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Explanatory Text for the Burns Museum Artworks

July 10, 2014 Category:

“Frae Furrow tae Firmament in four lowps”

Four linked Artworks lead visitors from the approach and main entrance to the Museum, through the central Atrium to the Museum Garden. In a combination of steel, bronze and cast concrete the sculptures use text and imagery drawn from Burns’s poetry to set up a trail with hidden significance to intrigue visitors of all ages. If you’ve visited the museum or seen photographs of the work and are still puzzling, here is the full explanation.

1. The First Lowp: Ploughing up Poetry

As Burns drew inspiration for his poetry from the land, Scots words are ploughed from the earth. Cut from cor-ten steel, they are intended as a double allusion to metal type setting and also rusting steel agricultural debris. Apparently random, these words are the start in a trail leading to two well known Burns poems. As the visitor moves through the building they may, if they know his work well, start to recognise the poems :

“To A Mouse”: “Bickerin’Brattle”

“The Lea Rig”: “Dowf”and “wearie”

Further words are cut and etched into the stylised plough furrows, taken from the poem “The Auld Farmer’s New Year Morning Salutation to his auld Mare, Maggie”

A bronze crow picks through the words as they emerge, while another seizes a word and flies off towards the next work mounted on the wall by the main entrance

2.The Second Lowp: The Wall of Words:

Words carved into the stone of the wall are pulled away by another bronze crow, transforming into steel as they emerge. All the words relate to the life of a farmer and all are further words from the two poems :

“To A Mouse”: “daimen icker”, “stibble”, cranreuch cauld”

“The Lea Rig”: “owsen”, “bughtin’”

 From here the visitor enters the main Museum Atrium where more Scots words are suspended from the beams

 3. The Third Lowp: Hanging Words:

At first the words match the rusty cor-ten steel of the exterior words, gradually transforming into plain white words as we move further into the building. Amongst the apparently random Scots words some are highlighted in block capitals, drawn also from our two poems:

“To A Mouse”: “Sleekit”, “snell”, “agley”

“The Lea Rig”: “mirkest”’“gloamin’”

From here, through the Museum Cafe the visitor emerges into the garden where the final work reveals the identity of the poems

4.The Fourth Lowp: The Burns Sundial:

This last stage takes the form of a Sundial. As an aside, Burns, as a teenager, took a course in “mensuration”; the measuring of geometric magnitudes, lengths, areas, and volumes, including the science of plotting sundials, and the use of this form is intended to chime in with the spirit of rationalism and scientific curiosity which characterises the Scottish Enlightenment, of which Burns was such a significant part.

At the centre of a group of sculptures the figure of Burns forms the Gnomon of the sundial, casting his shadow across three features each linked to a different poem; for those that haven’t guessed, two of these are the hidden poems; “To a Mouse”and “The Lea Rig”. The missing word to a well known line from “To A Mouse”inscribed on the sundial plinth is filled in by peering through a spyhole. Next Burns pledges his love in “My Love Is Like A Red Red Rose”, completing a line through the spyhole in the same way. Finally, the last verse of “The Lea Rig”takes us through the sun’s passage over the course of the day, inscribed at the appropriate points on the central plinth of the Sundial, and in the late afternoon Burns meets his love as his shadow moves round to fall on the words “The Lea Rig”, thus fulfilling the words of the poem; “I’ll meet thee on the Lea Rig, my ain kind Dearie-o”.

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