Alex Flett; a biography

 

 

 

 

Born Alexander Smith Flett on the 25th Jan 1950 in Findochty. Buckie Banffshire (Moray) Scotland. Lived in Findochty (Finechty) until 1961.

 

 

Findochty (Finechty) harbour entrance

Findochty (Finechty) harbour entrance.

 

!955/61:

Attended Buckie Infants and Junior High School

 

 Alex Flett with his brother and father 1959

Alex Flett with his brother and father 1959

 

 

1961: Family moved to Tyneside, in northeast England.

 

1961/2:

Blyth Grammar School

 

1962/3:

Whitley Bay Grammar School

 

1963/68:

Tynemouth High School.

 

1963: schoolboy crewmember of the school boat “Endeavour“, from Tyneside to the north of Scotland, the Caledonian Canal and return.

 

1968/69:

Studies at Central St. Martin’s School of Art, London.

 

1969/72:

Studies at Winchester School of Art, Hampshire, England.

 

 1970: Sent by Winchester School of Art to study in Paris.

 

Alex Flett with the Designer Jude Sharman, 1970

Alex Flett with the Designer Jude Sharman, 1970

 

1971/72/73/74: Regular visits to St Ives in Cornwall, met the artists Patrick Heron Roger Hilton, Brian Wynter, Tony O' Malley, and the Scots poet W S. Graham.

 

 

 

 

Alex Flett at Winchester School of Art 197

Alex Flett at Winchester School of Art 1972

 

1972/74:

Post graduate studies at the University of London, Slade School of Fine Art.

 

1974/5:

Living and working in London and in France.

 

1976:

Returned to Findochty and met Eunice Calder (whom he married in 1982),

 

Set up studio in a spare room in the local Findochty School.

 

1976/78:

Moved to the Midlands of England.

 

Studied Art Education in Birmingham, and under Prof. Brian Allison in Leicester.

Although spending very little time as a formal art teacher, Allison's belief in the importance of art education as the third leg in an educational tripod alongside mathematics and language, has influenced workshops, school residencies, and lectures on art since.

 

Began researching in the Psychology of Art.

 

1978/82:

Set up the studio in a shed at the side of the house in Findochty and in order to supplement income, worked in Isere, France as a language teacher, in Buckie Scotland as a cab driver, and in Cullen Scotland as a barman.

 

1982:

Married Eunice Calder whose parents lived next door to the artists own parents in the village of Findochty (Finechty).

 

1983:

Began drawing Eunice, including several studies while pregnant with their three daughters, born in 1983, 1985, and 1988

 

Moved to Keith in Morayshire, and worked as a labourer in a woollen mill.

 

The woollen mill and Eunice’s business as a Textile Designer, influenced the art work as strands of woollen yarn became a significant part of many sculptural works, in particular those for the Celtic Odyssey series in the mid to late 1990’s.

 

 

Eunice 1983 – oil on canvas

Eunice 1983 – oil on canvas

 

 

1984:

Constructed the house living area into a studio which could be turned from work space to general living space in a few minutes each morning and evening. This idea borrowed from the story of Jasper Johns resulted in a major interview with the Aberdeen Press and Journal.

 

1985:

Together with Eunice (who was at the time nine months pregnant with their second child), turned a church hall in the town of Keith into a venue for a major international exhibition, inviting figures such as Tony O' Malley, Jane O' Malley, Malcolm Hughes, Edward Meneely, Norman Ackroyd, and Tess Jaray to participate alongside himself and other artists living and working in the North of Scotland.

 

1985/6:

Taught at Gordonstoun School

 

1986/88:

Up to this point the studio/living space had to be abandoned due to a growing family and outside studio space moved to an old garage building in the Deskford area near Cullen, and afterwards to an old farm labourer’s cottage near Cornhill. Unable to maintain a car, the position of such affordable studio space meant two hours of walking every day.

 

 

1988:

Invited by the University of Aberdeen Department of Adult and Continuing Education to lecture on Medieval to Modern Art.

 

 

1989:

Moved to Udny area north of Aberdeen.

 

Began playing Blues music in venues around Aberdeen to supplement the family income.

 

Began printing at The Peacock Printmakers, Artists Printmakers Workshop in Aberdeen.

 

Alex Flett and daughter Verity 1990 Alex Flett and daughter Verity 1990.

Alex Flett working at Peacock 1990

Alex Flett working at Peacock 1990

 

Interviewed by the BBC on work for the Queen Mother Library at the University of Aberdeen.

 

1990:

Taught in Ormskirk Lancashire

 

Took up the post of Education Officer for the Peacock Printmakers. Designed and taught “The Portfolio Course”, an intense series of classes in Life Drawing and Printmaking for final year pupils from Aberdeen High Schools applying for entry to art school.

 

1991:

As a research project for the University of Aberdeen  created a suite of full colour etchings based on the Inferno of Dante.

Invited by the University Dante Society to lecture on the 13th Century Italian poet.

Came into contact for the second time (the first was a brief meeting in London in 1974), with the Scottish Art Impresario Richard Demarco.

Invited by the Open University in Scotland to tutor “Modern Art and Modernism”

 

1993:

Exhibited the Dante Suite of Etchings at the Demarco European Art Foundation in Edinburgh. The suite of etchings subsequently were exhibited at the National Theatre in Amsterdam, Holland, during which time invited to draw in the studios of the National Ballet of the Netherlands.

 

1994:

Received sponsorship from Xerox Scotland to create a series of prints using Xerox Technology. These works were based on the ballet drawings from Amsterdam.

 

The Ballet Suite of Xerographs exhibited by Richard Demarco in Edinburgh, who subsequently invited him to become Venue Manager for the Edinburgh Fringe International Arts Festival.

 

Moved to Lochfergus House near Kirkcudbright.

 

Lochfergus House

Lochfergus House

 

1996:

Invited to exhibit at the MacLaurin Gallery in Ayr, and created “Celtic Odyssey” which then travelled to Strasbourg where it was exhibited in the European Parliament buildings.

 

While building Celtic Odyssey had an accident with an electric band saw which went through the joint of the left hand small finger. Although the finger was saved, the resultant blood poisoning proved very nearly fatal. 

 

Began drawing in wood with a electric drill. This work later became to woodblock Dancer series which was proofed at the Peacock Printmakers in Aberdeen, but were not editioned until 2002 through Duncan of Jordanstone School of Art print department.

 

Drawing with a power drill 1995

Drawing with a power drill 1995

 

1997:

Invited to visit the USA by the artist Ed Meneeley.

 

Met the Norwegian environmental activist Inger Mette Stenseth. Began writing on Bueys, Schwitters and art and the environment for the environmental group 360 Hub.

 

1998:

Part of the small four person team (including Eunice) which created an Arts Festival for the town of Kirkcudbright.

The Festival programme contained visual art, theatre and dance including the legendary Hungarian dancer Yvette Boszek, plus a Seminar/debate on colour, chaired by the then Director of the MacLaurin Gallery, Mike Bailey, to which was invited the painters Ed Meneely, Lys Hansen, Terry Frost, and Stephen Newton, and the educationalist Prof. Brian Allison. The seminar was recorded, but remains as yet, unpublished.

 

1999:

Invited to exhibit the solo exhibition “Aspects” in Brussels at the European Parliament buildings (facilitated by Alex Smith MEP). The show moved to Bruges in Belgium, Maastricht in Holland, and to the MacLaurin Gallery in Ayr, Scotland. 

 

Alex Flett with the President of the EU 1999

Alex Flett with the President of the EU 1999

 

Invited through the European Parliament to become the European advisor for the International Working Group of the "Amasiko" (Cultural) Programme of the XIII International Aids Conference in Durban, South Africa.

 

2000:

Given sponsorship by Xerox, Johannesburg, South Africa to create “The Bodyworks Suite” a set of limited edition Xerographs based on MRI scans of the artist’s spine.

 

Developed “Bodyworks” as a set of workshops for children during the Durban AIDS Conference using photocopiers, under the legend “You only get one body, so look after it”

 

BBC Interview on the work at the Conference.

 

Invited to contribute a print edition to the Art for Humanity HIV/AIDS Print Portfolio and Billboard Project. The image used “Three Dancers” was originally conceived as a a large A1 woodblock print drawn using a power drill into soft board in the mid nineties and which had only ever been proofed. A new A2 size edition was created for the Break the Silence portfolio by photo-silkscreen with help from the Peacock Artists Printmakers Workshop in Aberdeen. 

 

2001:

Exhibited solo show “Modern Icons” at the Irvine Gallery in North Ayreshire, Scotland.

 

Exhibited at the Amnesty International 40th Anniversary Exhibition held at the Nexus 2 Gallery in Edinburgh with a work entitled “Monument to the unknown political prisoner”

 

The launch of Art for Humanity "Break the Silence" Print Portfolio Exhibition in Durban South Africa.

 

2002:

Third solo show “From the edge to the Centre” for the European Parliament (facilitated by Prof. Neil MacCormick MEP)

 

Cultural Advisor to the XIV International AIDS Conference in Barcelona. Created "Bodyworks II".

 

Interview with BBC on the work at the Conference.

 

Mentor for the "Green Footprints - Blue Planet" Conference for young Egyptians at the New Library of Alexandria and organised by the Scandinavian company, 360Hub. Sections of the works produced by the youth at the Conference were seen at the Earth Summit in Johannesburg.

 

At the invite of Environmental Quality International, visited the Oasis of Siwa and the legendary Oracle at the temple of Amon Ra. Performed a Beuys style "Aktion" based on Celtic myth.

 

Co-ordinated the visit of the "Break the Silence" Exhibition to the Lamb Gallery, University of Dundee, and to Gracefield Art Centre in Dumfries.

 

Organised the "Break the Silence" Young Artists Residency with Art for Humanity and Duncan of Jordanstone School of Art, Dundee, Scotland.

 

Invited to print at Duncan of Jordanstone School of Art, University of Dundee. Editioned the woodblock Dancer series of prints including the original “Three Dancers” woodblock version (A1 size) from which the A2 silkscreen edition for Break the Silence was developed.

 

Second exhibition with Amnesty International at the Glasgow Museum of Modern Art.

 

Invited to become an Associate Board Member of the South African Art Charity, Art for Humanity (formerly known as Artists for Human Rights). Began twice yearly visits to Durban in South Africa.

 

Beginning of Break the Silence “Three Dancers” Billboard image in the Eastern Cape in South Africa.

 

Began twice yearly visits to Art for Humanity (formerly called Artists for Human Rights) in Durban South Africa.

 

2003: 

Began the organisation of the Kirkcudbright International Arts Festival. This was the second Arts Festival to be organised for the town but the term International was added to the title to enhance its commitment to bringing in artists from other countries both to exhibit and experience the culture of Scotland.

 

2004:

Kirkcudbright International Arts Festival exhibitions launched with work from Art for Humanity, plus of lectures from various artists including the Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang, the Turkish sculptor Kemal Tufan, Scots sculptors George Whyllie and Arthuer Watson and the Japanese sculptor Hideo Feruta. Sponsored by the Moore Foundation, these lectures were videoed but the videos have never been seen publicly.

 

Exhibited “Bodyworks III” at the XV International AIDS Conference in Bangkok Included in the exhibition and workshop were the Bodyworks suite of prints, a set of which was stolen. At interview with the BBC, stated “I do not know whether to be annoyed or pleased that my work is considered interesting enough to steal”

 

Began printing regularly at the Durban University of Technology School of Fine Art.

 

 

Alex Flett with Cai Guo-Qiang 2004

Alex Flett with Cai Guo-Qiang 2004

 

 

2005:

Visited New York at the invitation of Cai Guo-Qiang and met the Philippines artist Don Salubayba.

 

Created “Giant Magnetic Fish for the city of Molde in Norway. An interactive sculpture work based on the children’s table top game “Magnetic fish” The work was co-ordinated and facilitated by the Environmentalist Inger Mette Stenseth.

 

2006:

Visited The University of New Mexico State.

 

Delegate for Art for Humanity at the XVI International AIDS Conference in Toronto, Canada.

 

Began the organisation of the third Kirkcudbright Arts Festival.

 

2007:

At the invitation of the artist Don Salubayba, visited Manila and the Philippines High School of the Arts.

 

Alex Flett at the Philippines High School of the Arts 2007

Alex Flett at the Philippines High School of the Arts 2007

 

 

As Projects Director set up the Kirkcudbright International Arts Festival which included Art for Humanity’s “Women for Children” print and poetry portfolio and artists from France, South Africa, Botswana, the Philippines, USA and Scotland.

 

Working between Scotland and South Africa, created a solo exhibition “Durban Odyssey” for the Durban University of Technology Gallery.

 

2008:

With the American artist Meg Walker, exhibited “Human Being” in Peebles, Scotland.

 

Delegate for Art for Humanity at the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City. Co-authored Conference published Abstract on Advocacy and Human Rights in HIV/AIDS Awareness with Jan Jordaan Director of Art for Humanity (formerly Artists for Human Rights)

 

2009:

Was invited to build a series of workshops and exhibitions on behalf of the medical equipment company “Alere” (formerly Inverness Medical). With the help of Art for Humanity, a portfolio project was built and a series of workshops were created called The PIMA Project. This was named after an important breakthrough by Alere in testing viral load in HIV patients anywhere in Africa and elsewhere, where access to medical programmes was limited or where there was no electricity, using one pin prick of blood. The PIMA machine dispensed with the need for large testing machines in hospitals. Built like a square lap top computer and portable, it could run from battery power and created a sense of safety for those who did not want their neighbours to know they were HIV positive as the viral load testing could be done by a nurse in the patient’s home.

The PIMA portfolio was created by the artists Lawrence Lemoaona, Yvette Dunn, Nontobeko Ntombela and Nicole Erasmus, and these prints joined “Break the Silence” for Exhibition in Cape Town, Polokwane, and Gaborone.

 Workshops were also created in Polokwane and in Gaborone and the works from these were also exhibited.

 

 Alex Flett with the log which became Venus Nevirapine in 2008

Alex Flett with the log which became Venus Nevirapine in 2008

The whole of the second half of 2009 was taken up with these PIMA Projects and the work Venus Nevirapine had to be left waiting until 2010 when it was possible to start on the work again.

 

2010:

Left the Committee of Art for Humanity and began working towards the Solo show “Kirkcudbright Works 1995 – 2012” Not having exhibited Solo in Kirkcudbright since 1995 when the Dancer Suite of Xerographs was exhibited at the Tollbooth it was decided that a show of selected works made since arriving in Kirkcudbright in late 1994 should be entered into. Thanks to the young photographer Oliver Dobbin, the Venus piece had been documented at every stage of its long development and a selection of these images were included in the exhibition while 189 were selected out to make up part of a DVD catalogue. Thanks to his widow Lieve Fransen, the DVD also contains music from the legendary jazz saxophonist Noah Howard and runs for 17.5 minutes and is stoppable at any time should viewers wish to study any pages or images. In 2013, the DVD was officially archived into the Tate Gallery.

 

2011:

An autobiography was begun in this year, and will be ready sometime in late 2014. The art work “Monarch of the Glen – The bicycle of Impossibility” went to an Environmental Charity in Durban which was trying to get people onto bicycles.

 

2013:

Invited to participate in the : “Inkunzi Emanxebba – The Legacy Continues” exhibition  along with Bongi Bengu, Charles Nkosi, David Koloane, Colbert Mashile, Mbongeni Buthelezi, Zamani Makhaye, Nontsikelelo Veleko, Zama Dunywa, Ezekiel Budeli, Tumelo Mokopakgosi, Zwelethu Mthethwa, Norman Kathrine, Themba Shibase, Zolile Petshane and Lunga Poho. The exhibition will be travelling to Johannesburg, Polokwane and arriving in Bloemfontein in 2015.

 

2014:  

Most of the latter half of 2013 and particularly the first part of 2014 have been plagued with illness, making it very difficult to do much except read. “Time is never truly wasted, I have at least been able to catch up with literature. When I die, I will be doing one of the following, Drawing, Painting, Sculpting or Reading”

Later this year, a complete overhaul of the studio, the storeroom and the archive is planned

 

Exhibitions from 1989 onwards, (in reverse order).

 

2013: “Inkunzi Emanxebba – The Legacy Continues” City of Durban Art Gallery, South Africa.

2012: “Kirkcudbright Works 1995 – 2012” Solo; Tollbooth Art Centre, Kirkcudbright, Scotland.

2011: “Red Eye” Group: City of Durban Art Gallery, South Africa.

2009: “PIMA Project Exhibition” Group; National Museum and Art Gallery, Gaborone, Botswana.

2009: “PIMA Project Exhibition” Group; Polokwane City Art Gallery, South Africa.

2009: “Break the Silence” Group; Alliance Francais, Cape Town, South Africa

2009: “Break the Silence” Group; IAS Conference, Cape Town, South Africa.

2008: “Human Being” Two person show with Meg Walker. Peebles, Scotland.

2007: “Durban Odyssey” Solo: Durban University of Technology.

2007:  The Kirkcudbright International Arts Festival; Group: Kirkcudbright, Scotland.

2005: “Giant Magnetic Fish” Solo; Interactive sculpture: Molde, Norway.

2004:  The New Kirkcudbright International Arts Festival: Group. Kirkcudbright, Scotland.

2004: Bodyworks III Solo: XV International AIDS Conference, Bangkok, Thailand.
2004: “Break the Silence”. Group: HIV/AIDS Research Institute, Nelson Mandela School of Medicine, South Africa.

2003: “Break the Silence” Group: Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver, Colorado, USA.

2003: “Break the Silence” Group: Margaret de Villiers Art Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa.

2003: “Sanctuary” Group: Amnesty International at the Glasgow Museum of Modern Art, Scotland

2003: “Break the Silence” Group: Tatham Art Gallery, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.

2003: “Break the Silence” Group: US Gallery, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa.

2002: "Break the Silence" Group: Palais des Nations Geneva, Switzerland.

2002: “Break the Silence” Group: MTN, Civic Gallery, Sandton, Johannesburg, South Africa.
2002: “Bodyworks II" Solo: The XIV International AIDS Conference Barcelona.
           "Break the Silence" Group: The XIV International AIDS Conference Barcelona.
2002: “Break the Silence” Group: National Museum
of Botswana.

2002: “Break the Silence” Group: Fowler Museum UCLA, USA.
2002: "From the Edge to the Centre" Solo: Salle Polyvalente, European Parliament Brussels.
2002: "Break the Silence" Group: National Gallery of Namibia.
2001: "Break the Silence" Group: National Gallery of Art, Cape Town, South Africa.
2001: "Break the Silence" Group: City of Durban Art Gallery, South Africa.
2001: “Modern Icons" Solo: The Vennel Gallery (North Ayrshire) Irvine, Scotland.
2001:  Amnesty International, 40th Anniversary. Exhibition. Group: Nexus 2 Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland.
2000:  Red Eye Exhibition, Group: City of Durban Art Gallery, South Africa.
2000: “Bodyworks I” The Democratic Gallery, Solo: The B.A.T Centre, XIII International AIDS Conference, Durban, South Africa. 
1999: “Aspects” Solo: The Maclaurin Gallery, Ayr, Scotland. 
1999: “Aspects” Solo: The Groote Societiet, Maastricht. Holland.
1999: “Aspects” Solo: The Huis Der Kunsten, Bruges, Belgium. 
1999: “Aspects” Solo: Salle Polyvalente, The European Parliament, Brussels, Belgium. 
1998:  Queen Elizabeth College Gallery, Solo: Darlington, England. 
1998:  The Kirkcudbright Arts Festival, Group: Kirkcudbright, Scotland.
1998: "Pennsylvania Dialogue" Group: The Tollbooth Arts Centre, Kirkcudbright, 1998: 1998: “Pennsylvania Dialogue” Group: The Queen Elizabeth College Gallery, Darlington, England.

1998: “Pennsylvania Dialogue” The Maclaurin Gallery, Ayr, Scotland.

 
1996: “Celtic Odyssey” Solo: The European Parliament Gallery, Strasbourg, France.

1996: "Celtic Odyssey" Solo: The Maclaurin Gallery, Ayr, Scotland. 

1996: "Brave Art.” Group: The Smith Art Gallery and Museum, Stirling, Scotland.

1996:  The Conoco Gallery, Group: Aberdeen, Scotland.
1996: “The Dante Suite” Solo: St Bees School, Cumbria, England.

1995: “The Dancer Suite” Solo: St Bees School, Cumbria, England

1995: “The Dancer Suite” Solo: The Tolbooth Art Centre. Kirkcudbright, Scotland.
1994: “The Dancer Suite” Solo: St. Leonard's School, St. Andrews, Fife, Scotland.
1994: “The Dancer Suite” Solo: The Music Theatre, Amsterdam, Holland.
1994:  Peacock Art Space Gallery, Solo: Aberdeen, Scotland. 
1994: “The Dancer Suite” Solo: The Demarco European Art Foundation, Edinburgh, Scotland. 
1993: “The Dante Suite” Solo: The Music Theatre, Amsterdam, Holland.

1993: “The Dante Suite” Solo: The Demarco European Art Foundation, Edinburgh, Scotland.

1993 - 1995: “Witnesses of Existence - a British Affirmation” Group: London, Berlin, and Sarajevo, Bosnia.
1992:  The Peacock/Art Space Gallery Group: Aberdeen, Scotland. 
1992:  City of Aberdeen Art Gallery, Group: Aberdeen, Scotland. 
1989:  The Queen Mother Library, Solo: University of Aberdeen, Scotland.

 

Public, Academic, and Corporate Collections:- 

 

The Museum of Modern Art, New York,

The International AIDS Society, Geneva.

The United Nations, Geneva.

The National Museum Art Gallery of Botswana.

The European Parliament, Brussels, Luxembourg, and Strasbourg.

The Fowler Museum UCLA, USA.

The Darcy Thomson Museum, Dundee, Scotland.

The Smith Art Gallery and Museum, Stirling, Scotland.

The City of Durban Art Gallery, South Africa.

The Africa Centre, Durban, South Africa.

North Ayrshire Museums, Irvine, Scotland.

The National Gallery of Art, Namibia.

The American Consulate General, South Africa.

The Stewartry Museum, Scotland.

The Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology, South Africa.

The National Gallery of Bosnia (Sarajevo).

The National Arts Council of South Africa.

The University of Edinburgh, Scotland.

The Association of Medical Pathologists, South Africa.

The University of Aberdeen, Scotland.

 St Bees School, Cumbria, England.

 St Leonard's School, Fife, Scotland.

The Durban Institute of Technology, South Africa.

MTN (Telecommunications) South Africa.

Conoco UK, Aberdeen.

Xerox South Africa (Johannesburg).

The Xerox Document Company, Glasgow,

 Plastic Moulding Ltd., Scotland.

P & O North Sea Ferries, Hull, England.

The Kirkcudbright Health Centre, Scotland.

The Ewart Library, Dumfries, Scotland.

Grampian Hospitals Group, Scotland.

The Demarco European Art Foundation. Edinburgh, Scotland.

The Peacock Printmakers, Aberdeen, Scotland.

Alere (formerly Inverness Medical) , Pima Technical Support Centre, Cape Town, South Africa.

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