James McLardy - The Swan and Hostage (4 stars)

James McLardy: The Swan and Hostage

credit: Ruth Clark

Enjoyable exhibition questioning the inherent value and fakeness of sculpted pieces

James McLardy’s solo show 'The Swan and Hostage' is the result of his six-week residency at the Duchy gallery in the east end of Glasgow. The title echoes the pub-like feel to the gallery’s name and location: the swan symbolises the beautiful, the embodiment of potential myths, whereas the hostage signals imprisonment. In turn, this pair of opposites refers to the artist’s active use of concealing and revealing the fake and real nature of his materials. His is a language of acknowledging and subverting the values of both modern objects and techniques of making.
The show consists of an array of pedestal objects covered in decorative paint techniques, including faux tiling, wood graining and imitation bronze patinas. The forms are hard edged, self consciously masculine and phallic, but simultaneously bordering on farcical collapse. This makes them enjoyable to look at.

McLardy achieves this with the help of his descriptive titles. ‘Re-Handsoming Enhancer’ is the seedy title given to a collection of objects scattered across the floor. It looks a bit like the throwing of bones to divine a problem. Among these lies an undone bow tie cast in red wax. This object of high-culture has been subverted into something comical and impractical, giving it a new life as formal object – its waxy form spread across the floor in between other strange fragments.

Nearby, ‘Y Morals’ stands chunkily erect in its totemic objectness. The large-scale wooden hourglass figure painted sombre black is displayed on a waxy base covered with copper leaf which creates a strange looking fake material, referencing old fashioned copper pub tables. Perhaps humorously hinting at the required presence of Y-chromosome genes for normal male development, the shape of the object looks androgynously both like an X and a Y.

In a similar questioning of an object’s inherent value and hierarchy of materials McLardy has defaced a green faux tile painted column with pink bubblegum. Its ambiguously naughty title, ‘Putting our finger in the pie, we are the pie and the finger, and the putting’ does exactly that.

The Duchy, Glasgow, until Sat 25 Aug

James McLardy: The Swan and Hostage

Sculptures by Glasgow-based artist currently in residency at the gallery.

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