Sunday, 22 May 2016


The School, Shainman Gallery, Kinderhook, NY 

Dorion, Puett, Jack Shainman, Carlos Vega, Mosse 
 GREAT exhibition! Best yet. "Well, I see u have a PS1 Moma right here" said one visitor today to Jack Shainman's anniversary party at The SCHOOL, Kinderhook.  
Celebrating the 2nd b-day of his knock-out vast upstate gallery, Jack selected 4 artists, (3 men, 1 woman,) from Ireland, Iraq, Canada & Hawaii who work across photography, painting, sculpture, installation, site specific pix & video. 

 THE RESULT IS TERRIFIC! Memorable. Impressive. 
The star here is RICHARD MOSSE, an Irish artist now based in NY. 
For photographer RICHARD MOSSE pink is not a pretty colour. 
After years of restrained, objective views of Iraq, (Saddam Hussein's former palaces - he had 84! - occupied by US military.) Mosse turned to war-torn Congo devastated by rebel fighters & ecological plunder. 
By shooting in old Kodak surveillance & reconnaissance film that turns jungle greens into lush bubblegum pinks & reds, he gives us a panoramic vision of bloody beauty overload coupled with terror. 

The results are breathtaking, & installed in Kinderhook's prime space (the largest photograph is 24ft x 14ft) quite awe inspiring. 

Moss told me, "It's the last venue for the series, & I wanted to end it on an optimistic note, even show the Congo's tourist potential. In the 1950s before Mobutu there was tourism, not surprising when you see the extraordinary landscape."   
Mosse, now 36 & NY based, is Irish, from Kilkenny. After Goldsmiths & Yale, in 2013  he represented Ireland at the Venice Biennale. 

Sculpture and the lost wax process of casting are old friends so it was a short step to his metal armatures & geometric forms embellished by the intricate organic beeswax honeycombs.
"Bees like to aim for the top of the hive,"  he told me, "So it all depends on where I put the queen." His "hives" range from garbage can lid to a gun cabinet titled Perfection. Here a tube leads out to the Hudson Valley countryside where the bees collect their pollen. 

A fabulous collaboration of artist, bees and creativity. 
HAYV KAHRAMAN originates from Iraq but left for Sweden at 11.  
Trained in Italy, now based in LA, her work has a decorative slant combining elegant Islamic script & female form. 
This new work includes intricate pattern & pierced canvas across the women's chest. 

Evidently the openings are filled with acoustic foam, an absorbent shield against high decibel siren noise used as a weapon in war, but this too subtle concept & imagery is lost in the overall design. 

Better are her sculptural versions with overlapping screens as found in Arabic homes, & her large sculpture which takes these ornate ornamental perforations to another level. 
French Canadian painter PIERRE DORION presents work site specific to the School. 
Last November he came to Kinderhook & took photographs of its numerous interior spaces, including a couple of unfinished rooms where the work now hangs. 
  Dorion & Mosse.
Dorion is fascinated by spaces: windows, doors, screens, geometric & infinite in permutation. 

VERY Best show yet at The School. The show runs to October 1st. There are also 2 Shainman galleries in Chelsea NY. 
Pierre Dorion, Clare Henry, Ricard Mosse in Kinderhook. May 22, 2016. 

Saturday, 7 May 2016

JAMES McDONALD, 'DARKNESS HAS ITS USES': the BOOK & exhibition, Leiper Gallery Glasgow

JAMES McDONALD is a great printmaker. 
His wonderful effects of depth & shadow, texture & feel, are achieved through fine lines, immense detail, precision - and lots of looking. 

The looking comes first "Anything becomes interesting if you look at it long enough," according to Flaubert. McDonald has taken this to heart. 

But as his recent book, 'Darkness has its uses: Intaglio & Woodcut Prints' demonstrates - he can also write.  

The book, (allied to his exhibition at The Leiper Gallery117 West George St, Glasgow) is a treasure. Poetic, sincere. 

McDonald has a romantic streak & in the book, honest to a fault, he allows this to flourish alongside the BEST descriptions of printmaking I've ever seen. He describes its implements, inks, paper, wax for the ground, straw hat varnish, nitric acid, copper, steel plates, proofing blankets, Eagle presses etc etc in loving detail. 

He has his favourite implements - like his 35  yr old german tempered steel scraper/burnisher, "perfectly weighted, feels good in my hand." But he also utilises ancient pins taped to a pencil stub, chewed matchsticks, needles etc, to make his "short, stabbing cross-hatches, dots and shaky scribbles" to create the face of his younger brother Jonathan who died suddenly, unexpectedly in 2015. 

He has made several portrait woodcuts, large & small,  etchings, aquatints, mezzotint, - in profile, three-quarters, & head on, some even with chine colle. McDonald learnt this technique "late in life" at GPS after seeing a young do it. (I too learnt Chine colle only a few years ago, in the Blackburn Workshop in NY.) 

Using this ancient method of incorporating fine thin papers onto the plate, he has embellished Jonathan's face with fragile pages from "The Coal Mines Act of 1920" or a map of the moon from 1969 Soviet Union Atlases or one of Stenhousemuir.   As he says, "Often the juxtapositions are weirdly apposite. Some like the hammer & sickle or sweeping red arrows "lend his brow a troubled air, while The Sea of Tranquility from Collins Lunar Map, - its phantom waves breaking silently on the shores of his cheekbone - is where I fancy I might one day meet him again."   

He had intended the original image as a memento keepsake for his family and his brother's friends. The series grew. His young brother will never know what a huge, important & wonderful inspiration he has been to McDonald. 
His family means a lot to McDonald. One of my favourite series is Soup Notes, trompe l'oeil etchings & paintings based on notes his mother left him. "Over the years, on my regular visits, my mother would make me the most delicious soup. If she was out when I arrived she would leave notes explaining where she was & giving instructions how best to heat up the food." 

McDonald started to collect these scraps of paper & their haiku-like messages, "I saw tangible, if abstract, artistry here," even on blank sheets. 
Recently he has tackled her telephone book, an ancient, tattered well worn A5 spiral-bound lined notebook crammed full of names in different coloured biro, all fading ... a creative seam he can mine, he says, for years, angling it in different light, scrutinising its patina, making different compositions, like Hiroshige & his 36 views of Mt Fuji.  
He told me, regarding the book, " I’ve never felt such trepidation about a project." Well, it is a success and I recommend it heartily to all artists, art collectors and all of you with a love of your family. It is rare to find such an articulate memorial.  
The book accompanies McDonald's latest exhibition which also contains paintings, some of still life, others of Glasgow's subway, & even large images  of jam sandwiches, + also beautiful oils of his mum's notes. On till May 15th. 

Tuesday, 3 May 2016


I had seen odd paintings by HILDA GOLDWAG over all the years I wrote for the Herald. Strong, vigorous figurative images of people, often women. The works were never tranquil, never easy. 
Goldwag was a name & a presence in many Glasgow group shows, & at the Kelly Gallery & Lillie but until my recent visit to the HIDDEN LANE GALLERY in Argyle Street I had no idea of her history, nor of her range and accomplishment. 
As so often Joe Mulholland had spotted her talent AND followed up on it, going to visit her in her tiny flat in Knightswood. By this time Hilda was in her late 80s but still busy painting. After her death in 2008 he continued to seek out her work, with the result that he has mounted several exhibitions of her work. 
The current comprehensive show, coinciding as it did with Glasgow International, is a salutary lesson in real lived emotion evident in many of her best works. 
Born into a Jewish family, her father an artist, in 1938 Hilda graduated with distinction from art school in Vienna. In March 1939 she came to Edinburgh via a permit obtained by friends. Her family were not so lucky. All perished in the Holocaust. 
This sadness never left her, and inevitably is reflected in her work.
But she also had huge determination & an appetite for life. Strong gestural line, bold colour, dramatic poses, these are what I associate with Hilda Goldwag, and are seen at Hidden Lane in abundance. 
She made a good life for herself in Glasgow, working as head of design at Friedlanders in Hillington on scarfs for Marks & Spencer; then as illustrator for various publishers including Collins; later as a hospital occupational therapist. Living in Garnethill near Glasgow School of Art, she made friends with other artists, some who had also fled the Nazis. 
But her loss of family remained a fact of life. She died in Glasgow aged 95, leaving her work to be rescued or thrown away - she would never know. 
I do hope Glasgow Museums have at least a couple of her paintings. And if not, they should visit the Hidden Lane Gallery.

Meanwhile life goes on outside Glasgow
The AYRSHIRE Open Studios are on, with a free bus hop on hop off with 70 artists to visit including Ian McNicol, the well known printmaker; Leona Stewart, glass; Dianne Gardiner painter, Janet Laurie, silver; Merlin Currie from beautiful Barr; Fiona Robertson who has turned to acrylic for her upbeat pictures & Robert Reid, wood!