Friday, 29 January 2016


At long last, 18 months after the catastrophic fire, GSA ARCHIVES have a new, temporary home. Glasgow's Whisky Bond now provides ample storage plus a reading room, open to the public on appointment. It all looks splendid. 
As someone with boxes of freeze dried personal documents still frozen, I declare an interest. In fact, as one of the few folk affected re Archives possessions who is alive, I am more delighted than most.
The GSA fire was, is and always will be a horrendous tragedy, and in the whole scheme of things Archives came off well. Heaven knows how long the building restoration will take, & of course much is gone for ever. 
So this event is very welcome, & emphasises the huge importance of records & documentation. 

100 years on, the GSA WW1 ROLL OF HONOUR is a special PROJECT. 
The actual roll was designed in 1925, a traditional illuminated parchment with gold leaf  flourishes. Unlike most war memorials, it records names & regiments not only of those who died but also names of staff, students & governors who served in the war. 
Eugene Bourdon, see above,  was the Professor of Architectural Design at the Glasgow School of Art from, approximately, 1904-1914. Sadly, he died in the Battle of the Somme in 1916.

In total 405 names,  (so far just over half are done - 275) - r being researched for the stories behind these names. The role played by former women students as nurses is one highlight, see
The GSA ARCHIVES contain a wide range - from GSA institutional records to artworks, architectural drawings, textiles, posters, photographs & furniture. 
For the opening day Archives displayed some interesting items: Joan Eardley's postgrad Italian landscape from her scholarship travel trip; sketch books from 1904, Mackintosh's actual letter to Fra Newbury from c 1915 asking for a reference when he was accused of being a spy; 
a silver commission from Lord Forte organised by Tony Jones in 1980 (I was there); ancient embroideries, 
a classic Chuck Mitchell decorative slab; 1951 cushion,
superb life drawing, a sample of work from the famous Gillespie, Kidd & Coia architecture archive, 1917-1987, containing of course, photos of beloved Isi Metzstein & Andy MacMillan. & more. 

George Melly poster from Student Activities Week 1981.
I interviewed him for STV's arts programme, he performed, so did Ian Dury. Peter Blake was there; Ralph Steadman too.   Those were the days. 
GSA Archives sit above the Glasgow Sculpture Studios. Their current show, The transparent tortoiseshell & the un-ripe umbrella, contains work by 5 sculptors, but looks dreary & empty. The space itself is a difficult one with lots of pipes and columns. Maybe this is contributing to their less than inspiring shows. 

Sunday, 24 January 2016

PETER BEVAN, Studio Pavilion, House for an Art Lover, GLASGOW

PETER BEVAN's new Glasgow show is stunning - a revelation, a first class, top rate, must see event. International in inspiration, it is also international in feel, and would look at home in London, New York or Rome. 
Bevan works in clay, employing the simple ceramic process of modelling then firing, to create elegant, beautiful shapes, surfaces, textures and colours. A painter by training, at London's Royal College, he turned to sculpture as a less solitary, more sociable, collaborative occupation, teaching it full time at Glasgow Art School for 30 years, 1973-2003.
Now retired, he can visit his beloved India often. He first went there in 1989 & Eastern Buddhist shapes, votive forms, patterning & thought continue to inspire him. 

The exhibition, immaculately installed in the Studio Pavilion at Bellahouston Park's House for an Art Lover, is titled BODIES, MOUNTAINS AND BOMBS, the subjects of 3 strands of work over the last 25 years. 
Chronologically, Bodies come first. Bevan makes exquisite life drawings - a row here including Caryatidsdemonstrates his gentle touch - and so early pieces were figurative. 
"Soon I became concerned with the surfaces," he explains. He experimented with pattern & impressed text & soon discovered he could hand-press fragments of crocheted lace into the wet clay before firing - a method he still uses today. 

Indian sculpture, stupas, architecture & clothing often includes lavish embellishment. "The floral decoration in my work similarly refers to clothing, jewellery, body decoration and tattooing, exposing or hiding the body below." The use of terracotta clay also reiterates & reflects Indian votive figures giving Helen's Twin, Jughead & Freyamuse a lovely exotic feel.  
On the opposite wall a large Japanese-style scroll drawing plus small detailed sketches of rocks & mountains - what a great draughtsman Bevan is - tell of his love for high peaks especially Mount Iwate in Japan & Mt Padhia in Gujarat. 
A series of small sculptures conjure up for me the idea of miniature mountains alongside bonsai trees!
The 3rd category or group Bombs are in fact Flowerbombs which Bevan made as a result of current wars in Afghanistan, Iraq & Syria. "Tho useless, even whimsical, they are an expression of my horror, impotence & anger over the violence of these conflicts. Let us dispense flowers & seeds rather than shrapnel" he says. 
These subverted conceptual Flowerbombs, perfectly installed across the Pavilion's windowsalso hint at the shape of Buddhist stupas while Volcano & Bud also has a menacing missile quality. Life & death combined. 
A new piece, Minefield, made up of 12 circles, presents a more minimal abstract air, as does a terrific White Missile, hanging on the wall nearby.

Don't miss this show. It oozes positivity, energy & creative possibilities. Good old flower-power at its best, re-envisioned for today! 

Volcano & Bud. 

Exhibition runs Tuesday-Sunday, 11am-4pm  till Feb 21st. It's free! And food in cafe delicious.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

ANDY SCOTT & his Horses, Scotland - New York

As a rider who owned 2 horses I know when an equine sculpture/painting/drawing is wrong! Happily altho' he never rode, ANDY SCOTT has conquered this market in a big way. 
His KELPIES, are now world famous, with upwards of 2 million visitors to the Helix Park near Falkirk/Grangemouth, millions of words written about them, & countless images of them flashing across TV screens/posters & advertising world wide. Even Edinburgh has adopted them for Princes St! And how many selfies have they spawned?! Irresistible. 
It all began in 1997 with the Heavy Horse, commissioned  as a gateway marker on the M8 by Glasgow Business Park. This industrial park was opened by the beloved Donald Dewar MP and I was lucky enough to go to it with him. One glance at the Clydesdale, & we were both  hooked. 
His opening speech was unusually enthusiastic. Beaming & upbeat, Dewar, like so many after him, fell in love with Andy's metal horse. 
This first foray with horse as muse, was a linear drawing in space. Wire, bent by hand, curved in all directions, over hoof & rump, nose & fetlock. Perfect. It is still one of my favourites. 
Twenty years on Scott is still wedded to his horses. Working in his huge shed in Maryhill, his 'theatre of dreams',  he creates:  a beautiful silver herd to gallop across an American Long Island foreshore,  - 
another Equus Altus, a ton & a half of steel, balanced on a 1ft square column 50 ft up, in a Leeds shopping mall. "That was a nerve-wracking installation!" he says. 

He and his wife Hanneke (who is also an architect) have also produced a superb & wonderful BOOK telling the complex story of their 8+ year journey with the Kelpies. It is by far one of the best, most beautiful books ever, recording a gripping story with fantastic photography, fascinating interviews & compelling layout. A masterpiece in itself. 

Scott is currently working on several large scale projects in Maryhill, & will have a show in NEW YORK in the Spring. It will be at Glasgow Caledonian University's building  on Wooster Street, Soho: a series of bronzes, photographic prints & he hopes, a medium scale steel piece.
He explains, "The loose concept is maquettes for larger scale works, some which came to fruition, some which never saw the full scale light of day. GCU just gave me an Honorary Doctorate. I'm pleased to say part of the gig is this wonderful opportunity in June. I must admit I am enjoying the challenge of re-acquainting myself with clay and skills I'd forgotten I had after years of steelwork."
His recent steelwork now involves a more abstract skin of rectangular pieces soldered, mosaic-like, over the initial skeleton of wire ribs - which are removed at the very end. His current commission is a secret! But if this new lovely horse - which has a kind face, pricked up ears & alert expression - brings as much joy as his previous animals, the owner should be well pleased. 

Saturday, 16 January 2016

MODERN SCOTTISH WOMEN 1885-1965, National Gallery of Modern Art, EDINBURGH

WOMEN ONLY exhibitions? Hate them. London's Saatchi Gallery has decided in favour. I haven't seen it but reviews are not good. And the current MODERN SCOTTISH WOMEN at GMA Edinburgh is deeply, sadly, troubling. 
As Ethel Walker declared in 1938, "There is no such thing as a woman artist. There are only 2 kinds of artist -bad & good."  Here 45 women are represented by 90+ works, some well known, most not. More than half the 45 women r represented by only 1 work. Not a good move. 

 Much research and hard work has, I'm sure, gone into this - but as the SNG's first major show of work by women ever, unfortunately it is under whelming.
The glass ceiling certainly applies to women artists. Well known statistics prove that major gallery & museum shows, EVEN TODAY, favour men to a HUGE degree. I won't repeat all this info - u can find it on the web. 
The catalogue for this show contains much useful art historical info - on the marriage bar, (if u got married u had to leave yr job) art school restrictions, (segregated life class) records of usual domestic challenges faced then & now. 
Covering 80 years 1885-1965, wives & daughters had less independence than today & these relatively short careers obviously account for some of the poor work. Art education too was scarce. No nude drawing for women of course, (tho my mother who attended Sheffield Art School around 1927, went to mixed life classes, no problem.  
Women had few places to exhibit as they were routinely turned down for the RSA. And who was so busy refusing these women? MEN of course. Keeping their own little clubs safe for them alone. 
I experience this attitude in 1980 when I became chief Herald art critic. The notorious Glasgow Art Club suggested my then-husband join, so that I would be allowed thro the door. Needless to say I never went in. 
 Mary Armour 1947
Anne Redpath was the first woman painter to be elected an Academician in Scotland - as recently as 1952  & she also broke the London RA barrier - in 1960!
Cecile Walton 1912
There is much justified anger among women regarding all the barriers they had to surmount. However none of this useful research makes for a good show. 

Maybe the net has been flung too wide?  I think so. Maybe 45 is too big a number to do justice to ? (A couple of works or less is not adequate.) The definition of Scottish is also too generous. Many here have a tenuous relationship with Scotland. 

Whatever the reason the show does Scottish women artists a disservice. Significant folk like W Barns Graham,  Cecile Walton, Bet Low or Dorothy Johnstone are swallowed up by surrounding female portraits which abound.  And no landscapes - were they all tied to the kitchen sink?
Phyllis Bone 1942. 
The one pleasant surprise is the sculpture - bold, dynamic, ambitious bronzes from Phyllis Bone; Hazel Armour 1894-1985; Alice Meredith Williams 1877-1934 who did Paisley's war memorial; Ann Henderson 1921-1976;  even Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll 1848-1939, daughter of Queen Victoria.  
Ann Henderson 1954
In addition this show has at last allowed Margot Sandeman, Pat Douthwaite, Louise Annand, Margaret Mellis, Willy Barns Graham & Bet Low some attention. 
Barns Graham 1945
They all died recently, & it's a pity they did not receive more attention in their lifetime. I well remember what a struggle they all had. 
I hope their work will soon receive a bigger, more focused, less historical show!

Photographer MARGARET WATKINS is also included here, tho strangely she is not in the catalogue. Her beautiful moody atmospheric shots of Glasgow & New York hang in the corridor, drawing attention to the tight fit of these rooms and passage-ways. 
Nora Neilson Gray 1920s
And true enough this upstairs at Modern 2, as they call this building, is a difficult space for any show. To some it would suggest that as usual the women can go across the road, upstairs and out of the way. 
I hope the next female show will be presented in the large well known space of Edinburgh's main Galley of Modern Art.
Let me know on Fb what u think.