The scene: It is almost seven o’clock on a Friday evening in London in mid-October. Dozens of people are still spilling out of the white tent of the art fair into the darkening cool of Regent’s Park. Most are fashionable, some are rich: all are hungry, and somewhat fatigued from a day spent in the brightly lit and slightly unreal atmosphere of the fair. Across the road, a courtesy coach laid on for VIP guests is parked. The driver is waiting for the officious blonde intern with the clipboard to instruct him to drive off across town, to the opening of a dead American artist’s retrospective at the Camden Arts Centre. As the last passengers board, a man makes a phone call to a male colleague, possibly his gallerist.
‘I was just in the talk –’
[inaudible query, something along the lines of – ‘Did you ask her something in the Q & A?’]
‘Yeah, I did actually and she gave me a nice answer.’
[Inaudible response, possibly a comment to the effect that it would be good to get hold of a recording of it]
‘Yeah, I think it was recorded and it’s going to be out on Resonance FM, so it should be easy to…’
[inaudible reply, perhaps checking that everything is in hand for that evening, and that he knows how to get to the place where he will be staying that night]
‘I’m going up to Camden now on this bus. Yeah – I’ll go by the overland to Dalston later.’
While the man has been on the phone, a woman with a heavy accent, either French or Spanish, has boarded the bus and now asks if the seat next to him is free. Silently he indicates that it is, but with a feeling of slight surprise – given the number of empty seats on the bus. The man concludes his phone conversation in a more self-conscious manner. Feeling that it might be bad manners to pass the journey in silence, he now turns to the woman and begins making polite conversation.
‘Are you enjoying the fair so far?’
‘Yes’, she says with a girlish laugh.
‘And you’re here as an artist, or a curator or…?’
The woman gives him a slightly too lengthy rundown of her various art-related activities.
‘So you run a space, a magazine and you’re an artist, you must be very busy.’
Again the woman replies with a simpering ‘Yes.’
‘What kind of work do you make?’
‘Photography, right’. There is a slight pause in which the artist tries and fails to think of anything to say about photography – it is clear that the medium is not his ‘bag’.
Moving on in search of something to talk about with this complete stranger that might interest him slightly more he asks, ‘And what is the journal?’
‘The journal does not exist any more, I am just looking after the archive now, and running the space -‘
‘And is the space…?’
‘Yes, it is new. We are having exhibition programme and events.’
‘What kind of events?’ he asks, perking up, but adopting a slightly proprietorial tone – it is clear that live art is more up his street than photography.
‘Well, all kinds’, says the woman, somewhat bemused. ‘Is boring to just have exhibitions so we have talks, tea parties – events!’ she finishes emphatically as if exhausted by what strikes her as an unnecessary explanation.
‘Okay, I wasn’t sure what you meant by ‘events’ – it’s become a term that used a lot in the art world and I wanted to qualify what you mean’, the artist replies in a reasonable tone.
His phone rings again.
‘Hi’ (it is obvious that it’s someone he is very intimate with, either his long-term girlfriend or wife).
[inaudible question] ‘Yeah, I’m just on the bus going up to Camden’.
[inaudible question: likely to be ‘who are you with?]
The man replies with some hesitancy, as if wary of arousing suspicion, jealousy or irritation in his partner. ‘I’m with –‘, he pauses, ‘a stranger, actually.’ He lets out a small, nervous laugh. ‘She just came and sat down next to me.’ (This last said as if to admonish himself from any wrongdoing).
[inaudible question, likely to be: ‘What is her name?]
‘I don’t know actually – what is your name?’ he asks the woman.
‘Arelia?’ he pronounces the strange name uncertainly. ‘I’m Bob’ he says, and then, something about the strangeness of the situation causes him to perceive the shortened version of his own name as being potentially misunderstood, being a verb as well as a proper noun. An image of apples bobbing in a bucket of water for Hallowe’en floats into his mind. ‘Bob as in Robert’, he adds, laughing again uncertainly at the oddness of introducing himself to this woman while on the phone to his partner. Returning to the conversation with his partner, he responds to a comment she has made concerning the mess he has left in their home (in a Northern city some three hours train ride away) in his haste to depart for London and the fair.
‘Yeah, I’m sorry I left in a bit of a panic and just left a big pile of clothes on the floor…’
[inaudible question, likely to be ‘what are you wearing?’]
‘I just put on my leather jacket.’
[inaudible question, probably concerning his plans for the evening.]
‘Yeah, I’m going up there later. I’m getting a bit nervous actually, it’s going to be packed.’
[Inaudible statement, likely to be ‘I love you’]
He replies, ‘Yeah, me too’ – the classic response when unwilling to say aloud in a public place ‘I love you’.
[inaudible statement – probably ‘I miss you’]
Having only left home a few hours earlier, he replies with a trace of irritation, at having this rare free time interrupted, ‘I miss you too’.
[the imagined reply, perhaps slightly frosty in tone: ‘I can tell you’re busy, give me a ring later if you have time.’]
He says (with some relief),‘Okay, yeah, I’ll phone you later.’
Turning once more to his companion, he says, by way of explanation, ‘As you’ve probably gathered, that was my partner, we’ve got a young son and she was just putting him to bed (a slight pang enters his heart at the thought of his son in his pyjamas, fresh from the bath with his hair tousled and his face rosy, clutching his favourite story book, ‘How do dinosaurs go to bed?’ But a second later, his thoughts turn back to the evening ahead in London, and he says brightly to the woman, ‘I’ve got a couple of nights off!’ Then, unable to resist a small boast, he says, ‘I’m going up to Dalston later to do a performance at this Dada event.’
‘Oh’ says the woman, clearly about as interested in performance as the man is in photography.
Changing tack, the man says, ‘I went to the talk about [inaudible]. It made it all seem really important – sometimes I don’t know how important art is – so it’s good to feel that it is.’
‘The woman, who clearly suffers from no such misgivings about the importance of art, offers nothing in reply. Gallantly, the man asks, ‘What is your work about?’
‘Mostly I am taking photographs of funerals around the world, as an expression of individual and community.’ This is said in a slightly prim and self-important way, with the subtext ‘my work is far more worthy than your silly performances’.
The man is left gobsmacked by this response – thinking silently, her work sounds awful – and really out of date.
A silence descends for a few moments in which the artist thinks, God, I am so tired. His son had woken him up at 6am that morning, and his partner, extracting the last bit of co-parenting available before he fled to London, had said, ‘Can you get up with him please?’ and then turned over in a way that suggested she was not asking, but telling. The man cannot draw up the strength to discuss the woman’s terrible photographs of funerals – and thinks, a bit petulantly, I didn’t ask her to come and sit next to me. He wishes he could be alone to mull over the events of the day and to think ahead to his performance that evening – to enjoy the strange tinselly feeling of nervous excitement that being in London at night brings. The coach has now stopped at some traffic lights in a leafy street in St. John’s Wood.
‘It’s so dark’, the woman says.
He, mistaking her comment for self-congratulation relating to the profundity of her own practice assents blandly, ‘Yes, it must be.’
‘No, I meant –‘, she gestures towards the night outside. ‘It is quite scary, especially if you are a stranger’, placing emphasis on the final word as if piqued at being described in this way to his partner.
‘I’m sorry about that’, he says, ‘I didn’t know how to describe you as you’d only just sat down beside me.’
‘Ah –’, says the woman, and then muses, ‘What is the difference between foreign and stranger?’
‘Well -’, the artist says, with a spark of sudden interest, being a man who likes to pin down the specifics in life. ‘They are similar words, but you use them in different contexts – you would talk about a foreign language for instance, but not a strange one.’ He is conscious suddenly of the race issue, and how describing the woman as ‘foreign’ might even be worse than describing her as a stranger. Suddenly, and with blessed relief, he thinks of Albert Camus and offers, as if he had been complimenting the woman all along, ‘Stranger sounds better in French…’
‘Yes’ the woman agrees, giggling again girlishly.
Silence descends once more, broken by the arrival of the coach at the gallery. The man and woman disembark, the woman immediately encountering some friends approaching the gallery on foot. She embraces them warmly and begins talking to them in fast and excited French. The artist, who has been forgotten, walks towards the bright lights of the gallery and the slender flutes of champagne sitting fizzing on the counter inside, just waiting to be drunk.
Volksbühne am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz and BQ, Berlin, 20th – 22nd September 2013
Curated by BQ and Sarah Lowndes
THE GLASGOW WEEKEND was a 3-day festival of innovative, diverse and highly acclaimed visual art, film, performance, music and design from Glasgow, presented at the Volksbühne Theatre and BQ, during Berlin Art Week 2013. The Glasgow Weekend featured new works from Turner Prize winning artists Douglas Gordon and Richard Wright, and coincided with an exhibition of new works by internationally renowned artist David Shrigley at BQ. Other highlights included Franz Ferdinand, playing songs from their eagerly anticipated 4th album, Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action (20th September), Torsten Lauschmann‘s site-specific cinema performance At the Heart of Everything a Row of Holes (21st September) and nightly parties hosted by acclaimed avant-garde Glaswegian DJ duo OPTIMO. The programme also showcased music, performance and sculptural interventions from emergent Glasgow-based artists Jamie Bolland, Romany Dear, Raydale Dower, Ashanti Harris and Julia Scott. Newly commissioned publications by Prawn’s Pee (Ben Ashton, Rob Churm, Oliver Pitt and Rebecca Wilcox) and The Burning Sand and merchandise co-designed by Richard Wright and April Crichton will form part of a pop-up presentation in the Volksbühne by Glasgow gallery and bookstore Good Press. In BQ’s showroom (apartment upstairs from the gallery) and the Pavilion adjacent to the Volksbühne, there was a trio of exhibitions entitled VALISE (18th-22nd September), curated by Glaswegian galleries David Dale Gallery, The Duchy and Sarah Lowndes.
Friday 20th September
Raydale Dower opened the weekend with a performance in the Volksbühne Theatre’s Stern Foyer (Foyer of the Stars), recreating a written account of a 1920 Stefan Wolpe Dada performance using 8 copies of Beethoven 5th on 8 turntables at various speeds.
The action then moved to the Roter Salon (Red Salon) for the launch of Volume 2 of bi-annual art magazine The Burning Sand (edited by Sarah Lowndes, designed by Sophie Dyer & Maeve Redmond) and limited edition publication by Prawn’s Pee (Ben Ashton / Rob Churm / Oliver Pitt / Rebecca Wilcox).
The launch event featured a musical performance by Torsten Lauschmann and Richard Wright. Lauschmann, whose musical alterego is Slender Whiteman and Wright, who plays guitar in Glasgow alt-pop band Correcto, presented a new musical collaboration with player piano and electric guitar.
A second musical performance followed, by Jamie Bolland and Raydale Dower. Bolland and Dower, from anarchic Glasgow band Tut Vu Vu, presented new Musique Concrète compositions including a revisiting of the work of Erik Satie.
Warm up sounds from avant-garde Glaswegian DJ duo Optimo (Keith McIvor and Jonnie Wilkes, aka JD Twitch and JG Wilkes) in the Stern Foyer presaged the arrival on the main stage of Franz Ferdinand, playing songs from their back catalogue and eagerly anticipated and critically acclaimed 4th album, Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action (2013)
The evening concluded with a Franz Ferdinand Afterparty hosted by Optimo in the Roter Salon.
Saturday 21st September
The evening began with a film installation the Volksbühne’s Third Floor Theatre by Douglas Gordon, Silence, Exile, Deceit (2013). In this ‘industrial pantomime’ shot on location in Essen, using blinding light and the deepest darkness, sounds and visual impressions, Gordon poses the question of “who has a say”—artist, performer, or spectator.
The action then moved to the Stern Foyer where Ashanti Harris presented a solo dance performance, a new dance work exploring cultural appropriation and representation, combining elements of traditional dances performed in Barbados and by Amerindians in Guyana with longsword dancing practiced in Yorkshire, England.
This performance was followed by a live dance performance by Romany Dear, You I Move, You Move (2013), exploring the communicative power of the body. The piece was choreographed by Romany Dear and performed by Romany Dear, Ashanti Harris and Julia Scott, the three co-founders of Glasgow Open Dance School (GODS).
The programme of live events continued with a Film installation in the theatre’s main auditorium by Torsten Lauschmann, At the Heart of Everything a Row of Holes(2011 (2013 revision)). This dazzling site-specific cinematic performance responded to the specific architecture of the Volksbuehne’s art deco theatre, showcasing Lauschmann’s interest in the earliest forms of magical entertainment and the latest technical innovations.
The evening concluded with a party in the Stern Foyer hosted by Optimo (Keith McIvor and Jonnie Wilkes): an excursion into territories far beyond the accepted boundaries of club music.
Elsewhere in the building:
New site-specific wall drawings by Richard Wright, Torsten Lauschmann’s Digital Clock (Growing Zeroes), Jonnie Wilkes’ neon Optimo and Espacio signs and Chandeliers by Raydale Dower were installed in the theatre building for The Glasgow Weekend. Open from 6pm on both evenings was a pop up shop in Stern Foyer run by Good Press, selling publications and The Glasgow Weekend merchandise designed by April Crichton and Richard Wright.
All photographs of The Glasgow Weekend by Steffen Jagenburg, with the exception of the photograph of Romany Dear’s performance, taken by Sarah Lowndes.
The Glasgow Weekend was sponsored by Creative Scotland, British Council and BQ
Mackintosh Museum, Glasgow, 7th July – 30th September2012
Curated by Sarah Lowndes
Studio 58: Women Artists in Glasgow since World War II was an exhibition and accompanying publication examining the period between World War II and the present day when women artists in Glasgow are at the forefront of the art scene in the city. The title of the exhibition comes from the studio located on the top floor of the Mackintosh Building which historically was the dedicated work space for women students.
In recent years, a number of highly regarded women artists have emerged from the Glasgow art scene, including Turner Prize nominees Christine Borland, Cathy Wilkes and Karla Black.
Studio 58 contextualised the work of contemporary women artists in Glasgow through documenting and displaying the little known and under-represented lineage of women’s art in the city from 1939 onwards, within the frame of the city’s art school where all of the artists included in the exhibition either studied or taught.
The most well known period, 1890 – 1930, has been documented in several publications and the recent exhibition ‘Glasgow Girls’ (2010), however the post-World War II period has not been subject to the same level of analysis. Studio 58 was organised around four thematic strands: landscape/still life, body/self, printed matter and photography/film and will focus upon the work of over 50 artists active from the late 1930s onwards. The 54 featured artists included Margaret Morris, Mary Armour, Ivy Proudfoot, and Kathleen Mann, as well as those that followed them including Joan Eardley, Margot Sandeman, Bet Low and Sam Ainsley and younger artists such as Cathy Wilkes, Claire Barclay, Victoria Morton, Hayley Tompkins and Karla Black.
Studio 58 featured many seldom viewed works loaned from private collections and the collections of Glasgow Museums, The Hunterian Museum, The Glasgow School of Art Archives & Collections and Glasgow Women’s Library. There was a symposium to accompany the exhibition, a screening event and a live performance on the opening night of the exhibition by Romany Dear.
The Studio 58 catalogue, edited by Sarah Lowndes, is available from the GSA shop and and Aye Aye books. Published by The Glasgow School of Art on the occasion of the exhibition Studio 58: Women Artists in Glasgow since World War II, designed by GSA graduates Sophie Dyer and Maeve Redmond it features contributions from the 54 artists in the exhibition and writer’s texts by Aleana Egan, Liz Lochhead, Sarah Lowndes, Louise Shelley and Joanne Tatham. The publication was supported by Glasgow Life, The Glasgow Society of Women Artists and the Research Development Fund at The Glasgow School of Art. ISBN 978-0-9567646-1-4
Kathleen Morgan, “Studio 58: the magic number”, The Herald, Saturday 30 June 2012
High up in the Glasgow School of Art is Studio 58.
It was once the domain of female art students with the stomach to succeed in a male-dominated institution – and bladders to match. As late as the 1950s, the students would have to dash during breaks from the studio to the only women’s toilet in the building.
Decades on, Dr Sarah Lowndes snuggles into one of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s beautifully crafted cubby-holes to talk about curating a new exhibition, Studio 58: Women Artists In Glasgow Since World War Two. It features art by 54 women who made their names and carved reputations in Glasgow.
Nearby, 11 of the featured artists chat after having their photograph taken in the Mackintosh Library. It is a couple of days before their works are brought together, and the sense of excitement is palpable. For the past hour or so they have created a buzz that has echoed down the corridors and stairwells of the Mackintosh Building at the core of the art school.
Among those featured in Studio 58 are Joan Eardley, Hannah Frew Paterson, Carol Rhodes, Sam Ainsley, Christine Borland and rising star Romany Dear. Some are more widely known than others, but all are innovators who have left their mark as artists, educators or mentors.
“Until the 1950s, Studio 58 was a designated women’s studio,” explains Lowndes, who lectures at the art school. “Studio 58 is at the west end of the building and the only women’s toilet was at the east end, so the ‘hen run’ – a corridor – was the way women students would hurry to go to the loo during breaks.”
Lowndes, who wrote Social Sculpture: The Rise Of The Glasgow Art Scene, is passionate about her latest exhibition. Put crudely, the show is payback time for an array of female artists, many of whom never received the recognition they were due. The exhibits, gathered from private and public collections, have in some cases been collecting dust for decades.
“A lot of these kind of works haven’t been shown before, and that’s quite moving,” says Lowndes, 36, whose bright-green jeans and mop of wavy blonde hair belie the stereotype of an academic. “You go to Glasgow Museums and they unwrap this plaster head and it’s an Ivy Proudfoot piece, and it hasn’t really been shown before.”
It all began two years ago when Lowndes was asked to curate an exhibition for the Mackintosh Museum at the school of art. “I’d been working here for 10 years and had been in and out of this building all the time,” she says. “I felt it was such a specialist space, such a loaded space, that it just wouldn’t make sense to curate a show of minimalist sculpture or something. It had to respond to being in the very particular circumstances of the Mackintosh Museum. There was this history of the Glasgow Boys and the New Glasgow Boys, and I thought it would be good to redress that balance and have a show by women artists.”
Lowndes, who is married to the Turner Prize-winning artist Richard Wright, has her own theory as to why women artists have often received less acclaim than their male counterparts.
“Some people have questioned the need to have this kind of exhibition,” she says, “but in wider society, the median pay gap in the UK is one of the worst in Europe.” The gap between full-time men’s and women’s earnings was 9.1% in 2011, according to the Office for National Statistics.
“If you look at the art scene, that kind of inequality is replicated in things like the Turner Prize,” continues Lowndes. “Only four women have won it since it started in 1984. In the Tate Modern [in London], 83% of the works are by men.
“There is a kind of innate sexism and I suspect women operate a bit differently. Often, the things women do are invisible. Things like teaching other people, keeping together communities, making connections between friends and relatives, and taking care of people are not necessarily going to win you any prizes or coverage in newspapers, but the world can’t work without those things.”
The art school, perched on Garnethill close to Glasgow city centre, is the thread that links the exhibitors. Among the women meeting today is the acclaimed artist Carol Rhodes, 53, who teaches painting at the art school. Born in Edinburgh, Rhodes spent much of her childhood in Bengal before returning to Scotland during her teens and beginning art school in 1977. Her aerial landscapes take their influence from Indian miniatures, which have the effect of flattening out people and objects, giving them the same priority on the canvas.
Glasgow’s contemporary art scene is often associated these days with the Turner Prize-winners Wright, Douglas Gordon and Martin Boyce, along with nominees Christine Borland and Lucy Skaer. Rhodes has some concerns about the effect of this success on current students, who fail to look further afield for inspiration. “A lot of the students now look mostly at Glasgow artists and I think that’s fairly damaging,” she says. “They don’t look outwards. The Glasgow scene is so powerful, and for a student, it can be quite overwhelming.”
Rhodes describes being a painter as “a bit lonely at times”. She recently opened a gallery, 42 Carlton Place, in the Gorbals, at the flat she shares with her partner, the artist Merlin James.
Adele Patrick once shared the same concerns as Rhodes about a dominant art movement threatening to obscure other innovative work. She began studying a BA in embroidered and woven textiles at the school just as the New Glasgow Boys, including Peter Howson, Ken Currie and Steven Campbell, emerged.
Patrick, 50, describes a post-punk era when conventions were being challenged in society – and in the art world.
“The New Glasgow Boys were starting up and there was a lot of critical attention. A lot of women were saying, ‘Hold on, there’s another type of aesthetic and sensibility out here.'”
After graduating, Patrick co-founded the design company Graven Images with Janice Kirkpatrick and began teaching at the art school. Two decades ago, she helped launch the Glasgow Women’s Library as “a place and a space for women’s art, culture and writing”.
Patrick tells how she and her fellow art students drew inspiration from female artists such as Margaret Macdonald, the wife of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. This was, she says, before the Glasgow Girls, who flourished from the 1890s to around 1910, had been “excavated” from obscurity. “We grabbed on to these women for dear life,” she says. “We didn’t know very much about them but we knew they’d survived the art school.”
Like so many of her fellow students, Patrick was heavily influenced by the artist and lecturer Sam Ainsley. She describes Ainsley, who co-founded the master of fine art programme, as “striding through the art school with bright red lipstick and fabulous hair”. Patrick continues: “She was unequivocally a feminist figurehead. She was on the teaching staff, so seeing that woman around was really important.”
Ainsley’s influence echoes down the decades and the acclaimed artist’s screenprints are being exhibited in Studio 58.
Another name being talked about today is Hannah Frew Paterson. Unable to join her fellow exhibitors at the art school, the 81-year-old speaks to me at her home in Broomhill, Glasgow. An embroiderer whose work illuminates churches across Scotland – including St Margaret’s Chapel in Edinburgh Castle – she pushed the boundaries of a traditional art form until it squeaked.
Encouraged by her mentor and lecturer, Kath Whyte, Paterson went on to teach at the art school for 22 years. The walls of her home are decorated with the work of former students, and she points to a piece by Whyte, which will be shown in the exhibition. On the stair landing sits her own work, Motivator, also being exhibited. An embroidery work almost like a sculpture, it was inspired by the burned-out motor of a food mixer sent for repair.
Brought up in Chapelton, South Lanarkshire, Paterson is the daughter of a blacksmith and a grocery shop worker. Like so many of her generation, the young Paterson stepped aside to allow her brothers an education while she went out to work. “We weren’t very wealthy and my two brothers wanted to be architects, which was a long training,” she says. “It was never discussed – I just decided I should get on with it.” At 19, she began working as a designer for J&P Coats in Glasgow, but soon discovered a brave new world when the company sent her to the art school on day release.
“Initially I was trained as a diagram artist, showing people how to do the embroidery and writing instructions,” she explains in a clear, steady voice. “Then J&P Coats decided I would benefit from training in crochet design, and they sent me to the art school.”
There she was tutored by Whyte, who asked why she hadn’t applied to art school. “I decided overnight that’s what I wanted to do and told them at J&P Coats,” remembers Paterson. “The great thing was they encouraged me, and after I left and went as a student they gave me part-time work.”
Paterson describes art school during the 1960s as daunting, but also exhilarating, since there was a sea change in teaching methods. Her section of the year group became known as “the inventors’ club”, due to their experimental work under inspiring tutors such as Whyte.
A decade later, Whyte was to be bitterly disappointed when Paterson married and began teaching part time so she could bring up her three-year-old stepson. “She thought I was going to be dedicated like her and take over the department after she retired in 1974,” says Paterson, laughing affectionately. “She didn’t approve of my husband and son, but I loved her dearly. She was a wonderful woman.”
Paterson also felt the domestic pressures Lowndes refers to – and gladly embraced them for her stepson, John, and husband, Tom. She tells a story about working on Cardross Church’s giant embroidered panels. “I was spending weekends working doing the Cardross panels. They’re 12ft by 6ft and took three years to complete. I’ll never forget John coming in to the workroom one day and asking, ‘Mum, are you coming to the park this time?’ It broke my heart and I knew I had to finish this piece. You lose them so quickly.”
She took early retirement to spend more time with Tom, who died shortly afterwards from cancer and heart problems. Awarded an MBE in 1992 for services to embroidery, Paterson has continued to make waves in the art world and through her church embroidery work. In the past few years she has experimented with three-dimensional textile forms “inspired by surfaces and objects in nature”.
Almost 60 years her junior, Romany Dear is explaining how her work, March Your Legs Up And Down, will be performed live at Studio 58 by six dancers, including herself. At 23, she is the youngest artist in the exhibition.
Cited by Lowndes as one to watch, Dear won the Gillian Purvis prize after her work impressed the sculptor Martin Boyce, and graduated from the Glasgow School of Art last year. More recently she won The Skinny and CCA Award for another live piece, The Art Of Hanging Around.
Given she is white-hot, Dear is refreshingly grounded and surprisingly candid.
“I do not earn a living out of my work,” she says plainly in an accent that hints at her Lancashire roots. “I work in a bar.” She explains she works in the art school union, describing it as “just a job – it covers my materials, travel, that kind of stuff”. Her work – which uses video, audio and performance to explore the way people move in different contexts – is what drives her.
“This is something I do and I enjoy it,” she says. “If I make money from what I do, that’s great, but I’m very happy to do this as long as I can – I’m not focused on trying to make money. I appreciate you can’t buy a live dance piece, but I do what I do because that’s true to me. Maybe that’s idealistic because I’m young, but I don’t have a mortgage or a child or a car, so it’s easy enough to work in a bar and live quite cheaply.”
The name Romany, pronounced Rumnay, was chosen by her parents simply because they liked it, and has nothing to do with her father being Irish. “I don’t have travelling in my roots,” she says. Even so, she has it in her blood and would like to live abroad. “Maybe next year I’d like to go away for a little time,” she says. “I’m craving something else, some time away. I’m trying to save at the moment.”
However, before that, she will join her fellow artists to bring Studio 58 to life in the Mackintosh Museum. The exhibition will be a reminder to the art-loving public of a time and place when it was perhaps more difficult for women artists to cut loose and take flight.
THE NAMES IN THE FRAME
Artists participating in the Studio 58 exhibition include:
GILLIAN STEEL (48)
After graduating from Glasgow School of Art (GSA), Steel was instrumental in running the city’s Transmission Gallery. Works with film, video and animation, and is developing a graphic novel.
CHRISTINA McBRIDE (49)
Graduated from GSA in 1990 and now teaches on the master of fine arts and photography programmes. McBride uses analogue photography and film, travelling widely for her research and artistic work.
ANNETTE HEYER (52)
A graduate of GSA, Heyer staged her degree show in the original Studio 58. From Hamburg, she teaches painting and printmaking at GSA. Her piece, Holz, will be exhibited in Studio 58.
SHAUNA McMULLAN (40)
The artist graduated with a masters degree from GSA and now lectures in the school’s department of sculpture and environmental. She created Travelling The Distance, commissioned for the Scottish Parliament after a year’s travelling around Scotland.
SARAH LOWNDES (36)
An academic writer and the curator of the Studio 58 exhibition, Lowndes graduated from the University of Glasgow with a degree in film and television studies and English literature. She studied for an MPhil at GSA and began lecturing there in 2002.
ADELE PATRICK (50)
After graduating with a BA in embroidered and woven textiles at GSA, Patrick co-founded Graven Images design company in Glasgow while a postgraduate student. Helping launch the Glasgow Women’s Library 20 years ago, she continues to champion the work of female artists and writers.
HANNELINE VISNES (40)
The Norwegian painter studied for a BA and master of fine art at GSA, where she was taught by Sam Ainsley, whom she describes as “completely inspirational”. See her work at the Equals exhibition at Paisley Museum this summer.
JACKI PARRY (71)
A founder member of the Glasgow Print Studio and former head of printmaking at GSA, the Australian artist has lived in Scotland since 1965. She works with paper and print – her piece The Book And The Rose, created from handmade paper, will show at Studio 58.
SARA BARKER (32)
The Manchester-born artist represented by the Glasgow gallery Mary Mary is a graduate of GSA’s painting department. She will be exhibiting at Modern Art gallery in London from July 4.
ANN VANCE (47)
The artist was trained at GSA and the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam. She works with film and video, and is developing an archive of experimental artists’ work in those media.
ROMANY DEAR (23)
Graduating from GSA last year, Dear works with experimental dance and choreography. Praised for her work by the Turner Prize winner Martin Boyce, she won the Gillian Purvis Trust award, and The Skinny and CCA Award. She works in a bar to fund her work and plans to travel.
CAROL RHODES (53)
A teacher in painting at GSA, Rhodes is renowned for her aerial landscapes. She and her partner, the artist Merlin James, have launched a “casual” gallery, 42 Carlton Place, in their Glasgow home.
Studio 58: Women Artists In Glasgow Since World War Two is at the Mackintosh Museum, Glasgow School of Art, July 7-September 30. Visit www.gsa.ac.uk/life/gsa-events.
Photographs of Studio 58 by Janet Wilson, with the exception of the photograph of Romany Dear’s performance, which was taken by Martin Clark.
The exhibition and catalogue were supported by The Glasgow School of Art, Glasgow Life and the Glasgow Society of Women Artists.
East Gymnasium, City of Glasgow College, 20th April – 7th May 2012
Curated by Sarah Lowndes and produced by Katie Nicoll
Dialogue of Hands was an outdoor sculpture park for children and adults, located on the open air elevated East Gymnasium of the iconic 1964 building, formerly known as the College of Building and Printing (recently renamed City of Glasgow College). The exhibition was an immersive sensory environment, with an emphasis on real time audience participation and attracting families with children. The courtyard, which despite its city centre location, was hidden from view and previously unused, was landscaped in homage to the 1960s environments of Brazilian artist Helio Oiticica, using willow trees, flowering cherry trees, birch trees and sensory herbs (lavender and rosemary) and play carpeting in homage to Oiticica’s seminal participation project Eden (Whitechapel Gallery, London, 1969). The exhibition also referenced Palle Nielsen’s famous Model for a Qualitative Society (Moderna Museet, Stockholm, 1968) which similarly explored the boundaries between art/play, control/freedom and adulthood/childhood.
Dialogue of Hands was named after a collaborative work by Helio Oiticica and fellow Brazilian artist Lygia Clark, in which one of each artist’s hands were joined together within the loop of a paper moebius strip. The title reflects Oiticica’s belief that the viewer who fully participated in his work was joining a critical experiment in the exercise of freedom.
The four artists selected to participate in this group collaborative exhibition project, Chris Johanson (USA), Camilla Løw (Norway), Mary Redmond (UK) and Corin Sworn (Canada/UK), made sculptural works designed to be played with by both children and adults in an outdoor environment.
The brief for the artists participating in the exhibition was to make works that were participatory and invited audience interaction by both adults and children. In contrast to most conventional art exhibitions, there were no ‘please do not touch’ signs in the Dialogue of Hands installation.
The project was envisaged as offering a space for relaxation and exploration both for members of the local community and international visitors attending Glasgow International 2012.
The new commissioned works produced for Dialogue of Hands included a musical sculpture by Chris Johanson called The Song the Sun Sent Us incorporating steel pan drums and to be played by adults and children and two colourful revolving metal sculptures by Camilla Løw, Operator (2012) and Compose (2012), both designed to be turned and touched.
Mary Redmond produced Tracks (2012) a series of three large site-specific sculptures intended to be touched, as seating, staging and as a prompt to action. Corin Sworn developed Tent City (2012), a series of three sculptural structures, which incorporate peepholes, hiding places and re-arrangeable block printed textile drapes.
Each of the four artists participating in the exhibition had significant interests in sculptural environments, legacies of modernism and audience participation. Chris Johanson’s practice encompasses painting, sculpture, installation, film, video, music, writing and playing in bands. Asked about the motivation behind his art, he responded that ‘life is about looking at and being a part of life. We need to be a part of each other. If we separate we are alone. That is a world of walking dead people. That is why I make art, to talk about how important it is to stay in the now and look at life.’
Camilla Løw’s work revisits the disciplined formalism of Russian Constructivism, De Stijl and Minimalism. Although referencing those histories, Løw’s work emphasizes the anthropometric qualities of sculpture, suggesting connections between the stable structures of modernist architecture and design and those which are still in motion: the social relationships of inhabitation and response.
Mary Redmond uses a mixture of found objects and divergent raw materials in site-specific and carefully scaled works she describes as ‘something ordinary made strange’. In the past she has spun a web across a gallery or strung pieces of painted wood and a plastic seat together like a mobile. Corin Sworn has made a number of works relating to early childhood education systems, such as a series of photorealist pencil drawings inspired by Summerhill, an alternative school founded in Dresden in 1921 by Scottish progressive AS Neill or ‘Adventure Playground’ (2006), a reconstruction of Danish artist Palle Nielsen’s 1968 adventure playground.
There were a number of free workshops and activities linked to the exhibition, including a storytelling workshop, a make your own parangole (cape) workshop and a make your own musical instrument workshop. Chris Johanson led a Drum Circle Performance at the opening of the exhibition and Glasgow altpop band Correcto played a free concert at a closing event on the last day of the exhibition.
Dialogue of Hands was commissioned by Three Blows (Sarah Lowndes and Katie Nicoll) in association with Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art in collaboration with City of Glasgow College and with additional support from The Modern Institute.
“The point for me is not to expect perfumery to take its place in some nice, reliable, rational world order, but to expect everything else to become like perfume.”
Brian Eno – Scents and Sensibility Details Magazine, July 1992.
Urlibido was a cabaret-style night, curated and produced by Sarah Lowndes with Kim Coleman& Jenny Hogarth and co-produced with Katie Nicoll for the Open Glasgow section of Glasgow International 2010.
This one–off event was staged in the evocative eighteenth century setting of Sloans Grand Ballroom. Live events included a new performance work by Shelly Nadashi, called Affectionate Still, built around a few still objects, a puppet and a live performer, which examined the possibility of investing still objects with a soul and a will, and how these objects may then affect the performer. There was also be a live performance by Susie Green inspired by the visions of Hildegard von Bingen, and new collaborative musical compositions by Cara Tolmie and Kimberley O’Neill using song, sampled sound and live performance. The ballroom was re-imagined through projected images of faces made up in 1920 and 30s period styles by make-up artist Morag Ross. Kim Coleman & Jenny Hogarth’s An Infusion of the Evening Air combined audience, performers, stage, seating, tables, curtains and lighting, rendering the mise-en-scène the material of the work. Live camera feeds heightened a sensual awareness of the staging of the event, re-framing the cabaret; a table acting as a stage, the stage performing as a spotlight, the spotlight functioning as ambient light, the performers and audience the subjects of a work created and re-presented live.
Kim Coleman and Jenny Hogarth’s collaborative work often uses video and light. They employ light specifically as a material to create immersive installations and sculptural objects. Their performances extend the collaborative relationship further, involving others who become essential to the execution of works, bringing spontaneity and improvisation to staged events.
Susie Green works in a variety of media, with a grounding in sculpture. She completed an MA at Chelsea College of Art and Design in 2008, and at the time of the project lived in Newcastle upon Tyne. ‘I am interested in the fantasy, glamour, and otherworldliness that can be found in, and added to, everyday life. I am intrigued by momentary transcendence and how we can get out of ourselves.’
Shelly Nadashi’s work is grounded in the live art practices she studied at The School for Visual Theatre in Israel, prior to moving to Glasgow in 2007 to live and work for a time. Her practice remains multi-disciplinary, and includes video making, live performances, sound design, puppetry and written texts.
The artist filmmaker Kimberley O’Neill was born in 1982 in Bellshill, Scotland and at the time of the project was based in London. Her practice spans film & video, sound and drawing. O’Neill says, ‘My work looks at the human desire to relate to the other, examining the individual within personal relationships, in social contexts and interacting with their environment. […] My video works and drawings focus on the body, and the space it inhabits, in moments of transformation and spectacle. Depicting individuals declaring themselves autonomous from society.’ O’Neill collaborated with Cara Tolmie to create new musical compositions for Urlibido.
Morag Ross is a leader in the field of on-screen make-up, who studied art and design at Glasgow School of Art and began her career working for BBC London. Her numerous credits include the classic Derek Jarman films Caravaggio (1986), Aria (1987) and Edward II (1991). Since she has affected many acclaimed make-up transformations, including the make up for Neil Jordan’s movie The Crying Game (1992) in which the male actor Jaye Davidson played someone who appeared to be female, and Sally Potter’s Orlando (1993), where Tilda Swinton plays a man for part of the movie. She also did the make-up and hair for Cate Blanchett to play Bob Dylan in Todd Haynes I’m Not There (2007). Her numerous other credits include Charlotte Gray (2001), The Aviator (2004) and Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007). In 2008 she was awarded a BAFTA Scotland Award for Craft (In Memory of Robert McCann) and in 2004 she won the BAFTA Film Make-Up and Hair Award.
Cara Tolmie works with video, performance, sound, text and object. From 2006 to 2008 she was Secretary and Committee Member of Glasgow’s artist-run Transmission Gallery. Her exhibitions include: The Boethian Slip, Generator Projects, Dundee (2008), Die show im Oktober Transmission Gallery, Glasgow (2009) and Grey Matter, Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh (2009). Tolmie was selected as one of the eight LUX Associate Artists for its 2009/10 programme. Tolmie collaborated with Kimberley O’Neill to create new musical compositions for Urlibido.
Martin Vincent, “Open Sea”, blog commissioned by Axisweb.org
For weeks it seems I’ve been seeing Shelly Nadashi carrying that table around. She brings it into the CCA, and then the next day I see her carrying it again along Sauchiehall Street. An insignificant table – oblong, smaller than coffee table sized, too thinly proportioned, somewhat fragile-looking.
Thursday night, and I’m about to find out what it is for. Sloans is an 18th century bar in Argyll Arcade – three floors of mahogany and marble topped off by the vaulted ceiling of the Grand Ballroom. Good for wedding receptions and evenings of decadent experimental high art cabaret entertainment, such as is happening this evening under the title ‘Urlibido – a Night of Magic’.
This is yet another occasion of multi-layered credits and overlapping performance. Part of the ‘Open Glasgow’ section of GI, curated and produced by Sarah Lowndes and Katie Nicoll (under the banner ‘Three Blows’) with Kim Coleman & Jenny Hogarth. The latter duo are largely responsible for projections, settings, curtains, lightings and the generally disconcerting sense that at any time the place you are standing can be transformed from quiet corner to spot-lit centre-stage.
We’ve queued up the stairs and had our hands stamped by the curator, performances begin with Cara Tolmie and Kimberley O’Neill…
I saw Cara Tolmie perform a week previously at the GI opening at Tramway. She had a microphone and one of those pedals that loops what you’ve just sung. Beginning with a simple low chant, she walked in a circle and pressed the pedal at each revolution, ‘The story we endure/knows nothing of us…’ the vocal layers built gently, melodies and harmonies overlaid, higher and higher up the range to an exhilarating soprano crescendo. Quite a vocal talent – which is not something you’re encouraged to expect in an art context. ‘The end is a tumultuous noise’ it was called.
…at the piano and various bells and percussion. There’s a big transparent curtain down the middle of the room, which you’re not supposed to disturb because there’ll be projections on it. But the place is rammed and hard to navigate, with some folk safely ensconced at round tables that the rest of us have to walk between and a circular stage that no one will perform on.
Susie Green takes a position in front of the central curtain and begins a routine of dramatic dance moves whose gestures follow (or seem to invoke) light projections – it’s inspired by the visions of Hildegard von Bingen and is, rather spookily, just as you would imagine this kind of thing would be.
Through the evening Tolmie and O’Neill pop up in different parts of the room, and even on the stairs – visible in the room on moving projections, it’s an all-singing all-dancing affair. Then there’s that table.
Now sat on top of another table, and with objects upon the top and a puppet standing behind it. The proportions make perfect sense now – it’s a scale model. Shelly Nadashi stands behind the puppet, and the performance is a revelation. After a series of gestural movements which draw our attention and allow a slight trance to descend upon the room, she holds the puppet by the back of its head and gives it voice as it disdainfully examines the objects laid out before it, which end up being flung across the room or swept onto the floor. It’s a bleak diatribe with lines I want to remember but which are themselves swept away as Nadashi’s malcontented marionette wrestles with corporeality, love and humanity in the context of twentieth century art and war. It’s relentless and pretty scary and funny too (especially when the artist cracks herself up with a topical line about cannibalism at the airport.)
Nadashi trained at the School for Visual Theatre in Israel, she knows exactly what she’s doing and we’re all a bit stunned at what we’ve witnessed.
All photographs of Urlibido by Gary Gordon.
Urlibido: A Night of Magic was funded by the Scottish Arts Council through the Open Glasgow initiative for Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art. ‘Open Glasgow’ is a new initiative for Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art which aims to discover ambitious and imaginative artists’ projects, conceived specifically for the city during Festival time.
With additional support from Schloss Bröllin and The Ministry of Education, Science and Culture of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.