Art World Narrative #1

Richard Demarco and the Road to Meikle Seggie

70 | 2000 :: The Road to Meikle Seggie
 was a Kingston University London travelling exhibition organised by the university’s Stanley Picker Gallery and the Demarco European Art Foundation.

Richard Demarco invited 70 (and eventually 40 more) artists to create seven works each, celebrating their journeys through life and art. The exhibition opened in London, and toured to Edinburgh, and in pocket-sized iterations to Invergordon and Coniston.

Celebration, Pilgrimage, Revelation

To celebrate Richard Demarco’s 90th birthday, his friends and colleagues have published a commemorative edition of essays dedicated to his life and work as a leading exponent of the avant garde. My contribution follows in this edited preview.

Richard Demarco

I join with everyone in thanking Richard Demarco for all he’s done to inspire us, lead us, teach us, and to help us embrace creativity. Richard forged a dynamic social network before there was social media, he blogged before there was blogging, he was an internet before the internet. With Richard, it’s the experience of place-finding that means the most to me. The way he encourages us to make a journey, to get on with things, to look. To look to know where you are…

The Word, the Image and Real-time Curating

Richard framed the brief for participating artists as a kind of alchemical algorithm, a set of instructions designed to guide artists in the specific task of creating work for 70/2000 …

The core premise was beautiful in its clarity and simplicity, a classic Demarco formula, inspiring and provocative: he asked each artist to create seven works of art in A4 format, guided by notions of time and place. He asked that we reflect on the span of 70 years …

As to place, Richard encouraged us to explore his ideas about the Road to Meikle Seggie, his wonderful form of words for those “who journey in the spirit of ‘the artist as explorer.” …

With these guiding principles we reaped an impressive harvest of word and image comprising a genre-spanning collection of 770 works of art in challenging array …

The Stanley Picker Gallery

70/2000 took place in the heyday of the gallery’s founding phase, when it functioned as a semi-autonomous resource of the School of Art within the Faculty of Art and Design. We were a small team …

The place had a natural and magical exuberance in those days. We welcomed everyone, devised in-between exhibitions for gaps between big shows, hosted all manner university events, ran a lively concert programme, supported students and fellows. Through the Picker Fellowship programme we developed a distinctive homegrown avant garde, notably in the field of performance art …

Burroughs, Kerouac and the avant garde.

Here I’ll say a few words about the Richard’s work documenting the avant garde.

The 70/2000 publications included Through Seven Decades and Countless Locations on the Road to Meikle Seggie … [ with ] … 76 photographs from The Demarco Archive, selected by Richard and Steve Robb to chronicle Richard’s pictorial journey. Walter Benjamin might be surprised to know that these images and their poésie concrète captions retain their magical aura, even in reproduction.

One thinks of William Burroughs … [ whose ] … annotated black and white photographs chronicle the Beat Generation. Richard’s spontaneous picture composition and lyrical hand-written captions in harmony as documentation and self-expression make an outstanding contribution to this tradition.

Thinking of Burroughs and Demarco, one also remembers Jack Kerouac and his vivid characterisation of a life on the road seeking truth, seeking genuine experience …

Richard Demarco by LemonCrumpet at English Wikipedia
CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Celtic Europe, Scottish Hospitality, Road Trips …

[ Richard’s ] tale helped me to understand how the Scottish experience of European history helped to shape Richard’s convictions. It also motivated me to set forth in Scottish lands, to appreciate her great artistic traditions, those of the past, the recent past, and the present …

So that we might fully comprehend the territory, Richard organised road trips: Little Sparta, the Falkirk Wheel, the Pineapple, Coniston, Invergordon, Dephi, Venice, embassies, studios, palazzi and roadside cafés …


The exhibition as total artwork, an heroic ecumenical fulcrum of upheaval.

[ … ]

And thus we created a Gesamkunstwerk anchored in the realm of thought as a philosophical idea, mounted in a presentation that strove to meet high standards for collections management and display, and vitalised by the immediacy and resonance of the artists’ work. A quiet, modest, yet powerful triumph of artistic and social curation.

Friendship, Loyalty, Transcendence

Richard Demarco remembers exactly who you are. He knows your name. No matter what the passage of time since your last encounter, with Richard you can pretty much depend on the familiar warm greeting, the open arms, the extended hand.

Amity begets loyalty. Of course there are practical benefits: commitment based on friendship helps to get things done. But fondness engenders trust, and therein lie the strength and charm of Richard’s transcendent humanism.

Charles F. Ryder
Yport, Haute Normandie, France
November 2020