I recently attended the ArtSoc: Collective exhibition, the event taking place in the Bell Pettigrew Natural History museum as a part of the On the Rocks Festival occurring all over town. The venue itself proved to be an inspired choice. Artwork was hung on the glass of display cases featuring a wild variety of animal skeletons and taxidermy: it leant the exhibit the feel of a treasure hunt through the attic of a particularly fanciful 19th century zoologist.
The featured work was the product of several members of the Art Society with a few members of the committee also displaying their notebooks at the front of the museum. Being given free rein to pore over the artistic diary of a stranger is filled with a sense of intimacy not achieved by any other art installation I have ever visited, and I was impressed by the talent of the many artists who volunteered their work. The general quality of the artwork was very high, many of the drawings featured being the products of the popular Life Drawing sessions put on by the society every Tuesday night though the style and subjects on display were wonderfully varied. Particular standouts include the beautifully detailed ink studies of local wildlife by Kate Marriot and the geometric wonder worlds penned by Neha Luthra.
Although the collection was rather small, I ended up spending about an hour in this exhibit and I could have easily spent two. The playful sense of exploration in the exhibit was enhanced by encouragement to join in the fun scattered throughout the museum. In a spirit of collaboration, the society has used the space not only to display art but to encourage the viewers to create for themselves. Sections of sketch paper had been taped across various cases and guests were encouraged to craft their own drawings inspired by the Pettigrew’s collection and a variety of media left out for us to use. I added my own contribution to a page that had been dedicated to earlier guest’s studies of birds and had fun building on a landscape an earlier participant had begun on the craft table. Coloured pencils were laid out at the far end created a private space in the midst of the collaborative atmosphere.
Collective manages to successfully embody all the things that On the Rocks is meant to celebrate about art in St. Andrews. The use of one of the University’s most fascinating spaces was clever and the talent exhibited represents some of our town’s best. Collective offered its guests a chance to participate in the artistic process in a way that is both low-key and playful. The effect was a sense of a world filled with hidden gems of raw, inspired creativity.