Above – one my sketches today of Richard Demarco (at the Demarco Archives, Summerhall).
Some more sketches from today, and a previous longer one from a video still …
Over the next few weeks I’ll be creating a portrait of Richard Demarco. So today I’m introducing a series of blog posts in which I’ll share the process, and I’ll also be introducing and exploring the work of Richard Demarco.
A few weeks ago, after seeing the moving and inspiring performance of ‘The Artist as Explorer’ by Aletia Upstairs, which focussed on Demarco’s unique vision and artistic legacy (see my earlier post: ‘The Artist as Explorer’ – Here ) I contacted Richard Demarco to ask to paint a portrait of him. I was delighted when Terry Newman (Deputy Director of the Demarco Archive Trust) replied to say, ‘He’d be honoured’.
Needless to say, I am honoured! In this blog I’ve mentioned Richard Demarco’s extraordinary work as an arts impressario, teacher and artist a few times. He’s doubtless done more for the arts in Edinburgh than anyone else alive.
Sketching today was an absolute pleasure. As an artist and art teacher himself, Richard has a keen understanding of an artist’s perspective. He invited two of his colleagues – Fernanda Zei, and Jack Kausch to observe the process (it was a pleasure to meet them) and volunteered several interesting, at times playful, creative poses.
From feeling somewhat trepiditious at the start (how many outstandingly talented and renowned artists has Richard worked with over the years?!) I really began to enjoy the experience. I will return next week to develop further ideas and sketches…
These photos from today are of Richard in front of the excellent portrait created by David Mach. (the two other well-known portraits of Richard Demarco include those by Barbara Balmer and Peter Howson).
In the process of sketching and talking, it transpired that my first drawing tutor, Bill Gillon, was in fact a pupil of Richard Demarco. What wonderful synchronicity – Bill Gillon was an excellent tutor – he enjoyed his work and his criticism was incisive, constructive, never harsh or (far worse!) indifferent.
Today’s sketches are the start of a larger portrait I’ll develop in the next month, which I’ll be gifting to the Demarco Archives. It’s one way of honouring my connection with Richard Demarco, which began back in the early 90’s when several people I knew had become connected with the Demarco Gallery.
Of course I’d heard of Richard Demarco (everyone interested in the arts in Edinburgh knew of him) but it was only a few years later, after I’d studied for my degree in art that I decided I’d like to work for the Demarco European Art Foundation.
I remember the conversations I’d have with fellow art students about what we’d do after art college. I was pretty sure that getting my work into a prestigious corporate collection wasn’t the pinnacle of human endeavour, nor was working for a standard gallery, whether commercial/independent or publically funded, not if it simply reflected a well-worn path that reduced art to what’s ‘cool’ – passing trends or fashion, or simply further commodified the arts.
Anyone who takes an interest in the Demarco Archives and drops in to see Richard is made welcome, so in 1999 I began working voluntarily on the Demarco Archives, and assisting with his exhibition programme for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. I didn’t exactly see myself as an artist at that point – I was quite self restricting on the basis that I didn’t have anything new or important to add to the world of art, therefore I’d decided to contribute towards enhancing the work of those who did. (I was younger then, and in later years I came to realise it’s not always about changing anything or attempting a work of genius so much as responding authentically to your experience of life, I relaxed a bit into my experience of making art!).
Nonetheless, in 2000 Richard Demarco generously invited me to participate, alongside many other artists, in a major show at Edinburgh’s City art Centre in 2000, called 70/2000: The Road to Meikle Seggie (curated by Charles Ryder, then curator of the Stanley Picker Gallery, Kingston University) which charted his journey in the arts through images and documentation of the archives.
That journey involves so many meaningful innovative projects, collaborations, adventures and encounters that it’s impossible for me to do it justice in one post, so I’d recommend exploring the following links for a start …
A shorthand outline though, would certainly include Richard Demarco’s pioneering approaches as one of the founders of The Traverse Theatre, the first person to introduce the work of Joseph Beuys to Scotland, and his lifelong dedication to the founding vision of the Edinburgh Festival – to heal post-war Europe through cultural dialogue in the arts. That dedication has led to myriad and profound projects abroad, often in war-torn countries across Eastern Europe.
This is the first post about creating this portrait, so I will be including more information in subsequent posts. I hope you enjoy the process, but above all I hope it’s inspiring.