New Art in Scotland

Beatrice Colin looks at New Art In Scotland Part I at the CCA and considers four major Scottish exhibitions that have launched the international careers of a variety of artists.

n I972. artist Bruce McLean left Scotland for London. claiming he didn't want to become just another painter of wee harbours and fishing boats. Many others followed him. stubborn in the belief that you couldn't become a successful artist if you lived in Scotland. Yet over the last ten years Scottish artists have earned a reputation both in Britain and overseas for hard hitting art. much of it created north of the border. From the heavy-weight talent of figurative

artists such as Ken Currie to the idea-led work in film. video and text of Douglas Gordon, the common perception of what Scottish art is. if anything. has blurred and expanded further than anyone could have envisaged. Now, Scotland attracts instead of repels artists.

The (‘CA has curated the first major showcase for new art in Scotland for live years. To pttt the show in perspective. The List looks back at the major shows of new Scottish art where reputations were made and emerging talent recognised.


New Image Glasgow was held in the Third liye Centre (now the CCA) in 1985. It featured the work of Steven Campbell. Stephen Barclay. Ken Currie. Peter Howson. Mario Rossi and Adrian Wiszniewski.

‘In the early 1980s. Scottish art didn‘t really figure.‘ remembers Alexander Moffat. who curated the show. ‘lt was a pretty provincial affair and anybody who had any ambition took the first train out. The tremendous success of New Image led to a kind ofexplosion in Scottish art. mainly in painting. and Scottish figuration became a prominent feature in the mid and late-

Po-et 1985, Adrian Wisznleskl

80s on an international level.

‘l’icking the artists was easy. They were all there. they were major forces and incredibly ambitious. In many ways they picked themselves. There was a tradition of figuration in (ilasgow already in a big city like Glasgow. the whole of humanity‘s there people like Ken (‘urrie and llowson really seized upon this. Steven (‘ampbell comes out of this tradition too. but he was more imaginative and surreal. ‘i’es. inevitably. the spotlight did move on and London was a wee bit put out by the success of these painters and quickly reclaimed the territory.‘


The Vigorous Imagination took place at the National Galleries of Scotland in lidinburgh in 1987. It showcased the work of seventeen young Scottish artists including the (ilasgow Boys. Gwen llardie. Kate Whiteford. Sam Ainsley. Stephen (‘onroy and Joseph l'rie. The exhibition was billed as being characterised by artists with a vigorous imagination. an intense interest in the human figure and an assured mastery of technique. ‘lt was a version of what was seemed to be happening at the time.‘ says Keith Hartley. assistant keeper of the National Gallery and one of the show‘s curators. ‘All the artists were interested in the human figure and

the perception was that this came out of

Glasgow. Actually a lot of the artists came from Dundee and studied under the tutor Jack Knox. I think it was an important show and the public liked it. but you‘d probably need several shows to actually sum up what was going on in Scotland at the time.‘

Symbol Stones: The Snake 1983, Kate Whitetord

10 The List 9—22 September l‘)‘)4