In Margaret Salmon’s film Icarus (after Amelia) (2021), Glasgow is shot from above through the window of a light aircraft. The Clyde trails like a ribbon across a city which looks hazy and expansive. Hitchcock-esque, the camera gradually zooms in on The Pearce Institute in Govan where the film was on show as part of the exhibition Home Economics, and then proceeds to capture the lives of women in the neighbourhood – their work, gestures, daily routine. Salmon deftly enacts a shift from the macro to the micro. This move feels particular to the derangement of scale felt over the past eighteen months. It captured the manner in which our lives are caught up in larger institutions, systems and civic networks, without diminishing the agency and dignity of the individuals involved.
The way artists navigate institutional expectations and the entanglements of personal relationships is a thread that runs through Issue I. Our cover image is provided by Andrew Black, winner of this year’s Margaret Tait Award. Justin Bieber (2019) is a nude, depicted in nature, ‘the prince of pop’ turned away from us, mid-ascent. At points the paparazzi grain of the image is underscored, at others smoothed away. There is a real sense of intimacy and personal connection, belying the artifice and intrusion of the original photograph. Desire seeps into the long lens shot, and Bieber’s celebrity is backgrounded by Black’s treatment of the subject – attentive, individuated, sensual.
The Margaret Tait Award demonstrates how a confluence of scales, or the small masquerading as the big, can feel claustrophobic. It is rare that peer review becomes a literal reality, but in Glasgow your friends are often also your collaborators, colleagues and gatekeepers. This year the prize fell into this collapsed universe. Some of the shortlisted nominees had themselves nominated others on the shortlist and the panel itself was comprised, at least in part, of their friends and associates – a diverse but close-knit milieu. In a competitive scene this closeness is a double-edged sword.
Jessie Whiteley, The Outlaw, 2021, egg tempera on board, 30x36cm.
Winning an award like the Margaret Tait, or even being shortlisted, is a gateway to bigger and better things. It is a key checkpoint in the Glasgow art pipeline, sitting somewhere between an Intermedia show, a couple of years on the Transmission or Market Gallery committee, a Cove Park Residency and, at the pinnacle, representing Scotland at the Venice Biennale. The question of how to negotiate this slim set of opportunities lies at the heart of Calum Sutherland’s interview with Hardeep Pandhal, starting with a critical discussion around the artist’s exhibition Confessions of a Thug: Pakiveli (2020) at another key pipeline location, Tramway.
In our pilot issue, Neil Clements observed of the art scene’s relationship to Glasgow International, ‘if the city is to function in service of its local practitioners, we must pay closer attention to its internal rhythms’. Once again, the ninth edition, postponed from 2020, solidified a competitive cycle and general fight for visibility beyond the city limits. The majority of press coverage (from The Guardian, The Art Newspaper, and Art Monthly) devoted column inches to the Commissioned Programme and simply centred the festival moment. This kind of writing, conceived over the course of a long weekend, takes something already so concentrated and makes it even smaller and more digestible, first in the festivalisation of the city’s art scene and then in its abridged reviewing. Hussein Mitha’s piece for this issue aligns with some of Clements’ analysis, providing an expansive consideration of agency and class within GI through the lens of Shona Macnaughton’s performance Here To Deliver (2020).
Elsewhere in our GI reviews, Esther Draycott writes about You’re Never Done at Springburn Museum and Kiah Endelman Music considers Martine Syms’ SHE MAD S1:E4 at Tramway. In an effort to balance the attention lumped on the festival, our reviews section also covers exhibitions which fall outside its bounds. Calum Sutherland looks at figurative painting across three shows in the city, and Gwen Dupré reviews Emma Talbot’s Ghost Calls at Dundee Contemporary Arts. On a lighter note, Maria Howard considers the merits of an annual competition of children’s art. Mike Sunda and Caspar Heinemann inaugurate our book reviews. Reviewing Jackie Ess’ Darryl, Heinemann tracks a life lived in desiring, exhausted negotiation with masculinity. Sunda meditates on language learning, cultural immersion and noughties Japan through Polly Barton’s Fifty Sounds.
The issue also includes essays, poetry and experimental writing. Esther Draycott’s She’d been good, it hadn’t worked delves into twentieth century Glaswegian women’s memoir, redressing the surveillance and state controls enacted on the lives of those in council housing. In the lead up to COP26, Maria Howard looks at the limits of the heroic narratives that pervade nature writing in her essay Vigilant Care. In Can I We really be all this !!!!, the poet Olivia Douglass uses family photographs to ask how language, memory and image can exceed themselves. Yuki Okumura writes our first REWORK. His The Depersonalization of Artist treats text sculpturally, manipulating each word of a version of Lucy Lippard and John Chandler’s The Dematerialization of Art in a disassembling of conceptual art’s origins and virtues. K Patrick & Adrien Howard’s Silence continues our Writing Through column, drawing on their relationship to transgender experience to reimagine scenes from thirteenth century French romance, Le Roman de Silence. Writing from ‘a place of friendship’, the pair represent one of the advantages of a close-knit community which makes it easy for artists and writers to come together and collaborate.
In Home Economics, Salmon’s film was accompanied by a series of objects and photographs, entitled Surplus (2021). Across two tables the play of scale continued – little battleships sunk into a melted candle, postcards piled up, broken coil springs nestled on a set of scales – and everyday items mixed with literary ones. A child’s chair sat between the tables. On top a pile of billiard balls, underneath a globe.