Surrounded by countryside and farmland, the small Scottish hamlet of Cample, Nithsdale has since 2016 been home to the independent arts organisation and gallery Cample Line.

With its mission to present ‘thought-provoking international contemporary art and film for residents of the region and visitors from further afield’, it has so far worked with artists including Lorna Macintyre, Mark Lyken, Karen Cunningham and Louise Hopkins.

Now in its third year of an initial three-year programme, Cample Line is the kind of organisation that isn’t afraid of learning as it progresses. Its director, Tina Fiske, explains: “We are using these first three years as an opportunity to explore what we, and the artists we work with, can uniquely realise and how, given our scale and location, we can achieve the best standards of presentation and quality of engagement and experience.”

Registered as a Scottish charitable incorporated organisation, last year Cample Line presented exhibitions, events and film screenings which saw them working with local schools and higher education colleges, as well as artists from further afield. Funding has so far come from The Buccleuch Charitable Foundation, The Holywood Trust, Dumfries and Galloway Council and Creative Scotland.

The gallery’s attentive focus on artists’ practice draws on how commissioned artwork, and the placing of existing bodies of work, can take life within a rural setting. This was certainly the case during my first visit to the gallery to see Glasgow-based artist Louise Hopkins’s exhibition, ‘Flying Fox’.

Last November, following a trip to Scots’ Dike on the Scottish-Cumbria border, I journeyed to see Hopkins in conversation with Fiske, arriving just as the artist discussed her unique take on the hamlet’s confluence of river, railway and road.

Hopkins adopted the arches of the close-by Cample rail viaduct, using them to create interplay within enlarged digitally printed drawings, pasted to the walls of the gallery upstairs and down.

Using the talk as an entry-point to the show, I could see how the gallery’s team take notable effort to assist in producing responsive and generous exhibitions while placing, as Fiske comments, “a high degree of control in the hands of the artist”.

Whether it’s newly-commissioned work or curating existing artists’ projects, the gallery offers up its small building for practitioners to research and consider its uniqueness before install.

With no office to go to, the staff make the most of this intimacy, living with the artwork and art-making process. The result creates a feeling of deep engagement with what Fiske describes as “different points of entry, to think in terms of layers rather than spaces”.

Fiske and her small team are equally aware of the “often very surprising” benefits of working rurally, too, and see themselves as an extension of the local community. In 2018, with support from The Holywood Trust in Dumfries, they set up a Young Assistants Programme which saw four local people contribute to the team in a professional, paid capacity.

My initial flame for the gallery’s activities was ignited when Karen Cunningham exhibited last year. Her show, ‘Deploying Culture’, drew upon the building’s history as a 19th century weaving (or blanket) mill. By integrating this history into how artists might respond, the gallery is creating a compelling visitor experience.

The site’s industrial history goes deeper still. Part of the complex was previously a stone depot, a detail around which Cample Line programmed film screenings last year. Says Fiske: “Stone from the local quarry was brought by a mineral line to be dressed and turned into dimension stone. Both stone and blankets would have been shipped out on the main rail line adjacent to us.”

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The hamlet of Cample feels like a depot, in an updated sense. As a visitor, there is a sense you are on site ready for labour; to collect, transform, learn and leave with a further appreciation of visual art’s ability to comprehend and animate historicity.

The building’s history as part of Cample Mill’s larger complex, an industrial provenance dating back to the late 1500s, surely provides unique value, too. Its careful renovation into a gallery became a crucial driving force for activating Cample Line’s public programme.

This was something that had to be planned sensitively, not least in recognition of the challenges faced by surrounding communities, notably cuts in the local transport infrastructure. The organisation’s economic and cultural position within the area is a constant factor of re-evaluation for the team.

“We consider these factors in all the questions posed for Cample Line,” explains Fiske. “Who we want to reach through our programme, how we reach them, how they reach us; how we can build up our team and in what ways we can contribute positive benefits to communities around us. But we work through each of these with care, to arrive at what we feel is a meaningful and distinctive basis for the kind of independent organisation Cample Line can be.”

The gallery’s 2019 programme is set to be full of intrigue and contextual reference. In the spring, Cample Line will host Stockholm-based Canadian artist Jacqueline Hoàng Nguyễn, to install her 2016 work Black Atlas in the upstairs gallery for an exhibition that will run 16 March – 25 May. Two daily screenings of Maeve Brennan’s The Drift (2017) and Laura Waddington’s CARGO (2001) will be shown during this time.

Along with further screenings, they also expect to host an artist talk with Hoàng Nguyễn, as well as an event with local author JoAnne McKay, who will read newly-commissioned texts drawn from a handwritten catalogue of contents from the Grierson Museum, an ethnographic museum once located in nearby Thornhill.

Later in the year, David Osbaldeston and Charlie Hammond will install new work, and the gallery is set to work with Edinburgh Art Festival on a new commission from Rosalind Nashashibi. Says Fiske: “As we move through 2019, we are trying to form a model that is as economical as possible.”

She adds: “By ensuring what we spend is appropriate, producing benefits for audiences and participants, we feel this is part of our developing ethos as an organisation. In May this year, we will begin an evaluation process, working with our board to prepare our next three-year plan. We will also begin speaking with other funders to see if we can draw in funding to support the consolidation of our team and our programme-led approach.”

1. Louise Hopkins, ‘Flying Fox’, 2018, installation view. Photo: Mike Bolam; Courtesy: the artist
2. Wallace Hall Academy Higher Photography, Pop Up Exhibition, 17-18 January 2019. Photo: Chloe Ackland
3. Louise Hopkins in conversation, with her installation ‘Flying Fox’ in the background, 17 November 2018. Photo: Chloe Ackland
4. Karen Cunningham, Contextural, 2018, detail. Courtesy: artist; photo: Mike Bolam
5. Jacqueline Hoàng Nguyễn, Black Atlas, 2016. Courtesy: artist and Museum of Ethnography, Stockholm; photo: Hannes Anderzen

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