Steep Trail, image detail of 'Mingfinger' by Graeme Todd ©Graeme Todd Courtesy FCA&C

Steep Trail, image detail of ‘Mingfinger’ by Graeme Todd ©Graeme Todd Courtesy FCA&C

Inspired by the environmental pioneer John Muir’s historic visit to China, the Steep Trail is an exhibition mounted by Fife Contemporary Art & Craft (FCA&C). Opening on 19 January and running until 3 March it brings together new work by Jonathan Owen and Graeme Todd from Scotland and Rania Ho and Wang Xieda from China.

The exhibition is part of the larger Steep Trail project organised with east coast partners Polarcap (based in Dunbar) and the Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop. It takes its name from pioneer environmentalist John Muir’s book ‘Steep Trails’, a volume of his collected letters and articles. Born in Dunbar Muir emigrated to America in the mid 19th century where he became famous as the instigator of the National Parks system. He travelled to China to study forestry and collect seeds and Steep Trail uses this historic link as a departure point for making contemporary links between Scotland and China at a time of major concerns about the environment. Muir’s legacy is not so well known in his country of birth as in the US but perhaps surprisingly both of the Chinese artists were aware of his work and interested in his ideas.

Wang Xieda, Sages Saying 071, 2007; Bronze 35x110x10 cm© Wang Xieda Courtesy James Cohan Gallery

Wang Xieda, Sages Saying 071, 2007; Bronze 35x110x10 cm© Wang Xieda Courtesy James Cohan Gallery

During the summer of 2012 an artist exchange took place with Wang Xieda (courtesy of The James Cohan Gallery) and Rania Ho. They spent a month in Edinburgh, as two of the first residents of the new Bill Scott Sculpture Centre, and also visited St Andrews. In return Jonathan Owen and Graeme Todd started their visit to China in Shanghai, and also travelled to Beijing and the Mongolian mountains.

Visitors to the Steep Trail exhibition will see a range of outcomes from the exchange – complemented by facsimile drawings of glaciers from John Muir’s sketchbooks (courtesy of the Holt-Atherton Special Collections at the University of the Pacific). Elegant minimal sculptures by Wang Xieda have been inspired by ancient Chinese pictograms and evoke geographical forms. Rania Ho has designed special wallpaper which refers to both the tradition of oriental decoration and to John Muir. Intriguing drawings by Jonathan Owen manipulate scenes by the mysterious removal of a component. Graeme Todd’s intricate abstract paintings have echoes of oriental landscapes concealed within them.

During the exhibition, free children’s activities linked to its themes will be available in the activity room adjacent to the gallery. In addition, two workshops have been organised to coincide with the February school break on 14 & 15 with a Family Fun Day on Saturday 16 February. A public tour of the exhibition with exhibiting artist Graeme Todd will take place on Sunday 24 February.

Related report: Steep Trail by Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop

St Andrews Museum

St Andrews Museum

Visitor Information

St Andrews Museum

Kinburn Park, Doubledykes Road, St Andrews, KY16 9DP, Tel 01334 659380

Opening Times: Daily Oct-Mar 10.30am-4pm / Free admission

Exhibition organised by Fife Contemporary Art & Craft in partnership with Polarcap and Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop.

Courtesy of Fife Contemporary Art & Craft, for further information please visit

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