My first thought upon entering the venue for Aye Inspired was that the exhibition was much, much bigger than I’d expected. (Also, I’d never seen venue The Priory look so good — probably not hard given that I considered it once of the worst places in Aberdeen to drink back in my student days.)
The number of pieces also far exceeded the expectations of organiser Gillian Martin, who along with sister Lindsay Allardyce, had come up with the idea of Aye Inspired. For this launch there were 73 in total, though the number will be drastically reduced when it goes out on tour with National Collective’s Yestival. (Which also takes Scotland’s abundant creative energy and points it in the direction of a Yes vote in September’s independence referendum.)
Gillian and Lindsay’s husbands were also performing at the event, and with their children there it felt a bit like a family gathering that had just happened to attract submissions from around the world, and which had been lovingly exhibited in a rather fitting (if slightly dilapidated) former church building.
There was a rich variety of work, from photographic to installations and everything in between. I found myself attracted by the biting cynicism of Greg Moodie, though did wonder whether there was any hypocrisy in pointing out the shortcomings of “Bitter Together” while taking potshots at them. At one point I also looked at a bike and considered its artistic merit. As it turned out, it belonged to Gillian’s husband who had temporarily placed it inside. Oh well.
Gillian explained that they had very briefly considered opening the art exhibition up to both the Yes and No sides of the Scottish independence debate, but didn’t think they would be able to strike a proper balance, given the apparent paucity of support from the country’s artists for staying in the Union.
“It’s very telling that there’s so many artists, creatives, and writers behind the Yes movement,” Gillian said. “It’s almost like an obvious thing for them to have the more positive vision of the two camps.”
It does seem easier to be inspired by new possibilities, by hopes and dreams, than it is to create something out of the fear of what may be lost. But then, if the best art comes from adversity and suffering, perhaps this current explosion of artistic endeavour will be best bolstered by a No vote this September?
I felt ‘right, we’ve got six months to turn this around, and I’ve got six months to convince as many people as I know that this is the right thing to do for Scotland’. I wake up in the morning and I think ‘what can I do today to get the Yes message out?’
Gillian Martin, artist and organiser of Aye Inspired
I decided at the beginning of 2014 that I couldn’t let this year go by without doing what I could for the Yes vote because I think it’s such an important decision for Scotland, and opportunity for Scotland. So, being an artist, I thought what better way to express yourself than through artwork?
Lindsay Allardyce, artist and organiser of Aye Inspired
For more about Aye Inspired including tour dates visit ayeinspired.blogspot.co.uk.