Tuesday 21 April 2015

DUNCAN SHANKS at the HUNTERIAN;  Below another Sky at Glasgow Print Studio; LIZ LARNER, The Modern Institute; LAURA ALDRIDGETramwayROBIN LEISHMAN, J D Kelly Gallery, GLASGOW

Presentation should not be all, but it helps. The Hunterian has done Duncan Shanks proud. Shanks, now 78, gifted the Gallery his entire collection of sketchbooks, 45 in all, from his 5 decade career, together with some recent paintings. 
And the Hunterian has displayed them in an impressive manner via a wall of rows of open books behind glass. Alongside is a monitor showing pages from sketches shown in 1984 as part of the SAC Travelling Gallery exhibition, Weather. A big oil, from the Hunterian opening back in 1980, is in the Hunterian collection, now accompanied by recent pictures. 
Shanks is a well known landscape painter who has spent his life drawing inspiration from the area within a few miles of where he lives in Crossford, in the Clyde Valley. The sketches are lively, graphic & sure, evoking the sheer pleasure Shanks finds in drawing. He taught at GSA till 1979, from when he painted full time, resulting in many exhibitions at the RGI, Billcliffe Gallery, Scottish Gallery and Talbot Rice. 

This enjoyable exhibition (till August 16th) is accompanied by a beautiful, lavish catalogue. It encourages close attention.
Below Another Sky features 20 artists, 10 from Scotland, 10 from Commonwealth countries. All were invited to take part in a truly wonderful programme of residencies, research trips and commissions, to result in new work. 
Given the freedom to pursue their own research interests, to use the opportunity to develop new ideas & explore new ways of working, one expects results. A great opportunity. Some were big names: Christine Borland, Jim Lambie, Louise Hopkins. Scotland's 5 print studios hosted the printmaking. 
The concept behind this project is terrific. But the results are such a disappointment: safe, prim & proper prints with no pizzazz. Given the freedom to pursue their own research interests, to use the opportunity to develop new ideas & explore new ways of working. I expected great things, but It seems the artists spent their energies on travelling; their excitement on exploring rather than printmaking. 
At Glasgow's Modern Institute, sculptor LIZ LARNER presents heavy ceramic slabs, often split or cracked, but covered with wonderful glazes. Wall mounted on fairly ugly brackets, these pieces work best when richly coloured. This top-lit gallery is beautiful - even empty. 
TRAMWAY is also top-lit & can be beautiful (think of David Mach's Parthenon, Glen Onwin's show, Tony Cragg, Richard Deacon) but it's a big space, & needs a sure hand, real imagination & skill not to mention artistic ability. LAURA ALDRIDGE has none of these, with the result that her spotty installation of fabrics, carpet, bits n bobs plus dreadful smiling suns straight out of a travel bureau, leaves me cold. The only worthwhile piece here is a pink Perspex room, but it's not enough to redeem a particularly poor effort. 

The RGI KELLY Gallery has been quietly supporting its RGI members and others for many years. It is never going to set the art world alight but is a very useful Glasgow location. ROBIN LEISHMAN's Propaganda is a good example. A 2011 GSA  graduate, he lost his father young & here explores his dad's collection of toy soldiers coupled with a residency at Perth's Black Watch Museum to create mysterious paintings & prints. His prints are noteworthy.  

I am off to see the opening of the new $450 million downtown WHITNEY. Report later! 

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