Alasdair Gray: Spheres of Influence I and II
- Neil Cooper
- 12 December 2014
Lovingly curated explorations of the influences on, and the influence of, Glasgow's renaissance man
The Glasgow-wide Alasdair Gray season has been lovingly and meticulously put together by Sorcha Dallas to mark the city's original renaissance man's 80th year – and it's only too fitting that the programme image for the first of these two shows is a compass. Both the GOMA show it heralds and its accompanying GSA show join the dots between those who influenced this poppiest of classicists and those who followed in his wake, with Gray both wide-eyed bridge and beacon between the two.
So at GOMA we move from Dürer's crucifixions, Blake's judgements and Aubrey Beardsley's erotic politesse to Japanese figurative art, line drawings by David Hockney, the vintage poetics of Adrian Wiszniewski and Chad McCail's poster-size take on wisdom and experience. The umbilical links between these and Gray's own works are made plain, yet remain tantalisingly fresh even as the join is gloriously exposed.
Over at Gray's alma mater, things are brought even closer to home as volumes poached from Gray's own home library, including a Radio Times annual, appear alongside book covers for his own work and contemporaries such as Agnes Owens. There's a mix of the metaphysical and the grizzled in pieces by Eric Gill, drawings by Peter Howson and the rad-fem desires of Dorothy Iannone, while Stuart Murray's dole culture cartoons bring things bang up to date.
The frontispieces of each of the four books that make up Gray's 1981 novel, Lanark, which reimagined Glasgow as a fantastical magical-realist kingdom, appear in both shows as pivotal works. Adorned with super-heroic bodies set against infinitely accessible but densely detailed landscapes, seen together they are comic-book multiverses writ large.
Finally, Hanna Tuulikki's two pen and ink images, Ascension and Fall, encapsulate the spiritual, the erotic and the heroic, the holy trinity of Gray's world, which grows more magical by the day.