“There is,” says Glasgow-based artist John Shankie, “a really strong bond, a supportive network,
a lot of people doing a lot of work in exchange for a couple of drinks.”
Shankie is talking about the relationship Glasgow International has with artists living and working
in the city, about what makes GI different to the many art biennials around the world. And the inescapable fact, the recurring theme, is the city itself.
“I think GI makes it clear that the Glasgow art scene has a really distinct, international character,” continues Shankie, who with Andrew Miller is presenting No Meal Is Complete Without Conversation, a series of 14-cover lunches at his flat in 83 Hill Street, near to the city’s Charles Rennie Mackintosh-designed art school. The lunches, 14 in total, are part of GI’s Open Glasgow initiative, which seeks artists’ proposals for ‘imaginative and exciting projects conceived specifically for the city’.
Between stints in New York and other cities, Shankie has been making work in Glasgow for nearly 20 years. He has exhibited in his flat before, and its address deserves its own chapter in any history of the city’s art scene – Shankie explains that Douglas Gordon once owned the flat below, and fellow Turner Prize winners Richard Wright, Simon Starling and Martin Boyce have all lived in the block at some point. “There should be a blue plaque outside,” he says.
It’s well known of course that Glasgow is the UK’s second city for contemporary art, home to a growing number of internationally recognized artists, a burgeoning network of gallery spaces and one of Europe’s top art schools. What Glasgow International appears to have done so well since the inaugural event in 2005 (it became biennial after the 2006 festival) is to integrate and involve the local scene, providing a space for artists in the city at many different levels of their careers.
Axis artist Erica Eyres completed her MFA at Glasgow School of Art in 2004. Originally from Canada, she decided to stay on in the city and has exhibited in Glasgow International before. This year she is showing a new video piece in the group show, Familiar, at Southside Studios, and will be screening another new piece during an evening of performance.
“There’s so many venues and different levels of things going on in Glasgow International that if you want to do something as an artist, it feels possible, which is I guess also the reason why people stay on in Glasgow. It’s so much easier to do your own stuff, to hold your own exhibitions, to get involved. It feels pretty welcoming.”
Another Glasgow-based Axis artist, David Sherry, is featured in three separate projects during GI: Everything Flows at Queens Park Railway Club, Art Lending Library at The Mitchell Library, and Prawn’s Pee (part of Open Glasgow) at the Old Hairdressers. The latter is a daily newspaper and series of performances throughout the festival, and features over 40 artists from Glasgow and beyond.
“I think I’m going to make my own Marmite for Prawn’s Pee,” smiles Sherry. “So I’ll be documenting the making of it and also have some for people to try. Over the years, I’ve always been involved in things during GI, but in an unofficial sense. I think that’s one of the great things about GI – all these things happen and then people just do stuff as well. There’s an awful lot of opportunities for that kind of thing.”
So does the fact that he’s cooking up a yeast extract-based savoury spread for Glasgow International, rather than for another event, make a difference? “Yeah, I think it does,” he says. “There’s going to be a really big buzz around the festival and it’s good to be involved in a number of different projects. I mean, if somebody approaches you and says, ‘We’re doing this for GI, do you want to be involved?’, you’re going to say, ‘Yes, of course’.”
Chris Sharratt explores the curatorial approach to this year's GI
Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art, 20 April – 7 May 2012
Find out what's on and see visiting times at www.glasgowinternational.org
Laura Yuile is our Axis Artist of the Month for April, read our interview with her as she discusses her project for Glasgow International