Featuring specially commissioned artwork by six of Scotland's leading contemporary artists, this exhibition explores the powerful relationship between literature and the visual arts. To celebrate Canongate Books' hundredth Canongate Classic, the six artists – from Alison Watt to David Mach – were each asked to produce a cover image for one of Canongate Books’ new Pocket Classics series of Scottish writing.
Alison Watt has painted a characteristically understated image of blank paper to illustrate Muriel Spark's selected stories, while John Byrne has created an impish vision of James Kelman to adorn a volume of six of his best works. Calum Colvin's ingenious reconstruction of Robert Burns' head will be seen in its original form as a corner installation – offering a rare insight into his unique artistic modus operandi. This is the first time in Scotland that Colvin has put a constructed set on show as an artwork in itself alongside the final photograph.
John Bellany's lyrical portrait of Sir Walter Scott covers Wandering Willie's Tale and The Two Drovers, and Douglas Gordon jumped at the chance to illustrate stories and poetry by one of his favourite writers, James Hogg.
David Mach has created two colourful matchstick heads to illustrate RL Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – one has been burned to play sinister double to the other, perfectly preserved, bust. Photographs of the burning head will be displayed alongside the finished artwork, and in a further twist to the tale, Mach will come to the Gallery on Saturday 9 June to burn the remaining head.
The exhibition will be supported by a series of conversations with the artists over successive Saturday lunchtimes in which they will discuss their work and at which readings will be given from the relevant book. Hosted by BBC Radio Scotland's Brian Morton, the series will begin with Alasdair Gray, author of Canongate’s hundredth Classic, the world-renowned Lanark, and will end with David Mach and his fire-raising spectacle. These conversations will take place at 12.45pm every Saturday from 5 May to 9 June.
This exhibition promises to be a dynamic and diverse celebration of Scottish art and literature, with enthusiastic participation from contemporary artists and a rare chance to see some of their creative processes in action.