Scottish artist highlights from the 2011 British Art Show
Luke Fowler, Alasdair Gray, Nathaniel Mellors, Wolfgang Tillmans and more
The last time the British Art Show toured to Glasgow was 1990, the year the Dear Green Place took on the mantle of European City of Culture and a watershed year for Scottish art. Twenty-one years on, Scottish visual artists make up a sizeable chunk of the programme for the British Art Show 7, whose touring exhibition arrives north of the border at the end of May. The List casts a critical eye over some of the highlights
Glasgow-based artist Fowler first came to prominence with his 2001 film What You See is Where You’re At (2001), which drew on photographs, notes and interviews arising from RD Laing’s controversial Kingsley Hall psychological experiment. The artist often collaborates with experimental musicians, as in A Grammar for Listening (part 1), in which the environmental recordings of Lee Patterson are to the fore, complemented by performances to camera involving found objects such as a discarded lighter.
Long celebrated as one of the greatest living Scottish writers, recent years have seen a resurgence of interest in Alasdair Gray’s murals, drawings, paintings and posters, which are often inextricably linked with his plays and novels but also depict friends and family. Images such as ‘Andrew Gray Aged 7 and Inge’s Patchwork Quilt’, which was drawn in 1972 and painted in 2009, exemplify the artist’s penchant for turning a drawing into a painting several years after its completion.
The Amsterdam-based artist is well-known for his satirical, absurdist films and sculptural installations, which include the film ‘Giantbum’, about a group of explorers in the year 1213 who lose their way inside a giant’s guts. Mellors’ latest work, Ourhouse, created for BAS7, will be shown in a series of chapters over the run of the exhibition. The film focuses on a wealthy family, whose mysterious guest ‘The Object’ roams their house at night, swallowing books and excreting odd, foul-smelling sculptures.
German-born photographer Tillmans is as well known for nudging at the possibilities of the medium as he is for particular works. Having achieved prominence documenting the European Gay Pride in London and the Berlin Love Parade (both 1992), his recent experimental work is often created in darkrooms without a camera. ‘Truth Study Center’, created for BAS7, is a tabletop installation featuring newspaper cuttings, pamphlets and advertisements that explores the nature of perception and truth.
One of the most prominent of the Young British Artists who emerged in the 1990s Sarah Lucas’s work often employs everyday materials to create offbeat visual explorations of sex, death and gender. Her abiding interest in the human body and the ways in which sexual identity manifests itself in objects is explored in her most recent series, Nuds, in which pairs of nylon tights have been stuffed and fashioned into ambiguous, organic forms.
Irish-born filmmaker Duncan Campbell is best known for his documentary portraits of complex historical figures, which combine cinema vérité tropes with abstract scenes. These works include Bernadette, his study of the relationship between Northern Irish political campaigner Bernadette Devlin and the media in the 1970s, and his most recent work, Make It New John, which tells the story of the luxury DeLorean car and the rise and fall of its charismatic creator, John DeLorean.
Steven Claydon’s sculptures, films, performances, paintings and drawings examine the construction of the cultural past, challenging fixed ideas of history. While his sculptures take a familiar classical form, they are often created from contemporary materials and colour schemes. His new work for BAS7 includes ‘Trom Bell’, manufactured at Whitchapel Bell Foundry and inspired by the opening descriptions of East London in Louis Ferdinand Céline’s novel Guignol’s Band.
Mull-born artist Avery is one of the most exciting talents to emerge from Scotland in recent years, working across an array of media, including large-scale drawings, objects and text. His most high-profile project is The Islanders, inspired by his upbringing, which uses the image of the island as a springboard for ruminations on the challenges of art-making and the tools we use to understand our place in the world. Avery’s largest island sculpture to date will be on show at BAS7.
The canvases of Phoebe Unwin combine abstraction with detail in a startling, skilful way. She is interested in the tension between figuration and materials, with her subjects including human faces, cinema screens and even a plastic food tray (‘Airline Meal’), all of which are rendered in bright colours. She has said of her interest in the ambiguity of memory: ‘Memories are never just isolated images – they have strange specifics and large areas of vagueness. This works as an important editing tool for me.’
Griffiths employs a junk shop aesthetic to create large-scale sculptures from a range of recycled materials such as a space ship made from cardboard boxes, full-size cardboard computer workstations and ‘Boneshaker’, a gypsy caravan, constructed from tables and wooden ornaments found in South London antique markets. For BAS7 he has created a giant bear’s head stitched from canvas and supported by ropes, decorated with embroidered patches bearing the names of various international destinations.