Own Art: David Faithfull
David Faithfull is one of seven artists commissioned to make new work at Traquair House this summer in an exciting new show called Reflective Histories: Contemporary Interventions at Traquair. Along with Calum Colvin, Duncan Robertson, Helen Douglas, Lesley Logue, Nicola Murray and Rachel Maclean, Faithfull has produced work in direct response to the historically significant building that is said to have once slept Mary, Queen of Scots.
As part of a collaboration between Edinburgh Printmakers and Traquair House, the show will be open from 1 July–30 September, with the mixture of established and emerging Scotland-based artists producing a variety of work that includes print, video and sculpture.
Traquair House was a Stuart sympathiser in its heyday and was a refuge for Catholic priests, as well as the young pretender Bonnie Prince Charlie when he notoriously paid Scotland a visit.
Drawing on a variety of symbols that were once significant to those embroiled in the in the Jacobite Risings of the 17th and 18th centuries, Faithfull has made a number of interventions around the house.
“The title of the work is The Oak Gall Interventions or the Art of Concealment,” he explains. “I’m concealing things around the collection at Traquair House, and by chance I seem to be looking at a lot of games – a chess board, a pack of Georgian cards and the maze in the garden.”
In one instance he has replaced the knights on a chessboard with unicorns, the heraldic symbol of Scotland on the Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom. “I’ve just been to the Lyceum this afternoon to pick up a Jacobite and Hanoverian costume,” Faithfull laughs. “With Rachel Maclean I’m reenacting the battle of Culloden on a chessboard.”
In form, the unicorn looks much like a knight you might find on any chessboard – chest out and mouth slightly agape, as though rearing up on its hind legs – only it has a single horn protruding from its head. Its surface is decorated with a pattern of red oak branches and leaves.
“The unicorn is the symbol of Scotland,” says Faithfull, “and the oak tree is a symbol of good fortune for the Stuart Dynasty because Charles II hid in an oak tree after the battle of Worcester in 1651.”
The unicorn is made using a kind of three-dimensional printing process that can make solid objects from a digital file. “The chess piece is a three dimensional print,” he says. “The colour goes right the way through it, so it’s not a rapid prototype object that has been painted, it’s actually solid colour. If you cut it in half the oak leaves get smaller as you reach the centre.”
Along with the unicorn, Faithfull has produced a book and beer bottle labels that simultaneously utilise and obscure a symbolic code that he has derived from the period, deliberately confusing references to the Stuart Dynasty with signifiers of Jacobitism.
Faithful will also have a box multiple on sale during the exhibition, which includes a beer bottle with one of his handmade labels, a set of playing cards with instructions for the card game, a print and one of the unicorn chess pieces.
Alone, David Faithfull’s work would justify a trip to Traquair House this summer. Showing alongside the other six artists, Reflective Histories looks to be an exciting and diverse show, made all the better by being outside the main cities.