Bill Scott is the first sculptor in the long history of the Royal Scottish Academy to have been elected President. As the Friends approach their 25th anniversary year it is appropriate to examine not only Bill’s work, but also his long involvement in the domain of sculpture and the myriad activities associated with it.
Bill was brought up in Moniaive, Dumfriesshire. He studied at Edinburgh College of Art from 1953 to 1959 and then at the École de Beaux-Arts in Paris for a year before returning to Scotland to take up stone-carving commissions, including working at Iona Abbey, and to teach at the College. His early work emerged from the milieu of the folk music and vibrant conversations which surrounded him in the ‘poets’ pubs’ of Edinburgh and the cafés of the Parisian boulevards and, perhaps inevitably, the human figure and its immediate surroundings became the focus at that time.
The emphasis on the private thoughts and responses of the individual within these very public spheres of debate is characteristic of Bill’s work, but, in fact, a complex folding of the public and private into each other has marked very much of the work over the years, one taking precedence over the other at various times. As the Scottish oil fields developed, for example, he became concerned with the ship yards, where the visual impact made by the massive constructions contrasted strongly with the effort made by each worker, but the wider social and political implications for the country were also addressed. More recently the work has concerned the individual’s attempts to assess the world, to measure it, to consider it from both an immediate, physical, point of view and in a more philosophical sense. As a result the artist has produced metaphorical ‘tools’ for these speculative activities, arrays of small object-sculptures coming together to indicate private thought in the midst of a very public world.
Bill has exhibited throughout the United Kingdom, Ireland, Europe, North America and Japan. He has in particular been associated with a number of public sculpture commissions in Scotland, including a complex monument commemorating Sir Alex Douglas-Home at The Hirsel, Berwickshire, and a sculpture of Elizabeth Crichton at Crichton University and College Campus, Dumfries. In 2011 Bill will be showing at the Royal British Society of Sculptors in London, Inspace at the University of Edinburgh and at Haus Hohenbusch, Erkelenz, Germany.
His professional life has been much associated with the Edinburgh College of Art, where he was Head of the Sculpture School, and became Professor of Sculpture. There he was particularly concerned with developing the course for postgraduate students and preparing them to enter professional life. It is therefore appropriate that he has, since retirement, served as the Chairman of the Board of the Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop, which has now secured funding for a £4.5 million new building and recently won the prestigious Scottish Community Foundation’s Arts Funding Prize of £3 million for an inspiring new multi-disciplinary arts space, the Creative Laboratories building. Bill has also served on the Board of the Fruitmarket Gallery, Scottish Arts Council committees, The British School at Rome and elsewhere. He has had a long-standing relationship with the Academy and has recently been elected President for a second three-year term.
Article from the Friends of the RSA Newsletter, 2010