There aren’t too many big contemporary art events that cater for small children,
but this year’s Glasgow International is an exception, with a miniature outdoor
sculpture park for children in the middle of City of Glasgow College and Jeremy Deller’s
bouncy-castle Stonehenge on Glasgow Green.
City of Glasgow College was one of the first commercial high-rise buildings in the city, a towering concrete structure beside Queen Street Station that no doubt symbolised the future-facing philosophy of the building school it was designed to house.
Dialogue of Hands, a small exhibition of child-friendly sculpture curated by Sarah Lowndes and Katie Nicoll, provides an oasis of colour and fun in one of the college’s open-air courtyards and features work by Mary Redmond, Corin Sworn, Chris Johanson and Camilla Løw.
The curators’ inspiration comes in part from the Brazilian artists Helio Oiticica and Lygia Clark, who saw the participation of the viewer in their work as an act invested with social and political meaning.
The exhibition poses gentle questions about the educational value of sensory exploration and play - a timely provocation in the current climate. I felt I really needed some toddlers in tow, but the absence of small companions didn’t prevent me from having a go on Chris Johanson’s marvellously inviting steel-drum sculpture.
I’d defy anyone to resist it.
Down at Glasgow Green, site of Jeremy Deller’s immense bouncy-castle
replica of Stonehenge, all adult caution had been thrown to the winds.
It was like witnessing a modern-day Dionysian rite of spring, as adults and
children alike cavorted on this gigantic and astonishingly life-like sculpture.
Congratulations must go to the fabricator who has made plastic look like real
How fitting that this most democratic of participatory events should occupy
one of Glasgow’s oldest public spaces, just a few hundred metres from the
People’s Palace. Deller’s sculpture will subsequently tour to other destinations,
as part of the Cultural Olympiad. The Olympics aren’t funny enough, says Deller.
And who could disagree?
Even Glasgow’s commercial galleries are characterised by an informality that is
rarely encountered in other places. Not far from Glasgow Green is the Modern Institute,
which two years ago relocated to one of Glasgow’s oldest surviving public
bath houses on Osborne Street, an agreeably proportioned building well suited
to its current exhibition of sketchbooks by American artist Paul Thek (1933-1988).
The sketchbooks reveal the preoccupations and thought-processes of an artist now
recognised as a pioneer of sculptural installation, whose work nonetheless remained
anchored in observation of the real world and the iconography of his Catholic faith.
There’s a lively group show to admire at the Briggait, a former fish market transformed by WASPS into an extensive complex of studio, office and gallery spaces.
It’s also well worth lingering in the two small galleries to either side of the main entrance, which are currently showing a pitch-perfect exhibition of drawing, photography and recorded sound by Judy Spark and Lesley Punton. Both artists make work about the natural world, addressing the gap that exists between their physical experience of landscape and the process of articulating it in art.
A different kind of gap exercises Rosalind Nashashibi in her newly commissioned film for GI, which explores the relationship between the dancers of Scottish Ballet and a group of onlookers who have shuffled in to watch them in rehearsal. By wiring the dancers up for sound, she makes us acutely aware of the physical exertion involved in creating an illusion of effortless movement. She also records the reaction of the audience, their comments, facial expressions and body language. It’s a lovely piece: observant and cleverly shot.
No trip to GI would be complete without a visit to Karla Black’s installation at GOMA,
a monolithic rectangular structure composed of sawdust which occupies the entire
central section of the ground floor. The second piece on show here, an elaborate
arrangement of cellophane swags, hovers in mid-air as if in rococo counterpoint to
the classical severity of the sawdust slab beneath.
One of the virtues of Karla Black’s installation is the way it draws attention to the
18th century interior that surrounds it. There is surely no other British city that
can offer such a range of architectural settings for a festival of visual art, from this
Tobacco Lord’s house in the city centre to Tramway on the south side, with its
immense shed-like galleries.
And perhaps no other city could achieve such a seamless integration between the ‘big name’ artists and everyone else. I’ve concentrated here on some of the main venues, but there is a great deal of artist-led activity in other places, for example the series of works and events devised for GI by Hole in my Pocket, a dynamic art/ architecture duo with a diverse and entertaining multi-disciplinary practice.
It was especially good to see a group show of work by younger Glasgow-based artists at The Lighthouse, including Katri Walker, Laura Yuile, Rachel Adams and former Axis MAstar Amelia Bywater. Curated by The Duchy, one of Glasgow’s newest spaces, it exemplifies the strong and supportive culture emanating from the city’s institutions and artists’ community.
The Lighthouse building was designed for the Glasgow Herald by John Keppie, to whom Charles Rennie Mackintosh was once apprenticed. It serves as a reminder, if any were needed, that Glasgow’s artistic traditions and civic confidence go a very long way back and that GI 2012 is only their latest manifestation.
The first instalment of Sheila's report from Glasgow International 2012
Chris Sharratt explores the curatorial approach to this year's GI
Chris Sharratt writes about artists and Glasgow International
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