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Press release by Alex Fraser at the time of the exhibition

A TeaHouse For The City

A cross-cultural exhibition at the Lighthouse in Glasgow - May 13 to June 18 2000

Devised, designed and curated by Brent Richards, Alex Fraser
in association with Central St Martins College of Art and Design

What kind of space can offer relief from
the stress and speed of a modern urban environment?

Charles Rennie Mackintosh's Glasgow was a commercial city at its zenith. Today, after years of decline, the loss of major industry, the city has regenerated itself as a place of culture. Mackintosh's achievements remain highly visible and live in the minds of Glaswegians. The Lighthouse itself is Mackintosh's Glasgow Herald building.

A hundred years ago Teahouses, initially encouraged by the temperance movement, were more widespread in Glasgow than anywhere else in the UK. This prompted the following from James Hamilton Muir (a composite pseudonym) in "Glasgow in 1901"
"Glasgow is a very Tokio for tea-rooms. Nowhere are such places more popular and frequented"
Even in the feudal Japan of five hundred years ago the need to escape from the busy city and its noise, dirt and stress was acknowledged in the image of the Japanese Teahouse of the Way of Tea as "the mountain dwelling in the city".

The preferred choice was to build a small thatched hut in a corner of their gardens, plant trees and place rocks around it, creating the spirit of a retreat without abandoning city life.A good place to hide yourself
When depressed even in the mountains,
The hut under the pine tree
In the middle of the capital.
Sôchô (1448-1532)
In this small space the microcosmic hospitality of the Way of Tea (erroneously known as the Tea Ceremony) was shared by like-minded people.

Today, when cities are larger than then imaginable, the need for quietude, a place of escape from the busy, noisy and dirty urban environment is even more essential.
The four tea rooms designed by Mackintosh for Kate Cranston were places to absent oneself from the hurly-burly of the city and find physical and aesthetic refreshment. She and he shared a vision of integrating art and daily life, democratically available to all. The necessarily commercial enterprise of selling seats and tea became, heightened by their sense of appropriate yet fanciful aesthetics and attention to detail, a form of art. Although ornate, the earlier curves giving way to severe rectlinearity, Mackintosh's interiors provide simple backgrounds, generally monochrome, for the social interaction they contained. Although only one of Mackintosh's remains in the business of serving tea, its appeal is so great that a functioning reproduction of it exists.

In "A Tea House For The City" the visitor will find the teahouse contextualised for the City of Glasgow, experience a multisensory path to the tearoom, and be presented with two approaches to the question at the head of this release:
What kind of space can offer relief from
the stress and speed of a modern urban environment?

By linking this question to Japanese Tea Ritual's quiet and detailed hospitality, Richards and Fraser offer two proposals. One is a tearoom of classical form but modern interpretation in materials and light. The other is a space equipped for a form of tea procedure devised in the last century to introduce the Way of Tea to foreigners unable or unwilling to sit on the floor. The utensils are the work of artist/designer/makers living near or within the borders of Scotland.

They are:
Phil Brown woodturning
Tim Chalk design for casting
Nichola Fletcher silversmith & designer
Ian Hird ceramics
David Kaplan glass blowing
Jacky Parry paper
Gordon Lochhead bronze
Audrey Melville papier-mâché
Annica Sandstrom fused glass
Tim Stead. wood
Others may be added to this list.
The exhibiting of these works in London next year is under negotiation with Flow gallery.

Finally in homage to Mackintosh and to emphasise that the Way of Tea is a living tradition the exhibition will end with the sight of a living, growing teahouse in willow by Lee Dalby who completes the circle by saying that "Willow is the British bamboo."

There will be two small publications accompanying the exhibition as well as a number of events.