2013 Saltire Society Art in Public Places Award Winners

An Suileachan

Artists: Marian Leven & Will Maclean.

Commissioned: Bhaltos Community Trust

Marian Leven and Will Maclean, were commissioned to design a suitable monument based on their understanding of the local culture and history of the land raids in the Western Isles.

The commissioned monument has been constructed on an elevated, panoramic site in the village of Reef, with views over the surrounding land, sea and islands. The monument has been designed with two circles, connected by a walled walkway. The eastern circle has a grey, stone circular floor, inscribed with the names of the Reef Raiders. The walkway leads the visitor through an archway, designed and constructed by Jim Crawford, to the west circle, overlooking the sea and islands of West Loch Roag, symbolically linking the past to the present.

This circle has integrated seating inside and outside of the drystone walls and there is an iron fire basket to provide a beacon which will be lit at times of celebration and commemoration. Suileachan provides a setting for cultural events as well as being a place of reflection, contemplation and inspiration as it provides a panoramic view of the local area over to Pabbay Mor and also the smaller islands of West Loch Roag. The completion of this project brings together similar Hebridean communities who were involved in Na Gaisich. Suileachan describes the land struggle so that visitors to our area can learn about the impact of land ownership, past and present, on our community and understand the importance of working together to improve the future for the communities which live and work here in the 21st century.

Suileachan has been designed to celebrate island craftsmanship and skills. The land around Bhaltos is defined by old stone walls skilfully built and of a distinctive style. This is replicated in the walls of Suileachan which are constructed of stones from blackhouses in the area by an island stonemason with a knowledge of the local stonework.

The Scotsman Steps

Artist: Martin Creed

Comissioned: Fruitmarket Gallery

Martin Creed’s Work No. 1059 was commissioned by Fiona Bradley as part of Creed’s solo exhibition Down Over Up which was presented at The Fruitmarket Gallery and was one of the most popular exhibitions in the Gallery’s history. The exhibition brought together works united by the idea of stacking and progression in size, height and tone.

The Scotsman Steps are an important part of Edinburgh’s cityscape: they link the Old and New Towns. Before restoration by Edinburgh World Heritage and City of Edinburgh Council, they were extremely dilapidated, and vulnerable to misuse. The Fruitmarket Gallery suggested commissioning a public artwork for the steps as part of the renovation, to help change the public perception of them, and to fulfil the gallery’s mission to make contemporary art freely accessible, bringing it out of the gallery to engage people where they are.

Martin Creed, with his smart response to public space, his ability to engage with materials and their surroundings, and his understanding of the creative possibilities embedded in the act of going up and down steps, seemed an obvious choice for the commission. From the beginning, he considered the Steps as a thoroughfare, proposing to resurface them with different and contrasting marbles from all over the world, each step and landing a different colour. The idea turns around a familiar material (though not one normally associated with Edinburgh) used in a familiar way. It acts as a sampler, introducing 104 different marbles, putting the material as well as the visitor through its paces. Creed himself has described the work as a microcosm of the whole world – stepping on the different marble steps is like walking through the world.

Work No. 1059, like the works shown in Down Over Up, is an exercise in adding and
subtracting by degrees. To make it, Creed started from nothing, and added something. The process of addition, though immensely complicated, involving architects, planners, engineers, stone cutters, builders etc, results in an intervention whose deceptive simplicity seems almost to take the addition away (though extravagantly marble and chromatically beautiful, the steps are still only steps, after all).

Work No. 1059, though architecturally a complex piece of stone work and engineering
 that took two years to plan and achieve, is an artwork that is made and remade every time a viewer walks up or down it.

The Scotsman Steps are owned managed and maintained by the City of Edinburgh Council.