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Issue 95 - Artist In Residence (Andrew Crummy)

Scotland Magazine Issue 95
October 2017

 

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Artist In Residence (Andrew Crummy)

Roddy Martine meets Andrew Crummy

It has been a roller coaster decade for Andrew Crummy. He’s designed iconic and high-profile tapestries, beginning with the Prestonpans Tapestry in 2010 leading to the Great Tapestry of Scotland (inspired and scripted by the writers Alexander McCall Smith and Alistair Moffat) in 2013; the Scottish Diaspora Tapestry in 2012; and now the Tapestry of Renfrewshire, which is currently under production. In each case having worked to a script, the embroidered cloths are made up of hand-stitched panels depicting aspects of the history of Scotland and outsourced to an army of sewing groups across Scotland — and sometimes beyond.

The results have proved inspirational and have recreated every corner of Scotland’s magnificent history in order to emphasize the profound significance of the events that shaped our nation. Not least, this is down to Crummy’s imaginative style, whimsical sense of humour, and forensic sense of design. Other tapestry works include the
Gordon Highlanders Tapestry, which is on view at the Gordon Highlanders Museum in Aberdeen, and there is a Declaration of Arbroath Tapestry in the making. His most recent project is the Mount Felix Tapestry, which tells the story of the ANZAC hospital in Walton-on-Thames where 27,000 soldiers from New Zealand were treated during World War I.

Andrew Crummy was born in Craigmillar, on the outskirts of Edinburgh, and attended Portobello High School before gaining a BA Hons in Illustration and Printmaking at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art in Dundee, and an MA in Design from Glasgow School of Art.

It all began with a drawing competition that he entered at the age of nine. The judge was the impresario Richard Demarco (See:
Scotland Magazine #89), who happened to be a great friend of Andrew’s mother Helen Crummy — the charismatic organising secretary of The Craigmillar Festival Society. Andrew was the winner of the under 12’s category and Demarco informed Helen that her son was destined for art college. “I’d wanted to study politics but that’s what started me off on art and design,” he recalls. “I applied to do politics at Strathclyde University but did not get the entry qualifications. So I ended up going to Duncan of Jordanstone the following year.” His contemporaries included the artists Calum Colvin and David Cook. Liz Lochhead, the future Scottish Makar (national poet), was Writer in Residence.

“I concentrated on illustration, but then I thought to myself ‘I need to get a job.’” His professional life therefore began in London working on popular publications such as
New Musical Express, The Observer Magazine, Timeout and Good Housekeeping. Through Fitch, the global retail and brand consultancy agency, he began to create large community artworks for high streets across the UK, notably for the Spindles Shopping Centre in Oldham. Andrew also created a 400-foot mural that encircled the base Edinburgh’s Scott Monument while it was being restored, then moved on to a 140-foot hoarding around the building of the extension to The National Museum of Scotland. After that it was mural projects around the world, coupled with attending festivals and setting up education courses. Having returned to live in Scotland in 2000, he became Convenor for The Prestonpans Murals Programme, which now consists of 50 public art works.

From his studio at Cockenzie, however, it was the East Lothian sunsets that hypnotized him, with “the flat land and sea, nothing in the way, and skies defining the landscape.” Andrew’s vibrant skyscapes reveal yet another dimension to this talented man. “Skies are difficult subjects to paint as essentially there is nothing there,” he admits. “You are looking into space, so you concentrate on the clouds and the atmosphere. The results can be surprising.” During this year’s Edinburgh Festival he was to be found at the stylish Doubtfire Gallery in Edinburgh, where his first one-man show was being held. Under the banner ‘Tapestry Man’, this exhibition comprised a series of paintings, drawings and limited-edition prints that have been influenced by the stitchers of his tapestries.

The vitality, detail and movement were there for all to see, but there was something else. Andrew Crummy is so much more than just an illustrator — not that there is anything wrong with being an illustrator. In his wider remit, he reveals all the versatility of a true genius.