Tuesday 23 February 2016

GLASGOW exhibitions February 2016

10 GLASGOW exhibitions. CCA, GPS, Street Level, Billcliffe, Compass, Modern Institute, Gandolfi. 

With self-help exhs all over the city in flats, cafes & temporary venues, it's still good to look at what the well established galleries do.  That's where the public go & where curators begin. 
What worries me is how RARELY students trawl these. So get out & LOOK! 

Aggressively modest & minimal, Merlin JAMES's small, subdued paintings are a challenge. His subjects are also modest - houses, churches, seascapes, the occasional dog, bird or figure, seen in melancholy mood.
He loves paint: its texture, smeared, combed, thick, layered, bumped, scrunched. 
The challenge comes from the diversity. One minute a conventional seascape, the next a conceptual fragment. He often embraces the sketchy 1 line format, as in Ruin, but can also produce disjointed colourful abstracts,
tricks with black holes, (painted or real)  or memorable images like Looker. On one wall hangs the impressive Green & Orange near a banal Sandymount and a true let-down, Arrivals. 

It's a big show in 3 rooms. If he was younger one would say James is all over the place. Yet James is also a respected academic, writing extensively on art, & knows his stuff, so intention is there. 

The pictures date from the last 35 years, covering a lot of ground from relatively straightforward landscape etchings & charcoal sketches to abstraction & recent conceptual pieces where transparent voile fabric is stretched over strange shaped stretches or frames. Occasionally he sticks tiny crudely made wooden houses onto the fabric. 
These have a good gimmick - even without the houses - but why adorn these strange creations with such conventional birthday card imagery? - cottages set in vaguely pastoral landscapes!  Better are recent all abstracts like Loving Painting, a see-thro pink complete with echoing  iridescent frame. 

I keep tying to see the Intermedia Gallery exhs but it's always closed. 

GPS exhibitions have been part of my life now for 44 years!! And PHILLIP REEVES is an integral part of both GPS & printmaking in Scotland. His role as Head of GSA Printmaking for many years, starting in 1954, - & founder member of both Edinburgh & Glasgow print workshops - makes him the father, grandfather now, of Scottish printmaking.
Reeves was a minimalist well before Scotland was attuned to such radical art. In his etchings his use of fragments of metal, torn card, wood & collage is intermingled with intaglio & etching. 
Many etchings are  printed from bits of broken metal that produce wonderful textured surfaces of scrapes & holes, worn edges & .shadows. Some images from the past I know by heart. 
Reeves has maintained his austere stance for well over 50 years. I remember when he won the Glasgow HERALD first prize in 1981 (from 750 pictures submitted) & shocked the exhibition audience with his "challenging", so called, Forest Clearing Dunkeld. "An Abstract Picture to Provoke Discussion" was my headline. "Its warm olive colours recalls the enveloping woods during his walks. a hint of cold metallic turquoise is introduced to avoid blandness and sketches of criss-cross fallen trees suggested the diagonals across the picture plane," I wrote... .
The show is over but GPS stocks Reeves work. One intense blue piece I saw n the GPS shop I will always remember. 
Another minimalist printmaker is SARAH WRIGHT, who, I am reliably informed, is a wizz technician. She graduated 2009 from GSA, & now lives part of the year in NY. 
Her GPS installation, till March 23, involves lots of semi transparent white net curtains transforming the gallery into, she hopes, a meditative space. 'Feels like being in the shower', quipped one visitor.
These translucent drapes gives glimpses of small rectangular collages made up of haberdashery stuff - zips etc - plus selfies of Sarah. One series of images which I really liked are contained in plastic bags. American internationalism has obviously been an influence & it will be fascinating to see what she does next.  
Downstairs in the cramped difficult space under the stairs - (so much better when this in-demand members exhibition area was at the front in the alcove!)  Ross MCAULEY's clever witty portraits of his friends are just great. I love the way he uses pattern to emphasise character while giving us a smile

Next door to GPS, STREET LEVEL has 3 interesting shows. Nick Hedges's documentation of bad housing from 1968-72 for Shelter is memorable. Can things have been that dreadful so recently? Yes, it sees. And the children so happy playing weddings & brides with a flimsy net scarf over their heads. 

In the gallery photographs from Liza Dracup & Ulla Schildt work very successfully 
together, Dracup's birds and Schildt's images of natural history museums.  
My one complaint - the labels in the foyer are too low. 
Street Level runs interesting courses, as does GPS.   See steetlevelphotorks.org
Murray Robertson, Gandolfi. 
Robertson is a great printmaker & a GPS stalwart. 

Last year he spent a 6 month residency on Skye, producing his characteristically detailed but evocative images & prints of the island & Outer Hebrides.
Hand drawn, carefully worked but with a light touch, these really beautiful prints are on show at  Cafe Gandolfi, Albion St, till April 12th.


For the last 20 years every January Billcliffe provide collectors with a treat: small, tempting, luscious, unframed pix at affordable prices. Over 1600 sensible folk have pulled out their wallets or credit cards for a little gem. This year 60 are already sold.

Best sellers they tell me, "include top artists like George Donald, Peter Thomson   & Christine McArthur, plus David Martin,  Anne Ross, Jimmy Johnstone, Tom Shanks, Mairi McGregor, Michael Corsar, Damian Henry, Norman Edgar, Sarah Carrington, George Gilbert." Prices 85-950 quid. 
george donald 

Another 2008 GSA graduate JACK MCCONVILLE shows at the Modern Institute, soon to celebrate its 20 years anniversary. Its director Toby Webster has done a great job for Glasgow & for contemporary art. And with its pictorial website and now flipping book, one will soon be able to enjoy their shows at home. 
McConville also embraces a linear take on his large figurative canvases, but they do not excite. 

Last but not least A PORTRAIT of the late David MacLennan, actor, writer, producer, famous for the influential 7.84 Theatre Company & Oran Mor's so so enjoyable & popular lunch time theatre Play, Pie & a Pint, was unveiled in Glasgow. 
By Sandy Moffat, for so long head of painting at GSA, & equally influential, it will be hung in Oran Mor.

Compass tell me, "Returning from recent trips to remote Sutherland & Caithness + Norway, still beaming with excitement, Gregor brought his sketchbooks into Compass & informed us he was truly inspired by the stark crags & stacks at Duncansby as well as the startling Norwegian landforms - a true vision of where land meets sea. As a result he embarked upon this series of dramatic paintings & prints."

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