GLASGOW’s reputation has risen & fallen over the years. 1990 saw a peak. The city is now in a trough. The tragic fire which completely destroyed its world-famous icon, the Glasgow School of Art has – literally – left a big hole in the city’s heart. The city centre around Sauchiehall St and the defunct McLellan Galleries is a shadow of its former self. These are dark days.
There’s nothing wrong with colour – ADRIAN WISZNIEWSKI
Happily, the JD Kelly Gallery, though small, continues to present solidly professional shows. The current ‘ALLUSION 1V’ features 17 elected RGI artists who work in the narrative tradition. Letters after your name: RA, RSA, RGI, RSW etc., may perhaps seem old-fashioned, but receiving an accolade from your fellows is still cherished by well establish painters.
Long ago I did research for the Paul Mellon Foundation. One aspect was the enthralling period around the foundation of the Royal Glasgow Institute in 1861. Back then the new RGI, in competition with Edinburgh’s RSA, featured works by Whistler, Turner, the Pre-Raphaelites, even Monet & Degas! Mackintosh exhibited from 1892 onwards. No wonder Queen Victoria bestowed royal status.
Till recently the RGI exhibited in the once beautiful McLellan Galleries. Luckily fifty years ago they were gifted a useful small space, a block from Sauchiehall Street, for monthly shows. Today’s exhibition there is a lively affair.
New president ADRIAN WISZNIEWSKI works in vivid, dramatic colour, and is all set to boost the RGI’s profile. “There’s nothing wrong with colour,” he tells me! Currently showing at Edinburgh’s Open Eye, his work can also be seen in the Tate, MoMA NYC & Setagaya, Japan. Neil MacPherson RSA, RGI, RSW, also has an international track record. His surreal legends peopled by Gaelic characters from folklore & myth, are equally lush, loud & likeable, while Helen Flockhart’s memorable, mysterious scenarios of female figures, add a touch of ancient magic.
In total contrast Peter Thomson RSW, RGI focuses on tonal subtlety. His masterful paintings, quiet images set among the desolate wasteland of derelict industrial spaces, are almost painful to contemplate. Helen Wilson RSW, RGI, PAI is another quiet, yet significant artist whose drawings and portraits get to the core of things.
Printmakers Ade Adesina RSA, RGI, Murray Robertson RGI & June Carey bring their expertise to bear. Adesina’s spectacular wood & linocuts highlight issues like deforestation, Robertson’s facility with new technologies & digital imaging allows him to explore ancient scientific iconography together with maps & textbooks to achieve intense complexities.
CAREY RSW, RGI, PAI is a painter who loves to draw. The metal etching plate suits her well. In fact, many of these RGI artists, all GSA graduates, have a love of line and detail. Carey’s mixed media ‘Sending Signals’, one of her best, includes her characteristic single inscrutable female figure.
CAREY is also one of three artists showing in ‘Perceptive Journey’ at CASS ART, Glasgow, (see YouTube embedded here) with a series of imaginary female portraits, their skin tattooed with secret message in Greek or Latin. Rosemary Beaton’s distinctive ability to highlight colour with gesture serves her well in a new series of glorious Hebridean landscapes celebrating the subtle beauty of Lewis, Scalpay & Iona. Printmaker Damian Henry employs the traditional deft graphic line of etching and linocut alongside digital technology to create memorable images.
CASS ART is on a mission. Today they sell artists materials in 12 stores across the UK, but over a century ago founder, Paul Cassirer, had a gallery in Berlin & owned the Van Gogh sunflowers! Once established in the UK, he set up art publishing in Oxford. Family members went on run Reeves Paints, establish the extensive Cass Sculpture Foundation, gift all the Niki de Saint Phalle pieces at Glasgow’s GOMA, and much more. Cass Glasgow, their first shop outside London, now provides a desperately needed gallery space in a city centre still reeling from the effects of the GSA fire.