Artists Who Make Music, Musicians Who Make Art
- David Pollock
- 16 March 2018
An exhibition which helps define Glasgow's underground musical and artistic spirit
There are few people in Glasgow better placed to curate an exhibition like this – and the title tells us all we need to know about what it involves – than Ross Sinclair. An established contemporary artists since the early wave of 'Glasgow Miracle' artists emerged from GSA in the early 1990s, his usual practice related to his ongoing 'Real Life' project is closely intertwined with music; it includes recorded albums and a 20th anniversary exhibition at Edinburgh's Collective Gallery which saw him work with young musicians to create the album 'Free Instruments for Teenagers'. He was also, those with long memories will remember, a founding member of Bellshill indie-pop group The Soup Dragons in the mid-1980s, leaving after their first album.
Sinclair is part of a Glasgow tradition which stretches back to the formation of the celebrated Environmental Art degree which he studied at GSA and beyond, where musicians and artists have cross-pollinated their work over the dancefloor of the Art School union and the walls of galleries like Transmission. Not that there's a specification stating this show is exclusively about subjects from Glasgow, and artists from Edinburgh, London and elsewhere can be found here and there, but most at least have their roots in the West; that's how it is with Glasgow and musicians/artists who make art/music.
A good sloganeering record sleeve really jumps out, and of the album cover designs which can be seen here, Bob and Roberta Smith's 'Letter to Michael Gove' by The Apathy Band ('THERE IS STILL ART – THERE IS STILL HOPE' it confidently declares) provides a motto of this show. Eugene Kelly of the Vaselines has offered a tray of iron filings and a magnetic pen with which the viewer can draw their own self-portrait – a reflection, intended or not, of the DIY ethos in underground music and art – and Penny Anderson's embroidered text piece ('ONLY WHEN I'M DANCING CAN I FEEL THIS FREE' it swoons, over love hearts and question marks) and printed blog post also speak of the spirit of the show. 'Aspiring artists must form a band,' says the latter. 'It's the law.'
Art sits alongside craft sits alongside ephemera, and none of it appears out of place, although perhaps the art by the artists is slightly more fulfilling than that by the musicians (sadly, there's no opportunity to thoroughly experience the music made by the artists). A box of self-portrait postcards by Franz Ferdinand bassist and sometime art student Bob Hardy taken in every hotel he's slept in since 2004 – 378 of them – is an amusing project which tangentially links the life of a musician with the practice of an artist, however, and an old acoustic guitar supplied by Sushil K. Dade (Future Pilot AKA, and Sinclair's old Soup Dragons bandmate) is an artefact which is rich in its own story. Beaten-up and with only a couple of strings left, Dade took it from his father and customised it into his first bass guitar in 1979.
Elsewhere there's work by Douglas Gordon, Graham Fagen, members of Teenage Fanclub and Travis, and younger artist-musicians like Carla Easton of Teencanteen and Alicia Matthews of LAPS. Quite apart from the work on display – and there is a huge amount of it to sift through – this is also one of the most interesting gallery sites in Scotland, a space customised from the old waiting room on the platform at Queen's Park railway station. For this reason and all of the above, it's an exhibition which feels somehow definitive of the underground musical and artistic spirit which Glasgow has managed to cultivate for decades.
Artists Who Make Music, Musicians Who Make Art is at Queen's Park Railway Club, Glasgow, until Sun 25 Mar (Fri to Sun only).