Saxon goddess of Spring inspires Aberdeen Art Gallery’s first artist-in-residence

Sound and performance artist Maja Zećo has today (Wednesday 31 March) been announced as Aberdeen Art Gallery’s first artist-in-residence following the Gallery’s landmark redevelopment.

The artist will use the opportunity to create new works inspired by two artworks on display in Aberdeen Art Gallery: ‘Meditation’ by Barbara Hepworth and ‘Eastre, Hym to the Sun’ by JD Fergusson. Eastre is the Saxon Goddess of spring, who represents the triumph of the sun after the gloom of winter.

Maja Zećo is an interdisciplinary artist who creates immersive art through performance, sound art, video and installation. Born in Sarajevo and resident in Aberdeen, in 2019 Zećo was awarded a PhD from Gray's School of Art, Robert Gordon University in collaboration with the Music Programme of the University of Aberdeen.

Applications for the residency were invited in late 2019 from artists, makers and designers living and working in AB postcode areas. This first residency should have taken place at Aberdeen Art Gallery in spring 2020 but was postponed when the Gallery closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The aims of the residency are to:

  • Enable the selected practitioner to draw on the Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums’ collections to carry out research, learn new skills and create new work.
  • Inspire public interest in creative practice and making.
  • Create links between the collections and contemporary art, craft and design practice.

Covid-19 restrictions mean that the residency will take place mainly on online. Maja will share her progress with the public through social media, online talks and discussions. Fergusson's ‘Eastre’ and Hepworth's ‘Meditation’ will inspire the artist's engagement with the outdoors and new imaginings about the future, in a spirit of hope and recovery from Covid-19.

Local residents may catch a glimpse of shimmering gold inspired by the artwork Eastre, as Maja performs on the beach and in the city’s parks in the coming days and weeks.

Speaking as news of her residency was announced, Maja Zećo commented: “During my time as Artist in Residence, I would like to develop new pieces of immersive performance art that will imagine our common future. While modernist artists often conveyed optimism about technological developments, expressed through stylisation and abstract forms, society today is more anxious about what the future will bring.

“The pressing issues of Covid-19, climate change, Brexit and problems in public services contribute to this, while wellbeing apps on our phones provide constant feedback on our activities, creating a relationship of dependence and re-assurance.”

Councillor Marie Boulton, Aberdeen City Council’s culture spokesperson said, “As part of the award-winning redevelopment of Aberdeen Art Gallery we made a strong commitment to support local artists and the creative sector in Aberdeen and the wider North-East of Scotland.

“I’m very excited to see how Maja uses this opportunity to develop new work, as well us giving us new perspectives on the magnificent collections Aberdeen Art Gallery is home to.”

In Conversation with Maja Zećo:Thursday 29 April, 5-6pm focusing on Meditation by Barbara HepworthThursday 27 May, 5-6.30pm focusing on Eastre, Hym to the Sun by JD FergussonThese free online sessions are a chance for the public to ‘meet’ Maja, to hear about her work and her inspiration and to ask questions about her Residency. Maja will be joined by Art Curator Griffin Coe.

Follow Maja’s progress on Aberdeen Archives, Gallery & Museums’ social media channels: @AbdnArtMuseums.

Visitors can see both ‘Eastre’ and ‘Meditation’ on display in Aberdeen Art Gallery when it re-opens to the public on Monday 26 April at 10am. For visiting information go to www.aagm.co.uk

Images show:

Image 1: ‘Eastre, Hymn to the Sun’, 1924 by John Duncan Fergusson (1874-1961) © The Fergusson Gallery, Perth & Kinross Council, Scotland (2004). Image courtesy Aberdeen City Council (Archives, Gallery & Museums collection)

Image 2: Artist Maja Zećo