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Conceptual artists LANGLANDS AND BELL have stirred up controversy with their Turner-nominated The House of Osama Bin Laden. But now the pair are turning their attentions to a symbol of Scottish 19th century Christian devotion across the Clyde, as Philip Long discovers.
cotland is a country well
known for its aristocratic
homes and castles. As a focus for our past and as repositories for historical artefacts they are core to our culture. but none engages with the contemporary like Mount Stuart. ancestral home of the Butes on the island of that name in the Clyde estuary. Since beginning its innovative artistic programme in 2001. visits there have become important for anyone interested in seeing the most interesting contemporary art projects in Scotland. Now. Langlands and Bell (currently Turner Prize nominees for their virtual reconstruction of The House af().s'ama Bin Laden) have just completed a work at Mount Stuart entitled Re
awakening. inspired by the rich. symbolic architecture of
this extraordinary place.
Bute must be the most uncomplicated of all the Scottish islands to reach: an easy journey by car or train to Wemyss Bay. south of Greenock. and then a short crossing to Rothesay. beyond which looms the romantic landscape of Arran's mountains.
south. and if Rothesay remains largely 19th century in appearance. the first experience of Mount Stuart — the fabulous visitor centre building — signals the exciting approach the Bute family have taken to opening their home.
When Ben Langlands and Nikki Bell. at the invitation of Sophie Crichton-Stuart (sister of the current Marquess. Johnny Bute) made an initial visit to Mount Stuart. they came across a small and beautifully crafted
family chapel. which has provided the basis for their
project. The chapel had been commissioned from the
architect William Burgess by the third Marquess. one of
the great patrons of the Victorian era. Equal to this was the Marquess‘ Christian devotion and his activities at Mount Stuart are steeped in religious symbolism. Included in the gardens is a Via [)olorosa. or Way of the Cross. while the chapel. is thought to have been inspired by the Church of the Holy Sepulcbre in Jerusalem. visited by the third Marquess while he was travelling in Palestine in the 1860s.
Secreted in the oldest surviving part of the house. this tiny. richly ornamented space is the lVlarquess‘ testament to his pilgrimage. For him the chapel must have embodied a direct spiritual link between the preciousness of his home and family. and that of his faith. Langlands and Bell. in their work. have been preoccupied with how architecture has given expression to the ways society orders itself and its beliefs. Here.
‘A BREATHTAKING WORK THAT INTERTWINES
Mount Stuart is ten minutes drive COMPLEX MEANING’
using a floor of mirrors to reanimate a place with its origins in a deep personal conviction. they have produced a breathtaking work that intertwines simple and complex meaning: a literal reflection of a space meant for profound spiritual reflection. Back at the visitor centre. the artists have made a large wall painting.
at first appearance an enigma of
letters but in fact a construction
Rothesay/Jerusalem and Glasgow/Tel .-\viv (the sort familiar to tts from baggage tickets). As contemporary in appearance as the building in which it is shown. it is a clever. modern counterpart to the complexities of Bates chapel. born in a different age out of a spiritually motivated journey.
I Philip Long is Senior ('m'atar at the Scottish .\'aiianal Gallery ((fthM/(‘I'll xll'l
Re awakening by Langlands and Bell, Mount Stuart, Rothesay, Isle of Bute, until Sun 26 Sep, 01700 503877, www.mountstuart.com
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