Projection artist Ross Ashton from E/T/C London was commissioned to create 3 special art works for the 2009 St Andrews Festival, a 3-day event designed to celebrate the rich history and culture of St Andrews, home of the Scottish Patron Saint. This was staged amidst the beautiful environs of the town of St Andrews on the last weekend in November.
Two of the 3 projections were at the ruined Cathedral of St Andrews. The site dates back to the 8th century as a religious settlement, and in 1318 the ‘new’ cathedral became the largest ever to be built in Scotland after 150 years of construction. Ashton projected giant moving images onto the altar area and one on the cloister walls.
The third site was in St Mary’s Quadrangle, part of St Andrews’ famous university – the third oldest in the English speaking world. These were the only light works in the 2009 Festival.
Ashton had produced a small piece for last year’s Festival, after which he was asked back by event organiser Rob Murray-Brown to do a piece specifically about St Andrews, to be staged in the city. The sites were chosen by Rob Murray-Brown in consultation with Ross Ashton, The University of St Andrews and Historic Scotland.
Ashton’s research found the numerous legends and myths surrounding St Andrew were rich pickings as creative starting points, and in particular the legend of the monk Regulus (St Rule), the keeper of St. Andrew’s bones in Patras, Greece, where Andrew was crucified. Regulus had a dream telling him to take the bones, travel and form a church where he landed … and it is said that he survived a shipwreck in the harbour nearby, making the Scottish connection.
The haunting and dramatically beautiful location of the Cathedral on top of a cliff overlooking the sea also immediately lent itself to some powerful imagery involving the surrounding environment. St Andrew was apparently also a fisherman, so the artwork wove together the many elements of myths, life on the sea, religion and the city as a place of pilgrimage.
Ashton came up with a trio of separate but related storyboards for the 3 different locations, which were all completely different shapes and sizes.
The Altar is an elegant twin tower with the remains of the stained glass windows above, and the projection was about 13 metres wide and 30 metres tall. This was achieved using 1 x PIGI 6K machine with a double rotating scroller. The work was titled “Via Caeli” (By Way of Heaven).
The Cloister wall projection “Via Maris” (By Way of the Sea) was 60 metres long and 10 metres high, and composed from 3 x PIGIs with double rotating scrollers.
As with the Altar, some complex masking was required to fit the projections around the arches and the holes that would once have been windows.
The St Mary’s Quadrangle piece was called “Origin” and measured 20 metres wide by 15 metres tall, created with one cross-fading pair of PIGIs.
The projectors were all enclosed in weatherised hides supplied by E/T/C London, essential to protect against the inclement weather which included high winds and torrential rain!
Each 15 minute show ran as a loop for 3 hours each evening of the Festival, with all shows programmed by Karen Monid using an OnlyCue PC based system. Monid also created soundscapes for the St Mary’s and Cloister projections, adding another experiential dimension for viewers.
Ashton worked on the project on and off for the best part of a year, with site visits, meetings and a lot of research. He and Paul Chatfield then spent 4 intense weeks creating all the images and compiling them as PIGI artwork.
Ashton concludes, “It was a great privilege to be asked to work on this project to honour Scotland’s Patron Saint in such an amazing location. There were many technical and imaginative challenges in producing an engaging, informative and fun show”.
St Andrews follows on from Ashton’s recent light artworks for Lumiere, Durham Festival of Light, Pittsburgh Festival of Light in the US and Rheinpartie in Germany.