of the fact that you could have done that, and in bringing that discussion up to date: do we still believe there's a difference between your soul and your body? We managed to find the records of the travel costs for the family and their entourage to take the heart to Palestine in 1900 - it was organised by Thomas Cook!" As well as requesting that the locked casket used to transport the Marquis's heart be displayed in Mount Stuart's Chapel, Coley has used lightbulbs to illuminate a text from 14th-century France in the wooded grounds: "There will be no miracles here." Coley says: "The King of France allegedly posted this in a village where there had been extraordinary happenings. He acknowledges a god, but sees himself as superior to that god. It can be read on a number of levels. The more I think about it, the more interesting I think it is."
His work in the gallery, handmade models of a church, a mosque and a synagogue, recalls the work he made for a show at the Fruitmarket Gallery in 2004. Coley says: "I felt like the context was good for me. I think I have made work which has a resonance and a poignancy at Mount Stuart, but could stand alone and mean something different elsewhere."
• Mount Stuart, Isle of Bute. Gardens open 10-6 daily, house open 11am-5pm Sun-Fri, 10am-2:30pm Sat. Tickets 7.50 (house and grounds), 3.50 (grounds only). Tel: 01700 503877, www.mountstuart.com
RONALD RAE IN HOLYROOD PARK, EDINBURGH
The monumental granite sculptures of Ronald Rae form the first exhibition of sculpture ever to be held in Holyrood Park. The 21 sculptures are shown in partnership with Historic Scotland in a variety of locations around the park, and within the gardens of Holyrood Palace. They represent more than 20 years of work by the acclaimed sculptor, made in Edinburgh but never displayed together in their home city. "I thought it would be good to bring my bairns home," says Rae. "I've always been rather fond of Arthur's Seat, a geological miracle in the middle of the city. This is a sharing, a giving back to the city that I love."
Rae's sculptures are carved by hand from vast lumps of stone quarried in the north-east, and include animals inspired by Celtic and Pictish art, as well as images drawn from the Christian faith. The newest of the works is the Lion of Scotland, opposite the Parliament building, 20 tons of Corrennie granite which needed a 100-ton crane to lift it into place.
"You can't fool around with granite, you've got to be so truthful to yourself," Rae says. "The stone is a little over 470 million years old, give or take 1,000 years. It is older than the crags. It's a very humbling experience to split crystals that haven't seen the light of day for 470 million years. The stone selects me, I don't select the stone. It's punishing work, but you have to die a little in these things, you have to give your soul. They are my prayers, my celebration of life, my thankyou for being born. I like it that people can climb on these things, engage with them."
• Holyrood Park, until May 2007, www.ronaldrae.co.uk or pick up a flyer from attractions near the park.
"Certain gardens are retreats when they are really attacks," wrote Ian Hamilton Finlay, the artist whose life's work lies not in a gallery but in his garden. Gradually, under his careful attention, the section of wild moorland at Stonypath in the Pentlands became Little Sparta, an oasis of green, teeming with unexpected works of art. A beehive, an upturned boat drifting on a little loch, a watering can and a stone tortoise all explore ideas and philosophies from across two millennia, some playful, some deadly serious. Beautiful but fragile, the garden is open to visitors on a limited number of days this summer.
• Little Sparta, Dunsyre, open Fridays and Sundays until the end of September, 2:30-5pm, entry 10. A minibus will run from the Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh, on Wednesdays at 1:30pm. To book, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.littlesparta.co.uk.
GLENFIDDICH ARTISTS' RESIDENCIES
Take six artists from six different countries, mix with a little whisky and refine over the summer and you have one of Scotland's most unusual artistic residencies. This year, past Beck's Futures winner Rosalind Nashashibi heads a line-up of artists from as far afield as South Africa, Taiwan and Nanavut at Glenfiddich's Dufftown distillery. Hip-hop artist Mustafa Maluka from South Africa joins the programme, along with Inuit artist Anni Pootoogook, making her first trip outside Canada, ensuring as varied work as Glenfiddich has seen since it started the residency in 2002. Existing work by the artists is on show until 27 July, new work made during the residencies is on show 29 July to 31 August.
• Glenfiddich Distillery, Dufftown, gallery open Wed-Sun 12:30-5:30pm. Visit www.glenfiddich.co.uk/artists
THE WATERMILL, ABERFELDY
London bookshop owner Kevin Ramage and his wife Jayne invested 500,000 in transforming an old watermill into a gallery, coffee shop and the biggest bookshop in the rural Highlands. Now, after a year in business, the Watermill is going from strength to strength. Landscape paintings by Mairi Clark and photographs from the Andes by wildlife photographer Niall Riddell will show until 29 July, when they are replaced by the sculptures of Danish artist Lotte Glob, whose use of materials collected on walks gives her work an intimate link with the Scottish landscape.
• The Watermill, Mill Street, Aberfeldy, open Mon-Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 12-5pm. Visit www.aberfeldywatermill.com
SHARMANKA ON TOUR
In the best tradition of the travelling circus, the kinetic sculptures of Russian ex-pat Eduard Bersudsky have embarked on an ambitious Scottish tour while their Glasgow premises are being renovated. Bersudsky's remarkable machines, a combination of wood carving and objects salvaged from Glasgow's flea markets, draw on Russian and Celtic mythology, and Bersudsky's own anarchic imagination. "Performances" several times a day show the sculptures in action with sound and lights, but they can also be viewed while stationary.
• The Sharmanka Travelling Circus is at the Swanson Gallery, Thurso, 15 July until 5 August and the Iona Gallery, Kingussie, 18 August until 9 September. www.sharmanka.com
PITTENWEEM ARTS FESTIVAL
Once a year, the little Fife town transforms itself into an artistic treasure trove. This year, more than 80 galleries will spring up out of nowhere, many of them in people's homes. The beauty of the Pittenweem Arts Festival lies in the way work by cutting-edge contemporary artists appears shoulder to shoulder with more traditional painting and drawing. This year's impressive line-up of "invited artists" is headed by Will Maclean, and includes Hill Jephson Robb, Joachim Romer and duo Joanne Tatham and Tom O'Sullivan, whose work represented Scotland at the Venice Biennale in 2005.
• Pittenweem Arts Festival, 5-13 August. Tel: 01333 313903, www.pittenweemartsfestival.co.uk
KILMORACK GALLERY, NEAR BEAULY
It's now nine years since Tony Davidson opened his gallery in a former church near Beauly in Inverness-shire. Since then it has hosted a wide range of works, from Gerald Laing's 16-foot Anna Karina to Helen Denerley's wolf pack and Lotte Glob's library of sculpted books.
The ecclesiastical nature of the space makes it particularly suited for shows such as the one running this summer by Eugenia Vronskaya, whose work explores the Eastern Orthodox idea of Iconostas, a wall of icons separating - but also linking - the human and the divine. Vronskaya has been described by John Byrne as "a figurative painter in a time of cultural cholera who punches above her weight".
• Kilmorack Gallery, three miles from Beauly down the Cannich Road. Eugenia Vronskaya, 10-31 August, mixed show until then. Open Mon-Sat 11am-5:30pm. Tel: 01463 783230 for more details or visit www.kilmorackgallery.co.uk
Of all the cutting edge work produced across the arts in Scotland in recent years, no small amount originated at Cove Park, an international centre for artists' residencies on the Rosneath peninsula. Not normally open to the public, Cove Park is opening every Friday afternoon this summer, when visitors will be able to watch the first Cove Park Commission taking shape, a project by Turner Prizewinner Simon Starling. The intriguingly named Autoxylopyrocycloboros takes as its starting point a steamboat named Dignity, rescued from the seabed of the Clyde estuary.
• Cove Park, Rosneath, open Fridays 12-4pm. Tel: 01436 850123, www.covepark.org
HIDDEN GARDENS, TRAMWAY, GLASGOW
The derelict industrial site next to Glasgow's Tramway was reopened three years ago as an urban garden for the 21st century. Developed by Angus Farquhar's NVA organisation, famous for site-specific works The Path and The Storr, the garden takes its inspiration from the multicultural community which lives in the surrounding area. Dedicated to peace, individual and universal, it borrows forms and ideas from all the major religions. Art works include poems by Gerry Loose carved into sandstone waymarkers, a library of woodland by Alec Finlay, and Stephen Skrynka's peepholes into hidden worlds. See the website for a list of activities and workshops this summer.
• Hidden Gardens, Tramway, Glasgow, open Tues-Sat 10am-8pm, Sunday 12-6pm. Visit www.thehiddengardens.org.uk