Beings | Scratch … and Behold!

Beings is an exhibition of artwork by young people from across Scotland, which explores the many ways in which creativity can help us to understand and express our emotions. In order to create their exhibition, thirteen groups, from youth clubs, schools, kinship care groups and employability projects, ran free with works from the National Galleries of Scotland collection, using them as springboards to create their own work.

In this blog, we explore how students from Waid Academy in Anstruther were inspired by the work of Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti (1901-66) to create a series of beautiful shadow projections, presented in a mysterious fairground booth.

Alberto Giacometti, Anatole Jakovski 23 Gravures, 1935.

'I thought drawing with a nail was weird, but it let me get my anger out.'

This quote is from a participant of the Beings project exploring her own emotional world.

She was responding to an etching of a drawing by the Surrealist artist Alberto Giacometti, from the national art collection.

He’s drawn a sketch of an imaginary space, with an upright triangle and a suspended sphere. It’s eerie and bare, and there’s a sort of straggly sun in the top left corner.

There are no figures, just a set of lines generating tension in an architectural environment.

So we asked the participants to look at this image and then take the ‘straightest’ (least personal) thing in the classroom – i.e. a ‘ruler’ – and use it, and a nail, and a sheet of perspex, to explore their own feelings.

Projected etchings on perspex by participants from Waid Academy, Anstruther.
Participants from Waid Academy, Anstruther explore further projected etchings on perspex.

It shouldn’t have worked, but when we closed the blinds and projected a strong light through their scratched Perspex drawings onto the wall … the magic happened. It was like they could see the drawings on the inside of their mind … weird landscapes, palaces and perspectives, grids and geometries. It was like playing about with a torch under the bedcovers, when you were a kid.

Maybe a simple little line drawing had unlocked something and let it out. It was reassuring that the teenagers taking part in this workshop on the Beings project felt that these were precious moments because they had happened in a group …. and in school … of all places.

You can enter this magic world now in the Temple of Illumination, part of the Beings exhibition which is open now in the Contemporary Gallery space at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. Admission is free.

By Robin Baillie, Senior Outreach Officer, 18 February 2019