Open Frequency 2008: The Lonely Piper selected by Jenny Brownrigg

Open Frequency 2008: The Lonely Piper selected by Jenny Brownrigg The Lonely Piper, The Water of Life, a Spirit Not to be Exorcised, 2006, 35 x 35 cm. Shaped mdf, vinyl matte black emulsion, white ink, polyurethane varnish (eggshell finish). Credit: Pete Dibdin

Curator Jenny Brownrigg profiles the work of Dundee-based artist, The Lonely Piper


The Lonely Piper was genesised in 1999 as the sole protagonist in the film 'I Can't Play The Bagpipes', a romantic yet humorous deconstruction of Scottish stereotype. His body of work to date has a Caledonian twist yet stems from the universal concerns of natural history, life, death, the paranormal and a love of folklore. Modestly referring to his output as 'not the most prolific', part of the enjoyment is that each piece has been re-worked and built up over time, slowly creating a mythology that is tangentially unique to the Piper. Drawn towards a visual form of storytelling, he treats folklore as a contemporary rather than antiquated concern.

In an ongoing painted series of spider's webs, the 'silk' from his spinneret weaves a sentence and a story into each web, entrapping a voice from the natural or spirit world. In 'The Water of Life, a Spirit Not To Be Exorcised' (2006), the bon-motif of the web reads 'The Haunted Dram', which alludes to the following piece of Piper paranormal folklore. “The Haunted Dram' refers to a memory system in which everything remembers, not just humans. A murder from the 1700s remains unsolved. Stabbed over a petty financial or political squabble, 'he that shall remain nameless' was buried in unconsecrated bogland. Through centuries the land changes. Drained to become farmland, it now grows barley to supply the local whisky distillery. The distillation process accentuates a paranormal window for these barley heads that have sucked up the victim's horrific last moments. The mind of any drinker tasting this particular dram becomes a conduit for the re-animation of this dying man.'

For The Lonely Piper, the memory system of his own work alternates between the story he carries with him, the actual artwork and its title. In another web, 'Every Moment's a Masterpiece' (2005), the woven inscription 'The Rugged Grandeur Gallery' resonates as a crystal phrase but also more so when one learns from the Piper that, 'This gallery exists out-with architectural confines. It is a geographically and geologically defined gallery of unpainted landscapes. The Highlands of Scotland are distilled into a gallery that the Lonely Piper represents, rather than the other way around.'

The Lonely Piper also makes collages that unite the natural world with the transcendental. 'Frozen Waterfall Traversed' (2006) depicts a group of salmon going one step further than the river's source, encapsulating them mid-leap on a mountain summit. 'The Cosmic Monarch' (2006) is a photomontage representing a 'Pagan Rudolph' against the backdrop of The Horsehead Nebula. His nose is a red Fly Agaric mushroom. This multi-layered approach to meaning is also apparent in The Lonely Piper's sculptural work 'The Cancerian' (2007). The shed antler of a red deer has very subtly had its top fork shaped and painted to represent a crab's claw.

It is no surprise that in noting the eloquence of words in his artwork, The Lonely Piper is also a gifted writer, with a unique style drawn to both archaic and contemporary language. His swiftness of mind and unerring love of puns has clocked up many memorable phrases. In his 2007 essay for the Crafts Council of England, a group of potters are referred to as 'serial kilners'.

Jenny Brownrigg, February 2008


Artist's biography

The Lonely Piper (C.R.M b.1975, Inverness / T.L.P b.1999, Rannoch Moor) graduated in 1998 with BA (Hons) Fine Art Printmaking, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, Dundee. Selected group shows include: Highland–Visual Responses to Highland Scotland, (2007), The Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh (touring to An Lanntair, Stornaway, Isle of Lewis 2008); Digital VD, (2007-) a touring exhibition (USA and Europe) of 60 one minute films by 60 artists, curated by Michael Windle, Moira Payne and Edward Summerton; Art Futures (2007) The Bloomberg Space, London; Textual Healing, (2007) The Embassy, Edinburgh; Where The Wild Things Are, (2006) DCA, Dundee; Coconut and Vanilla Sundays (2006), two-person with Alberta Whittle, Generator Projects, Dundee; Campbell's Soup, The Mackintosh Gallery, The Glasgow School of Art (2005) curated by Neil Mulholland; Art Futures (2005), The Bloomberg Space, London; The Embassy at the Zoo Art Fair (2005); The Best of the Flower Press (2005), A Beta Band Publication; Fire and Brimstone, (2004) The Embassy, Edinburgh, curated by Dave Maclean; Albatross (2004), Galeria Sztuki, Wozownia,Torun, Poland.

Recent published writings include: The Hydro-Electric Ladyland for The Nemeton Tour (2008), a series of collaborative journeys with both visual and written outcomes for an eventual publication as part of the Nemeton project developed by Dr Norman Shaw; From a Macclesfield of Dreams (2006) commissioned exhibition text for David Shrigley's solo show at DCA, Dundee; The Sandblasted Pillars of a Sandstone Community (2006) essay for The Young Athenians exhibition catalogue, edited by Neil Mulholland; 'Bird of the Devil' (2006) A Strict Nature Reserve Book by Edward Summerton and published by ET4U Denmark; 'Bird of the Devil' (2006), feature Article for MAP Magazine, Issue 7; Hunter's Expedition of Discovery (beyond the final parallel) @ Generator Projects, Dundee (2002), review, Flash Art International.

The Lonely Piper lives and works in Dundee.


About Jenny Brownrigg

Jenny Brownrigg is University of Dundee Exhibitions Department Curator at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design (2002-). She graduated with BA (hons) Fine Art from Glasgow School of Art (1990-4) and MFA at DJCAD (1996). Previous posts have included; Gallery Co-ordinator at Changing Room Gallery, Stirling (1998-9), and Project Officer at Grizedale Arts, Cumbria (2000-2).

As an artist Jenny undertook several residencies including the Scottish Arts Council Pier Arts Centre Fellowship, Orkney (1998). She is also the author of two publications; 'Nature Centre', the result of a writer's residency with Grizedale Arts, and 'Romantic Vanguard', a screenplay which was developed during her artist residency with Royston Road Project in Blackhill, Glasgow (2002). She writes articles for magazines including Untitled and The Map. She was co-curator of The Young Artists' Biennial Absent Without Leave (AWOL) , 2nd Edition, Bucharest, Romania, Oct 14 - Nov 16 2006. 


Open Frequency keeps you in touch with new developments in contemporary art practice from across the UK. The artists are selected and profiled by leading curators, artists and writers, presenting the work of artists to watch out for over the coming year. Open Frequency represents a forward-looking glance today of the artists who will be setting the agenda tomorrow.