The University of Stirling’s art collection has a magnificent new showpiece, having been donated a sculpture by renowned Scottish artist, Dr Alastair Ross RSA.
The beautiful female torso in gilded Jesmonite, entitled Kharis, is a superb addition to the growing collection which contains over 300 pieces exhibited across campus.
Explaining his reasons for donating the sculpture, Dr Ross said he has “fond childhood memories of playing around the campus area having grown up in nearby Dunblane.”
He added: “It’s a pleasure to donate Kharis to such a fantastic art collection, which has a wonderfully rich range of pieces and with which I feel a strong sense of connection. From the collection’s early origins in the 1960s, the University has built on its mission to put art firmly at the heart of the educational experience at Stirling and continues to add to the collection astutely so that its pieces are increasingly richer and more varied.
“This makes the collection the envy of a lot of other educational institutions and ensures art is not a mere tag-on campus feature, but a cherished asset and an integral part of the University.”
Kharis is a depiction of the Greek mythological figure Kharis (or Aglaea) who was the Goddess of splendour, gracefulness and charm, and one of the three Kharites (three Graces) who attended Aphrodite. “Not only does this make it a fitting subject for the glorious gold material of the sculpture,” said Dr Ross, “but it resonates with the beauty and charm of the campus and surrounding environment.”
Ross’ work is influenced heavily by his experiences in Greece, having spent a significant length of time there as a postgraduate student. It was here that he first developed a passion for fragmentary sculptures depicting sections of bodies rather than whole bodies, because he realised how a greater impact could be achieved by leaving some things to the imagination. Whilst nearly 50 years have passed since his initial period in Greece, the experience continues to influence his work.
University Art Curator Jane Cameron said: “We are delighted to receive this beautiful new sculpture and very grateful to Dr Alistair Ross for his generous donation. Kharis is an attention-grabbing piece which complements the other sculptures on campus wonderfully, including Danae II, a sculpture Dr Ross gifted to the art collection two years ago.”
She added: “Its depiction of the curvaceous female form also gives it a commonality with many of our paintings. Interestingly, another particularly striking and popular piece in our collection is the work of Marna Rinder, a former student of Dr Ross, so it’s lovely to be able to see the two works – that of both tutor and former student – in close proximity.”
Perth-born Dr Alastair Ross graduated from the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art in Dundee in 1965 with distinction. A leading figurative sculptor in the UK and a multi award-winner, he has lectured in various art colleges and universities, both in Scotland and the USA. His work is displayed in a range of prestigious locations, including on-board the P & O Steam Navigation Company’s superliner, Aurora, and the world headquarters of Rank Xerox International. Private collectors include Sharleen Spiteri, David Tennant, Nick Nairn, Paolo Nutini and J K Rowling. His works embrace a wide variety of artistic concepts, scales, media and contexts, but the human figure is his core artistic preoccupation and one which underpins all his sculptural output.
The tradition of collecting art at Stirling goes back to the founding of the University in 1967 when Professor Tom Cottrell was the first Principal. A scientist by training, he came from an artistic background and had very clear ideas about art and its place in society. He felt that art should be part of the everyday experience at the University and this vision began to take shape when Stirling was gifted a collection of the late Fergusson’s work by the artist's partner, Margaret Morris and the J D Fergusson Arts Foundation.
From these origins, the Art Collection has grown substantially and, over 40 years later, the University now has a diverse range on display with over 300 works covering a broad spectrum of modern Scottish painting, sketches, tapestries, silver and sculpture. Included are works by distinguished artists like John Bellany, Elizabeth Blackadder, Alan Davie, Joan Eardley, Eduardo Paolozzi and Anne Redpath. There are also regular temporary exhibitions by invited artists and of items from the University Archives. The University’s policy of continuing to attain new works remains a priority and ensures that new art is continually being acquired and displayed on campus.