he whole “New Image, Glasgow style" thing started when people like Steven Campbell and I cobbled together an exhibition in the Third Eye Centre in a few weeks because someone else couldn’t get a show together in time. We were given a label and I’ve been carrying the burden ever since,’ says Adrian Wiszniewski, displaying his refreshing ability to deﬂate the hype of a profession always keen to formulate a school, a style or an ‘ism’ or two.
‘In art you always have to be on the ball, and the
'ball isn’t always in Glasgow,’ he adds, feeling that his identification with the whole ‘Glasgow Style’ thing has been more of a hindrance than a help, with critics approaching his work in a ‘Glasgow way’, laden with preconceptions. He feels, also, that they have concentrated on the swirling, energetic, richly textured surface quality of his paintings without looking ‘in depth’ to the layers of meaning beneath. Leading, at times, to blatant misinterpretation of his work.
His very early success, which can be disturbing for a young artist, and the fact that his recent work has been shown more in the United States, Japan and Europe also means that there has been a tendency to suspend him in time as a dreamy, young romantic. In conversation, he does still make reference to romantic heroes like Blake and Van Gogh, but discusses them with the same intelligence and unpretentious affability as he discusses art, rather as if he’d just been out for a pint with Willie and Vince. .
Considering that he has already built an impressive international reputation (although still only aged 32) with paintings in many major collections including the Museum of Modern Art
Shedding new light on seven years‘ artistic success, Adrian Wiszniewski's Retrospective exhibition in Edinburgh includes some ﬂashes of neon inspiration. Gillian Ferguson reports on his use of a quirky but well established medium.
that The Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh is holding his first major Scottish show. ‘My
work has never really been shown in Scotland before, all the hype didn’t seem affect that! I’ve only had one small show in the Compass Gallery in 1984.’
The Fruitmarket exhibition encompasses a fine selection of his work since 1983; large, intense figurative paintings laden with symbolism, personal narrative, and imagery from politics, literature, history and classical mythology. Despite the dense surface textures and complex imagery, however, the importance ofline becomes increasingly stronger as his work progresses. What appears then as a dramatic departure into neon, which comprises an important section ofthe exhibition, is not as incongruous as it might at first seem. The reductive direction is already visible in paintings like Toying with Religion from 1987, with the decorative surface reduced to a flat red plane in the background.
The neon appears as a distillation, a stripping away of the surface detail to allow both his qualities as a draughtsman and the wit always inherent in his work, to come to the fore. But when did he see the light? ‘A year ago I did Subliminal Thought, a very sharp wood cut which looked like neon; only the neon was missing!’. He had also admired neon by the American Bruce Nauman and the Italian Mario Merz and felt more and more drawn to the idea of reduction to pure line and colour. ‘In my earlier work, the content was being submerged by the surface quality which I was trying to make very seductive, it acted as a smokescreen and always seemed to invite poetic young men lounging about! Also,
in New York and the Tate gallery, it is surprising having done painting for the last seven years it J
6The List 21 December 1990— 10 January 1991