Spin on This
Talitha Kotzé hears the graphic details about the Recoat’s birthday bike bash
Aficionados of the fixed-gear bike – or fixie – are wheeling into the Recoat to make new work in honour of the Glasgow gallery’s two-year anniversary. Taking inspiration from Kirkpatrick MacMillan, the Scottish blacksmith who built the first mechanically propelled two-wheel vehicle in 1839, and Chris Hoy, the 2008 Olympic medallist, the 11 artists are sharing their love of cycling and the Scottish biking tradition as well as their mastery of graphic art and graffiti.
Located just off Great Western Road, Recoat was set up by partners Amy Whiten from Fife and Alistair Wyllie from Helensburgh to showcase work from Scottish designers specialising in illustration, street art and photography. The two met when they were studying in Dundee, after which they travelled extensively, producing art works in Japan, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Europe.
‘The space survives on sales and sponsorship in kind,’ says Whiten. ‘But people need to feel comfortable before they buy so we try to make both the artworks and the possibility of buying accessible to all people. It is a huge juggling act. To pay our mortgage in addition to running the gallery, we do spray-painting workshops, commissions, social work – the graffiti of letters can be a great help with literacy problems, art therapy and fit in our own practice. I think it is important for the scene to be practitioners as well as organisers. To have our own space is pure freedom.’
Wyllie confirms that the global financial meltdown led to fewer sales this year. Despite this, the gallery’s reputation is growing. ‘Last year’s aim was to do things outside the space,’ says Whiten who has participated in T in the Park and One Creative Scotland, and has had shows in Urban Outfitters and other satellite exhibitions. ‘Our plan for the longer term is to represent artists. In 2010 we aim to have a London show. We also aim to have more exchanges and invite other artists to help push the scene here.’
‘We have to remember urban art is a very young form,’ says Wyllie, who is well aware that it is only 30 years since New York City graffiti artists ‘invented’ the art form during the mid-1970s recession as an act of cultural subversion. To establish the gravitas of an art form takes a long time, especially when the history of the aerosol boom – the tagging, the bombing, the throw-ups and the style wars – is still being written. Taggers, though, are becoming more sophisticated, working with an arsenal of materials and taking inspiration from the cross-over success of Banksy.
Joining the birthday bike fun, Wyllie (aka Rektor) will use a carbon disk wheel as canvas, while Whiten (aka Syrkus) will make a zoetrope producing the illusion of a skidding fixed gear bike out of old bike parts. Other participating artists include Will Barras, ilovedust, Derm, Waste and Sums.
‘You have to work so hard to get any level of exposure,’ says Whiten. ‘It doesn’t just drop on your plate. In addition to being talented, artists have to be confident, pro-active and continuously searching for it.’
‘Absolutely’, adds Wyllie. ‘You are not going to sell work in your bedroom.’
Now, go take your fixie for a spin.
Spin on This, Recoat Gallery, Glasgow, Sat 8 Aug–Sun 6 Sep