ALAISTAIR MACLENNAN

BERTH  AN  EARTH  was a performance by Alastair MacLennan, commissioned by Hospitalfield as part of CONTINUUM, an exhibition in December 2015 which reflected on the ripple of influence through generations as artists learn from each other.

Alastair MacLennan was a student at Hospitalfield in 1965, following the completion of an undergraduate degree at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design. MacLennan then went on to have a huge influence both through his art and his teaching roles in Glasgow and Belfast. He also served as a visiting examiner at DJCAD for many years, alongside other well-known artists from his time at Hospitalfield such as Will Maclean.

MacLennan returned to Hospitalfield in 2015 to present this new piece. It was situated at a particular crossing point on the green drive at the entrance to Hospitalfield, with direct viewpoints to the sea, inland, and to the façade of the house. During the performance, MacLennan made a transition from one table to another, encumbered with shoes tied round his ankles, and carrying an easel with an image of the cohort he had studied with on it. He made ink drawings horizontally on the tables with water sponges, ending the performance by drenching himself with a bucket.

Ideas of transition are prominent in his work, and there is a sense of vulnerability that comes with performing these ideas. His participation in the exhibition and the performance itself also contributed a question about his transition from the traditional study of painting he undertook as a student to his career as a pioneering performance artist.

We are delighted to hold the two paintings produced during the performance in our collection.


Alastair MacLennan was born in 1943 and came to Hospitalfield in 1965. He began his studies here the year after his graduation from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, and went on to complete his postgraduate studies in Chicago. His work looks into political, social, religious, ethical and aesthetic questions and he is one of Britain’s most respected practitioners of performance art.