Lifetime Achievement Award 2022 | Malcolm Appleby02 Mar 2022
This week, Malcolm Appleby was awarded the Life Time Achievement Award 2022 by Goldsmiths' Company at the annual Craft & Design Council Award ceremony in London.
The Scottish Gallery are proud to show Malcolm's work - which can be seen here - and are thrilled to see him recognised with such a prestigious award. Congratulations Malcolm!
Read below as Managing Director, Christina Jansen, writes about Malcolm and his relationship with The Scottish Gallery.
Born in 1946, Malcolm Appleby studied at Beckenham School of Art, Ravensbourne, Central School of Art, London and then at Sir John Cass before spending two years at the Royal College of Art in 1968. In 1969, he moved to Scotland, settled in the railway station at Crathes, Aberdeenshire before making his home and studio in the mid 1990’s with his wife Philippa Swann and their daughter May in Grandtully, Perthshire.
Although [Malcolm Appleby] now lives in Perthshire, the Crathes workshop was integral to Malcolm’s work for nearly thirty years. He first moved to Deeside in 1969, renting the home of a friend’s brother for a year. He forged a rapport with the rolling landscape, wildness, and peaceful beauty of the area; nor surprising considering the important part nature plays in his work. A year later he bought the deserted Crathes Station on the Deeside Line, a Beeching casualty, which was once an important artery linking the Grampian foothills to the coastal city of Aberdeen. With renovations complete in 1971, the Station offered ideal accommodation, and the wild garden, created from the Station car park, was to become a never ending source of inspiration.Christine Rew, Malcolm Appleby Designer & Engraver, Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museum 1998
Malcolm Appleby is known primarily as an engraver and he is considered amongst some of the finest living gun engravers and designers in the world. He is also a printmaker, a specialist in medals, silversmith, goldsmith and jeweller, making unique works and multiples. His wide-ranging commissions come from across the board: private, public and corporate sectors, local and international. His extraordinary output ranges from commemorative pieces such as the electro-formed gold Model of the Moon - a gift for the first moon landing astronauts (1969) or the Trafalgar Medal, marking 200 years since the Battle of Trafalgar (2005), dramatically illustrating the precise moment of mortal combat. To each piece he brings an innovative and imaginative approach, that often encompasses humour, such as the carved steel and gold Seal for the Board of Trustees at the Victoria & Albert Museum (1985) - the imagery was based on his recently departed ginger cat, seen rising towards the heavens, and was described by then Director Sir Roy Strong, with undoubted irony, as “the most vulgar piece” in the whole museum. His appreciation of the natural world is everywhere evident in his work, including the sublime totem-like engraving of the Raven Gun - the first modern work commissioned by the Royal Armouries, on display at the Tower of London (1986) - one of a series of guns that has made Malcolm a recognised master of this field. The Scottish landscape is highlighted in the stunningly original Sculptural Centrepiece made for the First Minister of Scotland’s residence at Bute House (1999) which features in its parts the dramatic coastlines of Scotland, including the stacks and islands seen around the shores. A pair of Candlesticks for St Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh (2014) incorporates dove and fish imagery that draws on the natural world that perfectly complements their setting. Politics is a prevailing source of inspiration: The Condiment Set for 10 Downing Street (1988) - made during the age of the Reagan, Thatcher ‘star wars’ years pulls no punches with its underlying meaning. ’Hurricane George’ a large shallow bowl was created for the touring exhibition Cutting Edge, sponsored by a consortium of Scottish art galleries in 2007, highlighted the inadequacy of the Bush administration while Hurricane Katrina wreaked its fury. A series of political ‘Catchphrase Beakers’ begun in 2011 continues his desire to expose cliché, often using double entendre at its heart. The most recent piece completed in the workshop at the time of Covid 19 is ‘Worst Case Scenario’ (April 2020) an overworked catchphrase of our times. His work is held in numerous public collections worldwide and loved universally by the many private clients he has amassed over the years.
When The Scottish Gallery celebrated Malcolm Appleby’s 70th birthday in January 2016, we included several portraits of Malcolm which had been taken the previous autumn by David Eustace as part of his ongoing Friends & Artists portfolio. Instead of using an image of an iconic engraved work to mark his birthday, we deliberately placed Malcolm centre stage, and this impacted the exhibition in unexpected ways: the enigmatic portrait of Malcolm cemented his status as a senior British artist and attracted a new audience. Malcolm Appleby has dedicated his artistic practice primarily to engraving and pushing the boundaries of metalwork. Constant experimentation has made him a master of his craft and in 2014 he received an MBE for his outstanding contribution to the arts and last year he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. The Scottish Gallery has been associated with Malcolm since the 1970s, bringing the unique facets of his work to many, each piece sold marking the beginning of a new story. In 2019, The Gallery celebrated fifty years since Malcolm first set up his studio in Scotland and the exhibition marked another opportunity to recognise his unique contribution to the arts. Malcolm has an infectious enthusiasm for his craft, a willingness to work with other artists and his pleasure in sharing his skills is characteristic of his generosity and pre-eminence. The Gallery seeks to complement his studio practice output with imaginative displays of affordable and extraordinary examples.
It is also twenty years since Malcolm held his first symposium which has developed into an annual event providing a unique opportunity for artists to work alongside Malcolm in his studio for a week, a creative space for all to consider the possibilities of working in metal. The final gathering of friends, curators and collectors celebrates the week’s work and encourages further discussion and creative thinking. The symposium attracts artists who work in different media, which enhances the experience for all participating. Malcolm uses ‘Malcymix’ as a description of his tireless experimentation and skill in blending metal. But a ‘Malcymix’ also describes his continued enthusiasm for bringing different artists together and seeing what happens in the mix, the very opposite of isolation – he has a passion for ideas and a generous respect and dedication for all studio practice. No one works alone, and Malcolm heartily acknowledges the part other artists and crafts people have played in the creation of his work since he first took up engraving in the 1960s.
I first met Malcolm and his wife and business partner Philippa in 1997 and I have never taken my visits to Grandtully in Perthshire for granted – Malcolm and Philippa are always welcoming and I am introduced to all the new projects on the go. The house appears like a cross between a ship’s architecture and a Hobbit’s house, with numerous studios and outbuildings set within acres of a wild garden complete with rare breed bantams and their beloved cat. The studio is a creatively dynamic place. I record every visit to Aultbeag as a means of trying to keep up with the extraordinary output. In 2019, when the Japanese sculptor Koji Hatakeyama was making an educational visit to Edinburgh, I took him to see Malcolm – at first he seemed indifferent to the changing landscape as we left the city of Edinburgh behind, but the moment he caught sight of Malcolm’s home and studio he was filled with excitement – Grandtully is the stuff of dreams.
Over the years, I have been the lucky recipient of Malcolm and Philippa ‘ephemera’ – decorated letters and parcels, usually some form of recycled packaging, patched up and tied up in string. This encompassing aesthetic and Philippa’s annual newsletter makes all friends and collectors feel special and included in the creative process. For the lucky owner of Malcolm’s jewellery or engraving gets to know ‘the other side’ - the bit that the viewer doesn’t get to see and only the wearer gets to enjoy – such as the underside of a brooch engraved with feathers, or the inside of a bangle with a signature to be found amongst a sea of swirling scrolls. The possibilities for Malcolm to be creative don’t diminish, they increase with every passing month – the more Malcolm makes, the more the ideas keep coming.
Making and creating is part of my daily cycle. Inspiration can come from anywhere; I can turn a political catchphrase such as ‘The Enemy Within’ into a lettering design for one of my silver beakers. The making process is an inspiration in itself. I much prefer natural forms and textures to industrial forms and polished surfaces, frequently distorting the silver using corroded tools. These make subtle textures and informal surfaces over which I can engrave.Malcolm Appleby
50 Golden Years in Scotland was a celebration of Malcolm Appleby and an opportunity to capture the beautiful, creative space which is central to his practice. The natural world that surrounds the studio informs every piece, the artist’s inspiration unlimited in the abundance of the world around him. Malcolm has also supported many fundraising events for charity over the years, primarily the creation of the annual ‘Banchory Bangle’ - a raffled gold bangle - the first of which was made in 1976 for Children 1st in Aberdeen. The bangle has become a legendary object in the North East of Scotland. His much photographed jumper has also become a legendary object. Originally knitted by his mother in the 1960’s in olive green wool, it has been transformed by over 50 years of darning and additions of silver buttons. One might forget that this garment is a practical pelt to keep Malcolm warm whilst concentrating at the bench but it is also an iconic part of his visual armour which cannot be separated from who Malcolm is. And every time I see it, I say ‘Which Museum is getting the Jumper?!’ He tells me that the last inclusion to the jumper was the string that wrapped the last parcel sent from The Scottish Gallery!