The arts diary: Brands Hatch | Two-part marathon

Marathons: inspiring art
Marathons: inspiring art
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ROGER COX casts his eye over some artistic ideas influenced by sport.


Artists take inspiration from some weird and wonderful things, but in all his years the Diary has never come across a work of art that grew out of a pair of smelly old trainers. Until this week, that is, when Susan David, programme manager at Fife Contemporary Art & Craft (FCAC), demonstrated that, yes, even sweaty sportswear can provide nourishment for a creative imagination.

Today at Lochore Meadows Country Park, the latest exhibition to be staged on board Fife Council’s intrepid mobile museum (MAC) pictured, will be officially launched by Fife Council leader Alex Rowley.

Curated by Newport artist Jonathan Baxter, the show explores issues of sustainability in ways that are accessible to children, and features specially commissioned work by a number of artists living and working in and around Fife.

One of these is Edward Summerton – the aforementioned fetid footwear fetishist. For his contribution to the show, Summerton has concocted a story about a friend of his who banned his kids from bringing their stinky trainers into the house. Left outside in the garden to detoxify, the trainers soon became nests for birds, and when the birds eventually laid eggs in them, the markings on the eggs miraculously echoed the logos on the footwear – a subtle Nike swoosh here, a trio of Adidas stripes there.

“He’s done a series of paintings that show the trainers surrounded by shrubs with the little nests in them,” explains David. “And then he’s got another painting which is like the display boards Victorian egg collectors used to have, where you had lots of different examples of specific eggs. You can just make out the subtle markings on them that allude to the markings on the shoes, although you have to look quite closely. But then I suppose egg markings do tend to be subtle – they’re supposed to blend in with their surroundings.”

An uplifting statement about the amazing adaptability of the natural world? Or a depressing commentary on the way our all-pervasive consumer culture bulldozes its way into the lives of other species? Either way, as conceptual art goes this is fascinating stuff, with considerably more intellectual clout than a lot of the work deemed fit for grown-up consumption by the people running our major public galleries.

Also in the exhibition, which is entitled The Kingdom of If: Art and Sustainability in Fife, are sculptures made out of flotsam and jetsam found on Fife’s beaches by Joanna Foster, ceramics made from local clays by Sean and Christine Kingsley and strings of black bunting made out of old umbrellas by Sarah Gittins, with pictures of endangered species printed on in white.

The exhibition will tour schools and community centres throughout Fife for the rest of this year and into early 2013. Many stops are still to be confirmed, so check for updates.


Continuing this week’s sporty theme, the Diary understands that Edinburgh-based artist Damian Callan is planning to create a giant charcoal drawing of a marathon at WASPS Studios in Dalry next weekend, working in front of a live, ahem, studio audience and inviting volunteers to pose as runners and spectators.

Entitled The Dalry Marathon, the finished piece will measure 1.5m by 10m, and Callan aims to complete it in two 1pm-5pm sittings, one on 6 October and one on 7 October. The artist, who trained at ECA and now runs life-drawing classes in the capital, has previous when it comes to working on a large scale – last November, two of his pictures, each measuring 1.5m by 3m, sold at a Barnado’s auction for a total of £7,500. However, this will be his largest drawing to date.

“I’m going to start off using a friend who’s an ex-runner as a model,” Callan says, “and then I’ll be asking for volunteers.”

So if you’ve ever fancied being immortalised in a monumental work of art, now’s your chance. And if you’ve got a room in your house that could do justice to a ten metre-long drawing?

Well, then you can probably afford to buy this one once it’s finished. For more information, see