Glasgow Green & Flourishing
I left my hometown, Glasgow, in 1969, to go to college. During the next few years I returned intermittently, mostly during holidays, but after 1972 I stayed away until 1990, when I was invited to make an exhibition surveying the work I had done during the 80s, in New York. In the wake of that invitation, I made several new works in Glasgow, thinking about Glasgow.
Third Eye Centre
The survey exhibition was curated by Andrew Nairne, and presented at the Third Eye Centre, the contemporary art space on Sauchiehall Street now called CCA. Along with the survey of a decade’s worth of work, I was given some funds to make two new pieces. One was a painting inspired by a memorial sculpture of a materially successful Scottish artist, mounted on a wall painted with a garish approximation of the Black Watch tartan. The top of the painting was crested with a string of lights. In a separate gallery I hung a large photographic detail, printed on canvas, of a ruined fountain that stood in the city’s oldest park, Glasgow Green. In front of this I installed a scaffolding rig to hold theatrical lights.
Here’s Looking at You Kid.
The following year local artist Alan Dunn invited me to participate in his Bellgrove Project, basically a billboard space facing a train station in the east end of Glasgow that he controlled for a while. The station had a certain notoriety because it was the closest stop to Parkhead, the stadium of Glasgow Celtic Football Club, and thus got rowdy on Saturdays. As a result there was a heavy police presence most of the time. To make the piece I took photographs of a different group of police officers standing around the Cenotaph in George Square in the center of the city.
In 1995 I was approached by “Art in Partnership,” a consultancy group in Edinburgh, about making a proposal for a monumental structure to function as a kind of sign for a new, interactive museum of the industrial age, planned for the village of Shawhead outside Coatbridge. The area had been at the center of Scotland’s iron and coal industries in the 19th century, but had long fallen on hard times, and the museum was intended as an economic lifeline. The design remit was for a structure that would be visible from the nearby Motorway connecting Edinburgh and Glasgow, and that it should include some sort of light feature. I designed a castellated tower whose side opened to reveal large spinning cogwheels. This area was to be lit inside, and a high intensity beam shot up vertically from the battlements. My proposal was not accepted.