Recently Pat Service responded to a tweet DFG sent out about the Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art. When we learned that Pat, who studied at the Glasgow School of Art, was going to be in Scotland, we were curious to hear her perspective on the city’s current art scene. While it was a short trip, Pat was kind enough to do a little art hop and share what she found with us.
We hope you enjoy Pat Services’ report on art in Glasgow as much as we have.
ART IN GLASGOW
by Pat Service
I went to Scotland for a week and this is some of what I saw.
First of all, I set out to see the Gallery of Modern Art, just down the street from where I was staying in Glasgow. I knew the building; in fact, I have walked past it many times but for some reason, I had never gone in. Well, would you go in this building hoping to see “modern” art?
This time I went in and had a big surprise.
There was a show by Karla Black, a Scottish sculptor living in Glasgow. The central area of the main floor of the building, which is huge with large pillars ascending to the ceiling, was covered with a sort of ‘ice cream’ sandwich, 4 feet high, made out of sawdust. (If you are allergic to sawdust, you were encouraged not to enter.) This main piece of the installation was composed of 17 tons of sawdust and plaster powder, (at the cost of $46,000 Cdn.), which they had to get from Scandinavia.
Above it were garlands of cellophane, touched with makeup bronzer.
Occasionally there were odd pieces cut out, such as in this picture.
To install the piece, workers in overalls and masks stomped upon the dust to compact it into layers. (To set your mind at ease, when the installation is disassembled a farmer is going to take the material and use it on his farm.) On viewing the piece, you were asked to walk anti-clockwise, and then make up your mind about the installation when you finished walking around it.
The security guard and all the attendants were very helpful and informative about the exhibition. Upstairs were several other more traditional gallery spaces, along with a shop, of course, and a cafe downstairs. It is a very beautiful and imaginative use of a building that had ceased to be useful in its former purposes, as a residence, a bank, and a library, amongst other things.
Obviously the exhibition resonated with me, because I kept telling people about it. If you google Karla Black you can see some of her other unusual striking installations, in a career that encompasses many prestigious locations.
I saw other signs that Glasgow has a thriving art community. Besides the traditional venues such as the magnificent Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in the west end of the city, or the Burrell Collection in the south, there are many converted spaces for contemporary artists. In the Merchant City area, I happened upon a wonderful building with stunning spaces for various visual art activities. This one called Transmission is an artist-run gallery that was hosting a group show.
Next door to them is the Glasgow Print Studio exhibiting a variety of current and historical prints in a spacious display area. On the floor above is a very generously sized gallery space with light-coloured broad planked floors and big exhibition walls that would be the envy of any gallerist anywhere in the world. And then, even above that, on another floor, was a print workshop.
A few days later I sought out another address that I had in my pocket, 103 Trongate, and found myself in the same building, but entering from the other street.
Entering through that door, and going to the first floor, I found “Project Ability“, a four-artist exhibition. Then around the corner and through another door was “Studium”, a City of Glasgow College exhibition in the Glasgow Project Rooms.
All of these facilities are housed in six stories of a former Edwardian warehouse covering almost an entire city block. They have such an interesting way of modernizing the interior of these ornate architectural wonders.
Below is my reflection in the interior transition space between the old and the new.
Another day when I was searching for an address that I couldn’t find, I found myself walking past a large black smooth surface in the wall of a building. Seemingly impenetrable, it obviously used to be a garage door, but was filled in with glass that you could not see through.
As I walked farther along, I found the door I was looking for, a discreet narrow entryway to a bright white gallery space that is The Modern Institute. In a large room completely lit by a skylight was an exhibition of many notebooks and some casual paintings on newspaper, by Paul Thek. This obviously brilliant American artist, with whom I was not familiar, had a long adventurous career in the U.S and Italy, with connections to many of the well-known stars of the time.
It was a beautifully curated exhibition with just the right amount of detail, giving insight into the mind of the artist through the many journals displayed and a comprehension of his easy facility through the paintings on newspaper. What made it doubly pleasurable was that I found myself looking out to the street through that previously noticed simple large glass black window.
Years ago, whenever I was in Glasgow, I would to pop in to the Cyril Gerber gallery. On this visit I was happy to see that it still exists, on West Regent Street but in a slightly different location. Cyril is now retired and working from home, but his daughter Jill operates the gallery, located near the lovely Blythswood Square. They have combined forces with the Compass Gallery, a registered charity to support emerging artists at the start of their career.
Because I went by on a Monday, I thought it would not be open, but in fact it was and I went in to find a pleasant showroom, featuring an exhibition of landscapes by Tom Shanks. Tom Shanks is an artist who for over 50 years has been interpreting the character of the Scottish landscape.
As well as contemporary artists, they handle historical works, and it would be a good place to contact if you have any Scottish paintings to sell, such as the Glasgow Boys, the Scottish Colourists, and the likes. They know and understand the importance of these pieces.
Going north and up onto Sauchiehall Street I found yet another example of the many branches of an active art community in Glasgow. Called the Centre for Contemporary Arts, this is another building converted into studio and gallery spaces.
With many floors for different activities, The Centre curates six major exhibitions a year while providing studio and gallery space for emerging artists. Once again, it is a building conversion that maintains the character of the old while introducing fresh clean gallery spaces.
Because of a shortage of time, unfortunately I did not get to The Hunterian with its large permanent display of the paintings James McNeill Whistler. Neither did I make it to the Glasgow School of Art, where they conduct captivating tours of the school, incorporating the history of the city and a review of the career of its famous architect, Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
The above is just a small sampling of what is on view in Glasgow. It does not begin to explore the depth of what is being done there, or what I could have discovered if I had had more time.
Pat Service: Considered one of Canada’s foremost landscape artists, Service has painted in Canada, Scotland and New York. Once a frequent attendee at the Emma Lake workshops (1980-1991), she first became known for her impressionistic prairie landscapes. In recent years, Service has simplified the concept of landscape to symbolic depictions of isolated landmarks — such as a cabin, a small group of trees, a dock or boat — against fields of solid colours in brilliant hues. These large-scale canvasses capture a non-specific essence of geography and glow with the technical and stylistic assurance of a mature painter.
Pat Service was born in Port Alberni on the west coast of Vancouver Island in 1941. During the 1960s, she studied at the Glasgow School of Art, Scotland and earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree at the University of British Columbia. After graduating from university, she lived in Eastern Canada, Scotland and Venezuela. Service has lived in Vancouver, BC and painted full-time since 1972. In 1993, she was awarded the Commemorative Medal for the 125th Anniversary of Confederation.
For more about Pat Service and her work please visit www.patservice.com