Artist set to take murals on tour after successful Leith exhibition

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Mural artist Chris Rutterford is preparing to take his massive paintings on tour around Scotland as a successful exhibition in Leith draws to a close.

More than 1,000 people have visited All Together Now at the Custom House, featuring his epic portrayals of scenes ranging from a Hogmanay gatherings at the Tron to the public hanging of Maggie Dickson in the Grassmarket, the Battle of Bannockburn and Burns’ tale of Tam O’Shanter.

The exhibition closes today, but Mr Rutterford is now looking for venues up and down the country interested in hosting a visit from the murals.

“Hopefully we can get historic buildings in small towns and pop up in fishing villages too.”

Mr Rutterford has been painting large-scale murals for years, often photographing volunteers and then painting them into the picture. The exhibition is a retrospective of ten years’ work.

Mr Rutterford has treated those visiting his exhibition to a guided tour of the paintings, explaining the thinking behind them, how he composed them and the significance of the completed work.

And he talks passionately about how his paintings reflect the different relationship Scots have always had with their kings.

“I’ve been painting and thinking hard about kings for years now in the course of these paintings – they are really like voyages as they take so long – and I just wanted to underline a serious point in this show – something I don’t think people think about.

“Scots historically have a very different relationship with their kings from the English. On the Royal Standard we have a lion and a unicorn – the lion stands for England and the unicorn, Scotland. English kings historically ruled by divine right, second only to god, and they believed in rule by domination.

“Scots however believed in rule by consensus. Every Scot was his own king but the king was the centre of strategy for the nation. He was the first among equals and his job was to provide higher purpose.

“Scots kings weren’t superior to the people. It wasn’t the richest guy. He could only motivate his troops through love and belief in him as he didn’t have the wealth to force them.”

And Mr Rutterford argues this distinctive Scottish philosophy is still relevant. “Democracy as it stands has given up making an effort to do the things that matter to people – making their surroundings nice and looking after people. The House of Commons is a Punch and Judy show. And I’m fed up with all these referendums.

“I want to have real conversations with people about what they care about and that’s what I’ve been doing.

“I’m not saying independence even,” he added. “I’m not interested in that.”

He had ended each tour by handing the visitors free T-shirts, in different colours but all emblazoned with the same Celtic unicorn design, and taking their picture.

“It really makes a difference,” he said. “It’s just a tee but it’s what it means. People have such a multitude of talents and experience; when they put the tee on it’s an acknowledgement that they’re in control of their destiny.

“Everyone deserves the right to be king of their life. Scots is just a state of mind.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com.”