Pop Paolozzi! is the name of an exhibition of prints held at St Andrews University in May 2014. It featured the work of 8 young artists from Drummond Community High School in Edinburgh. Under the guidance of their art teachers Philippa Drummond and Louise Fraser, S1 pupils at the school researched the life and work of Eduardo Paolozzi, the renowned painter and sculptor. Paolozzi was born very close to the school and one of his most famous pieces of public art, The Manuscript of Monte Cassino, stands outside St Mary’s Cathedral less than a hundred metres away. He grew up speaking four languages: English, Italian, Edinburgh Scots, and the dialect of the place where his parents came from. At an early age he became adept at moving between cultures and languages and throughout his life remained fascinated by what happened when an image or an idea was translated from one medium into another.
The artists visited the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art which has a large collection of Paolozzi’s work, and also houses his studio showing off to great effect the different sources of his inspiration and the extraordinary range of media he worked in. They also visited the area of Leith, in Edinburgh where he grew up and the sweet shop which he parents ran when he was a child. The site visits are clearly visible in the work shown in the exhibition. Paolozzi’s interest in technology and the mechanical word are present, as are the garish colours associated with Pop Art, reminiscent of the sweet papers in his parent’s shop.
The 8 prints in the exhibition were professionally produced with the support of Edinburgh Printmakers and SNIPEF. These local connections reinforce Paolozzi’s own links with the area, but also his journey into the cosmopolitan art world which saw him work, teach, and exhibit in an enormous range of international locations including Berlin and San Francisco. Paolozzi’s artistic map points to a very different diaspora from the one which brought his parents to Scotland in the early twentieth century.
His work constantly combines and re-invents fragments from specific locations combining ancient and modern in his exploration of translation in all its forms. These fragments are replicated in the preparatory work the artists did for their prints. Bits of piping, broken circuit boards, and brightly coloured sweets recall the hard edges of Paolozzi’s mechanical sculptures, and the vibrancy of his collages.
In the 1970s St Andrews hosted two Paolozzi exhibitions and the University holds a number of his pieces so Pop Paolozzi! was able to re-establish an unexpected historical connection between the artist and the town. The exhibition was curated by Laura Pels Ferra, a practising artist and member of the School of Modern Languages admin team and a group of Year 2 students of Italian, supported by an award from the University’s Curriculum Enhancement Scheme. Two of the students went to Drummond to interview the artists about their work and collected their responses to Paolozzi’s work. They then put together the slideshow as a catalogue for the exhibition.