Magazine article Art Monthly

Joanne Tatham & Tom O'Sullivan

Magazine article Art Monthly

Joanne Tatham & Tom O'Sullivan

Article excerpt

Joanne Tatham & Tom O'Sullivan Newhailes Musselburgh October 8 to November 12

The central part of Newhailes was built in 1686 in the Palladian style by architect James Smith. He had 32 children, 18 by his first wife and, after she died, another 14 by a second who somehow escaped with her life. Smith had to sell up quite soon, and by 1707 the house was in the possession of Sir David Dalrymple, whose descendants lived there until it was acquired by the National Trust for Scotland a decade ago.

The tour guides are very well-informed about the house and its history They have been given briefing notes on this substantial commission of eight new works by Joanne Tatham & Tom O'Sullivan now deployed throughout the building, part of which read: 'The art is like the pink elephant in the room--do not mention it, rather let it speak for itself.'

The house is near Musselburgh, not far from Edinburgh. One of the wings added in the 18th Century has false windows painted on the outside, because it houses the library, a double-height room in which the greatest minds of Scotland would gather in intellectual discourse. Intellectual discourse was and still is taken seriously in Scotland. The high bookshelves are now empty, but the other furnishings, including a polar bear rug, remain. On the floor next to the rug stand letters, each carved in a different marble by Italian stonemasons, reading 'HEROIN KILLS'; nearby is a big wedge-shaped object. It is made in walnut veneer by a Glasgow cabinet maker--this much the guides will tell you.

Miss Christian Dalrymple, who died in 1836, decreed that the house should undergo no further change and its decor has remained the same since then. The NTS have kept to her wishes, preserving but not restoring the dark green painted wall, the faded chinese silks, the abundant plasterwork decoration by Thomas Clayton with its motifs of sea shells and lions heads. In his time Clayton's work would have been seen as shockingly modern, you might be told.

The elephant in the room is the thought that dominates the minds of all but is never stated. Pink elephants, on the other hand, are the hallucinations of alcoholics. In the dining room, which straddles a border between the old and new wing of the house, sits a rectangular object with diamond-shaped veneers in walnut and maple, front and back, and a rectangular hole through the middle. …

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