Stephen Sutcliffe: Runaway, Success (3 stars)

Biography-obsessed artist hides behind his heroes

Stephen Sutcliffe: Runaway, Success

It’s been a while since Yorkshire-born Glasgow resident Sutcliffe has trotted out his curious wares in Scotland, and it’s not difficult to see why. His work is moody and peppered with arch cultural references to complex arty prima donnas Joe Orton, Kenneth Halliwell, Lindsay Anderson, Franco Zefferelli, Dirk Bograde and so on. It’s difficult to pin down his wavering spirit. His shows are rarely satisfying, occasionally amusing and always frustrating.

And so, sadly, it is with Runaway, Success, curated by Lisa Le Feuvre. The title of the exhibition is a ham-fisted appropriation of the pull quotes on the posters of successful films, except there is a comma in the middle. You see Sutcliffe does not want success, he wants it to leave him alone. He needn’t worry too much about that.

Much of this show’s humour derives from New Yorker animator Saul Steinberg-style cartoon clouds that crawl the walls of the opening room. They help create a pleasingly airy space in which to have the life sucked out of you by Sutcliffe’s looped collage videos, the result, unbelievably, of ten years work. By contrast Sutcliffe’s photographic works are a joy – ‘No (After Steinberg)’ infuses a corporate scene with a Thurber-esque charm, while ‘Self-Portrait with Boxes (after Steinberg)’ is unusually fun and unpretentious (for this artist).

Luckily for Sutcliffe and Le Feuvre they have an ace up their collected sleeves. The back room is given up to the five great feature length films by documentary filmmaker Gary Conklin, an artist Sutcliffe admires. Conklin’s films are a revelation. Making films from the early 1970s to the mid 1980s about celebrity talents as diverse and outspoken as Paul Bowles and Gore Vidal, his films are easily comparable with those of Frederick Wiseman (Hospital, Juvenile Court) or the Maysles Brothers (Salesman, Grey Gardens). Sutcliffe has chosen his partner well.

Stills Gallery, 622 6200, until 30 Oct, free.

Stephen Sutcliffe: Runaway, Success

  • 3 stars

A tender trawl through the archives of cultural history in ten years of Sutcliffe's video work plus newer drawings and photographs.


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