Statement of Special Interest
This untitled work, known by way of explanation as 'Industry, Past and Present', is considered one of the best among a number of underpass artworks in Glenrothes. Dramatic in scale and intricate in its design, it is a significant feature in the landscape. The work draws heavily on Glenrothes' mining heritage and other aspects of local industry, anchoring the design firmly to its location. David Harding, the Town Artist, created patterned reliefs for a number of pedestrian underpasses taking concrete casting techniques to their limit. Political and social messages were often included in the imagery and in this instance, the signatures of all the workmen at the site are discreetly embedded in the North face.
The Town of Glenrothes benefits from a distinctive and diverse collection of public art set within a carefully tailored urban landscape. Driven by a range of underlying principals, social ideals and collective enterprise, the works often reflect the history of the area and help to shape and define a developing identity for the town. Local schoolchildren and other community groups participated in the creation of a number of the works and the social context is an important part of their wider significance.
There are prominent landmark sculptures and more enclosed, hidden pieces which are encountered by residents rather than visitors. Some are component parts of other structures with murals and sculptures set within buildings and underpasses. There are several recurring themes including the groups of concrete mushrooms and hippopotami. New pieces continue to be created and the collection currently consists of around 150 works.
The late 20th century saw a move away from the sculptural reproduction of significant public figures on plinths towards a public art with a more localised meaning, favouring simple materials and a hands-on collaborative approach. In 1968, the Glenrothes Development Corporation (GDC) sought to employ an artist to collaborate with the architects, civil engineers and builders on various projects across the developing built environment. This was the first appointment of its kind in the UK. David Harding was Town Artist, as the role was to become known, between 1968 and 1978 and was followed by Malcolm Robertson between 1978 and 1990. From 1972, post-graduate students were engaged to assist the Town Artist, the first being Stanley Bonnar who designed the Glenrothes hippo and later became Town Artist for East Kilbride.
The appointment of a Town Artist and the approach taken to public art in Glenrothes was pioneering and aroused widespread interest in the UK and abroad with the Artists invited to speak on the subject in America, Australasia and elsewhere. David Harding went on to found the influential Environmental Art Department at Glasgow School of Art in 1985 and remains an active collaborator and champion of public art in Scotland. Malcolm Robertson began his own studio in 1991 and continues to work internationally in partnership with communities and local authorities, producing and exhibiting public sculpture and artwork.
Glenrothes was designated in 1948 under the New Towns (Scotland) Act 1946 as Scotland's second post-war new town, after East Kilbride (1947). The plan was to build a 5,320 acre settlement for a population of 35,000 people. The planning, development, management and promotion of Glenrothes was the responsibility of the Glenrothes Development Corporation (GDC) appointed by the Secretary of State for Scotland.
The town was populated in the early 1950s by mining families moving from the West of Scotland and the declining Lothian coalfield areas to work at Rothes Colliery, a new Super Pit officially opened by the Queen in 1957. Although the colliery failed to operate as expected, a few years later the town was appointed one of the economic focal points for Central Scotland. The GDC was successful in attracting modern electronics factories to the town during the 1960s and by the mid-1970s the town had become the headquarters of Fife Regional Council. It remains the administrative centre of Fife.