Cupar Arts Festival

October 2013

Publication: The Times

The fourth biennial Cupar Arts Festival raises important questions about the nature and purpose of such events - and provides some elegant and important answers.


First and foremost, this is a participative event, wholly engaged in the business of community involvement, education and, dare one say, fun. Secondly, it is international in outlook and content with participants this year from Italy and Japan, as well as from Scotland and the rest of the UK. Thirdly, the festival is professionally curated by experienced individuals, under the directorship of Gayle Nelson, herself a respected artist.


This year over forty individuals and groups have come to the historic Fife market town, which has a long judicial and agricultural history. Their purpose is to engage their audience through participative and site-specific artworks, interventions, happenings, events, displays, actions and installations. Many of these diverse works address their audience - the townsfolk of Cupar and large numbers of visitors, drawn by the sheer quality of what is on offer - directly in places where art is not normally part of the pattern of everyday life.


Artists have been asked to respond this year to the notion of ‘Fate’ - a suitably broad but nevertheless topical theme, given current debates particularly within diverse faiths about what aspects of out lives, if any, are predetermined.  


The artist Jenny Smith asked local schoolchildren to respond to the question: ‘what is the most important decision you have ever made?” The children’s written response has been transferred to laser-cut stencils, which in turn have been used to cut the words out of the turf in the town’s Haugh Park.


The most important aspect of the work is not its outcome - although interesting -  but the processes which led to its making. A generation of children have now participated as fledging artists in an event which will resonate with them for years to come.


In the festival’s Hub the artist Kirsty Whiten has depicted the triad of Fates, commonly found across various mythologies, as daughter, mother and grandmother. In Greek mythology, the Moirai - Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos - respectively, spun, measured and cut the ‘thread of life’. Here they are depicted in a bold scale with elements of the drawing photocopied and pasted throughout the closes and alley-ways of the town.


At the Corn Exchange visitors are blindfolded and led to a darkened room where the blindfold is removed to reveal a light box. From within, Pernille Spence inscribes words, thoughts and poems that gently provoke a response in the viewer. The title, Not My Tomorrow, indicates in a much broader way how any work of art needs an audience or an individual to complete it.


At the beautifully restored railway station four elegant Italian dancers perform to musical and vocal accompaniment in the waiting room and spill out on to the platforms, a fitting stage for chance encounters, much to the delight of surprised passengers.


Other artists such as Liz Murray, Takaya Fujii, and Katie Lowery all respond intelligently and sensitively to the festival’s theme.


This ambitious festival will surely attract the audience and plaudits it so clearly deserves.