When it comes to national identity, we often look to art and literature for inspiration. We might feel pride and a connection with work originating from within our own communities. In their latest exhibition, Fourteen Glasgow Artists, The Scottish Gallery draws on this interest in artwork produced close to home, and celebrates the work of some of the many prestigious artists that have studied at the Glasgow School of Art. With famous names including Alastair Gray and Joan Eardley, the gallery’s description of the exhibition as being a modest one seemed a bit of a joke.
Upon first walking into the gallery room, the array of different coloured and sized paintings is overwhelming. With the only link between the four- teen artists being their attendance at the Glasgow School of Art, there are no limits in terms of the techniques used and themes illustrated by each painter. From the simple conté drawings of J.D. Fergusson, to James Morrison’s sublime “The Powis”, the subtle watercolours to the stark and vivid use of acrylics, the exhibition becomes a celebration of art itself, and of the myriad of methods that artists use to create such beautifully distinctive work.
There are some artists who stand out amongst the others. Joan Eardley’s “Red Roofs, Trees and Cows” is rich in colour, and the great detail and use of mixed media that Eardley has put into this work can only begin to be seen with a closer look. The variability of George Devlin’s work is only touched upon in the three paintings displayed, as he demonstrates delicacy in his pastel “Night Vaporetto” and bold vitality in his “Port Vendres” oil on canvas.
Despite the excellence of the work displayed, unfortunately it is the Scottish Gallery itself that lets down the artists and their work. Almost hidden away in the lower level of the gallery, the room in which the artwork is displayed is small and claustrophobic. There is very little space between each piece, as well as between each artist.
As a result the walls feel cluttered, in turn preventing an individual look at each work. Once more, some of the artists are scattered among other exhibits: Alastair Gray, arguably one of the most well known names included, is lost behind desks and pottery. While it is disappointing that the work has been displayed in this way, it acts as a reminder of the purpose of commercial galleries, which are there to sell paintings rather than to simply display work for our appreciation.
Fourteen Glasgow Artists illustrates the vast amount of creativity that has emerged from one art school, and in turn offers an insight into the potential that is to come. It is a shame that the gallery and choice of title are unable to fully give this exhibition justice.