x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Trendspotting: Paper sculptures inspire selfless creativity

Ten pieces of art that mysteriously and anonymously appeared in Scotland last year can be an example to us all.

I'm always impressed by stories of people going that extra mile to make someone else's day for no apparent gain. For this reason, I was charmed by last year's story of the delicate and enchanting paper sculptures that were left around Edinburgh's cultural institutions.

The mystery began in March 2011, when an anonymous artist gifted an exquisite paper sculpture, the Poetree, to the public at the Scottish Poetry Library with a note saying: "In support of libraries, books, words, ideas…"

Ten sculptures were found around the city throughout the year, the last of which was again at the Poetry Library in November with a note ending: "Cheers, Edinburgh. It's been fun!"

The identity of the sculptor has never been discovered, but, as Lilias Fraser, a reader development officer at the Poetry Library, explains, the secrecy is part of the fun. "These sculptures are just an extraordinary gesture. It's obviously someone who wasn't looking to be recognised or to make money or even a commission out of what she was doing. It is an extraordinary thing that someone has done these beautiful things for absolutely nothing other than pleasure and interest and enthusiasm and love for places and books."

Of course, it is not the first time we have seen this kind of selfless creative gifting: street chalk drawings have long appeared all over the UK, most recently in the form of Joe and Max's 3D pavement illusions for Reebok. There are the iconic masterpieces of the graffiti artist Banksy and Slinkachu's miniature street art installations, which are left all around London to be found and enjoyed. And then there is the more recent emergence of the yarn bombers who brighten our cities with knitted and crocheted pieces.

This new wave of creatives gifting artworks is a fabulous example of a "new old" attitude that goes beyond the simple ideas of sharing and community, and is instead based on old values and generosity. They demonstrate a willingness to give money, help or time freely.

Here in the UAE, the attitude is well practised by the ruling families, long known for their humanitarian attitude and respected as loyal supporters of those in need through housing and education programmes and conservation projects.

Perhaps we can all learn something from these random acts of creativity, specifically a generosity of spirit and kindness. An unexpected act goes a long way in creating a more beautiful and joyous community.

Scotland's mystery sculptures have all been photographed by the literary fan and photographer Chris Scott. My favourite piece is the second in the series (discovered in June at the National Library of Scotland), a beautifully crafted gramophone from Ian Rankin's Exit Music.

To see all 10 pieces in the series and more of Chris's work, visit www.chrisdonia.co.uk.

Shelley Pond is the creative director of Scarlet Opus. For more information, visit www.trendsblog.co.uk or www.twitter.com/scarletopus