House of Words

A unique writers’ trail in the heart of Scotland 

House of Words

House of Words celebrates the writers connected to the University of Stirling since its foundation in 1967. Beginning in the Pathfoot Building with the Nigerian writer, Chinua Achebe, visitors can view a growing series of artworks and texts traced on the walls, windows and wilder places of the campus.

The initiative, launched in 2014, is part of a long-term vision to celebrate art and literature throughout the campus. A series of quotations from creative writers will be installed on the windows of the Pathfoot Building to complement the existing pieces in the art collection that explore relationships between text, image and literature (see ‘Art and Literature in the Collection’ below).

House of Words text installations are positioned to create interaction between the corridors and courtyard spaces of the Pathfoot Building, encouraging visitors, students and staff to pause and spend time with the artwork and texts displayed in the Gallery.

This engagement with text/art interfaces continues the outstanding site-specific text installations in the Pathfoot Building, including the permanent Liz Lochhead courtyard, the temporary Kathleen Jamie installations in the main foyer of the Pathfoot building, and most recently Alec Finlay’s permanent bee-themed public sculptures that incorporate poetry within the habitats of the campus bee population.

House of Words is also part of the ongoing research activities of the Centre for Postcolonial Studies. The further stage of the initiative celebrates the 20th anniversary in 2014/15 of the Charles Wallace Fellowship, a programme that brings Indian creative writers to Stirling through the funding and support of the Charles Wallace India Trust and the British Council India. Each year a different writer produces new work, engages with undergraduates, postgraduates and staff, and presents a public reading.

The work of Chinua Achebe (1930-2013) – novelist, poet and essayist – is the perfect place to begin our writers’ trail. He was awarded an honorary doctorate at the University of Stirling in 1974 and returned in 1975 during his Neil M. Gunn Fellowship. His work, mapping the local and global concerns of our colonial and postcolonial world, offers a pointed, cross-cultural beginning to our international writers’ trail. ‘The world is like a Mask dancing. If you want to see it well you do not stand in one place’ (Arrow of God (1964)).

As creative work that inspires and provokes, the texts subtly change the lived experience of walking through and learning within the Pathfoot Building. Take an international journey and wander through the building and beyond within our expanding House of Words. 

Background: The Story of Art at Stirling

The tradition of collecting art goes back to the founding of the University of Stirling in 1967. As current Principal and Vice-Chancellor Professor Gerry McCormac explains:

My own passion and commitment to arts and culture at Stirling builds on the legacy of the University’s first Principal, Dr Tom Cottrell (1967-1973). It was his vision which led to the foundation of the Art Collection, which in the intervening years has grown to be of international significance and has recently achieved museum status. [. . .] He believed our artworks should be accessible to all, and those of us who work, study or visit here are surrounded by a substantial collection of uplifting and beautiful works of art.

It was this philosophy that prompted the original decision to budget for works of art to enhance the developing campus; indeed 1% of the cost of each new building was earmarked for art to decorate it in the first phase of University building.

Art and Literature in the Collection: a list of artists

The Stirling art collection holds the pieces of a number artists who work between, and at the interfaces of, text and image. These include:

David Bellingham

Glasgow-based Bellingham is a publisher, printmaker and artist. In Theory Thunder (2006) he uses the visual arrangement of words to make the viewer think about the relationship between the words and to challenge our interpretation of the associated ideas. This work can be viewed in Pathfoot ‘A’ corridor.

Thomas A. Clark

Thomas A. Clark is a Scottish artist and poet. Born in Greenock in 1944 he is now based in Pittenweem. Along with his wife Laurie he set up the Moschatel Press, as well as an experimental art space, the Cairn Gallery. Clark acknowledges Ian Hamilton Finlay as a major influence in finding his own style, which has links with the Concrete Poetry movement. In addition to his books and smaller publications, Clark has also made site-specific installations in galleries, in gardens or in the landscape, and has many works in permanent collections world-wide.

Graham Clarke

Graham Clarke is an artist, author, illustrator and humorist. Born in 1941, he was educated at Beckenham Art School, where he fell under the spell of Samuel Palmer’s romantic and visionary view of the Shoreham countryside. At the Royal College of Art he specialised in illustration and printmaking, and pursued his interest in calligraphy. With encouragement from Edward Bawden, Clarke began refining an individual aesthetic, printing traditional landscapes marked by a sense of locality and genre.

Henry H. Clyne

Born on a farm in Caithness, Henry Clyne studied at Edinburgh College of Art 1948-54 and after a two year Harkness fellowship teaching and touring the United States of America, he taught at Norwich, Cheltenham and Winchester schools of Art.  In 1967 he took part in the International Concrete Poetry Exhibition in Brighton, presenting collaborations with Ian Hamilton Finlay.

Brigid Collins

Brigid Collins is a visual artist, maker and illustrator. She is also a lecturer at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art, in Dundee. Passionate in her desire to forge relationships between images and poetry, in particular, she creates paintings and assemblages in two and three dimensions, often in collaboration with writers, poets and other artists or makers and also exhibits widely. This work was inspired by the poem ‘The Tree House’ by Kathleen Jamie and is currently on display in Cottrell reception area.

Alec Finlay

Alec Finlay is an artist, poet & publisher. Born in Scotland in 1966. He has held residencies at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, where he created a series of art projects on themes connected with nature and contemporary culture, AVANT-GARDE ENGLISH LANDSCAPE; BALTIC, where he created a series of publications and performances. During 2013 he undertook a Leverhulme-funded residency, in collaboration with Kathleen Jamie and scientists specializing in solitary bees at the University of Stirling. The project considered the increasing fragility of pollinators; the symbolism of bees in myth, politics, economics, and society; and bee communication, colour-perception, and honeycomb construction. Finlay translated this knowledge into sculpture, poetry, and a bee library sited on campus.

Alasdair Gray

Born in 1934 in Glasgow, Alasdair Gray attended Glasgow Art School 1952-57, then began to make a living as a mural artist, playwright and part-time teacher. In 1981 he published his novel ‘Lanark’ to much acclaim and he has since continued to publish novels, plays and short stories and to paint and illustrate. In 2010 he published an illustrated autobiography ‘A Life in Pictures’. The Art Collection holds several works which were gifted by Alasdair Gray in thanks for the offer of an honorary degree from the University of Stirling (which he declined). These can be seen in Pathfoot A corridor.

Ian Hamilton Finlay

Born in Nassau, Bahamas of Scottish parents, Ian Hamilton Finlay was educated at Dollar Academy. After war service he settled first on Orkney and began to write poetry. In 1961 he founded the Wild Hawthorn Press with Jessie McGuffie.  The output of this press included prints, magazines, booklets, folders and cards on almost all of which he collaborated with other artists - painters, typographers, calligraphers and others. In 1966 he moved with his family to Little Sparta in the Pentlands where he developed a now famous garden. The University Art Collection holds several works by Ian Hamilton Finlay. Most of these are on display in Pathfoot ‘A’ Corridor.

Julie Johnstone

Julie Johnstone is the creator of Essence Press and the Librarian of the Scottish Poetry Library. Her artworks, which take the form of handmade books, cards, or wall-hung screenprints, explore text and language in a contemplative way.

Harada Kankyu

Harada Kankyu visited the University of Stirling recently during its ‘Japanese Week’, where he presented calligraphy demonstrations and led classes. He donated a piece to the Art Collection at the end of his stay.

Moelwyn Merchant

Born in Port Talbot, Wales, Moelwyn Merchant was an academic, novelist, sculptor, poet and Anglican priest. Merchant published a number of books of poetry and took to sculpture relatively late in life, but did so successfully. He was strongly influenced by his close friend Barbara Hepworth. He had numerous solo shows. Growing Form was gifted by the artist through the Scottish Sculpture Workshop in 1993.  It can be seen in the Pathfoot Dining Hall.

Simon Redington

Simon Redington (born 1958) studied Fine Art at Goldsmith’s College in London. Originally a painter of large expressionist oils, after ten years his focus of interest turned to the production of woodcuts and etchings influenced primarily by the work of the German expressionists, then later by the Japanese Ukiyo-e woodblock masters. There are three posters in the Collection with woodcut prints by the artist advertising the TAG Theatre’s production of Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s A Scots Quair (the trilogy made up of Sunset Song, Grey Granite and Cloud Howe). They were purchased by the University Collection in 1994 from an exhibition at the MacRobert Gallery and are on display in Pathfoot B corridor.

Lucky Sibiya

Born in Vryheid, South Africa, Lucky Sibiya grew up in Soweto. As a young boy he experimented with woodcarvings and after he left school he was supported by Cecil Skotnes, one of South Africa’s foremost contemporary artists. He became internationally renowned for his abstract paintings and sculptural carvings. Stirling holds a print from a series of woodcuts based on the theatrical play, Umabatha, by Welcome Msomi. The play portrays historical Zulu events woven around Shakespeare’s plot in Macbeth. There is one more print in the collection from this series, entitled Sangomas Welcoming Mabatha.

Chris Watson

Chris was born in Edinburgh and grew up in Stirling, Scotland. He graduated with a BA in Drawing & Painting from the Glasgow School of Art, with part of his studies taken at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, USA. Chris also has an MA in Sequential Illustration & Design from Brighton University. Chris’s AOI award winning illustration work has been commissioned around the world for fashion labels, record labels, magazines and books. His silkscreened prints and t-shirts have been snapped up at dozens of galleries and boutiques in Europe, Japan and the USA. 

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