Glaswegian artist Douglas Gordon talks about his plans for a forthcoming Christmas show.
It snowed for Van Gogh. But will it for Douglas Gordon
‘My next show is in the Kunstlerhaus Gallery in Stuttgart. This is the curator’s last project and so I wanted to do something which would mark her leaving as well as being a project on its own.
‘I asked her to give me the budget for the exhibition, about £1000 and, partly because the money was limited and partly because it was a nice thing to do, my proposal was to gamble the money on something. If we won, we would have a more extravagant show, and if we lost, it would be a double tragedy and there wouldn’t be any show.
‘Partly because there isn’t really a gambling tradition in Germany in the way there is here and partly because I wanted something still culturally heavy, I decided to gamble on whether it will snow on Christmas Day in Stuttgart. The idea is to put this amount of money on something you can’t control but you hope is going to happen.
‘We will inform people at the beginning of December and, rather than having invitation cards, there will be a letter saying this is what is happening. That should implant in people’s mind the idea and hopefully they’ll be thinking of Stuttgart on Christmas day and wondering whether it’s snowing, which is quite romantic.
‘If it does snow, we’re going to have a video camera set up and we’ll record beautiful snow falling and then we’ll send out an invitation card saying: ‘Something special happened on the 25th Dec.’ At the opening we’ll show a video of that day in the city. If we don’t win we’ll send out a letter saying: ‘No Show. Nothing special happened in Stuttgart on 25 Dec’. Which is kind of bleak.
‘The idea of faith and hope in art is quite important. I wanted to set up a situation where we’re making a gesture of hope but over which we have no control. This is traditionally religious on the one hand and, because of the betting system, quite materialistic on the other. It’s hope without true faith or belief.’ (Beatrice Colin)
Douglas Gordon was one of the curators of New Scottish Art, at the CCA until 26 Nov.
:- Fruit of the loom
The Unbroken Thread celebrates a century of embroidery and weaving at Glasgow School of Art. Beatrice Colin takes its measurements.
A hundred years ago Jessie Newberry. the wife of the director of the Glasgow
and innoyatiye the department has always been.
.-\s well as the work on the walls. the catalogue for the show by costume historian. |-i/ Arthur. includes accounts by cx-students and lecturers which
School of An. began teaching embroidery. While the rest of the country was gripped in the fuss and pomp of the late Victorian age. she was an unconventional figure who encouraged her students to make functional things. She taught simplicity. good design based on themes from the natural world and demanded a high standard of workmanship. Soon work front her department of etnbroidery was as highly regarded as the architecture of her close friend Mackintosh and was shown as far afield as Milan.
Newberry left behind a legacy which has made the department one of the best in Britain. A huge exhibition. spanning the century and exhibiting the work of Jessie Newberry. Ann Macbeth. Kathleen Mann and Kirsteen Tytler from the first half of the century. and Crissie White. Jilli Blackwood and Kim Gourlay from the last few' decades. illustrates just how dynamic
reyeal the changing climate of the art school cnyiromnent.
Cordelia ()liyer describes how during the World War ll students taking classes in the newly established weaying classes spent most weekends looking for strands of wool or dog hair on barbed wire fences or recutting blankets. sheets and parachute nylon into dresses which were then stencilled or embroidered. ller embroidery tutor w as Kathleen Mann. whose teaching technique was rex olntionary. ‘lmmediacy was of the essence: stitchery. though important. took its place along with ideas of pictorial tlcsigli.‘
in the 5t)s. c.\‘~-studcnts describe unpieking socks to find thread and the shock of a class full of ex-seryicemen. Discipline was always enforced and by the (ills. lilsie Walters" remembers the department as one where the classes were silent. with no talking or radios
allowed. [1 was known as the ‘yirgin's
'l'iines were changing. howeycr. and the first full time tnale student was Malcolm Lochhcad in the late (ills. He remembers how ()p Art. Pop Art and (‘oncrctc l’oetry were all absorbed into the students‘ work. But the students w ere urged to look further. “We were encouraged to trayel and went on visits to expand our experiences.‘ he says. "There is a graye danger of looking at this period through rose-tinted spectacles. .»\s a group of students we fought like cat and dog.‘
The department moved into Newberry tower in 1970 and in the late 80s. ex- student ls'im (iourlay points out that although the term ‘embroidery'. sometimes seemed a hindrance and kept the craft on the fringes. they were always trying to break new barriers. ‘\\'e had a grand tradition behind us and rules are meant to be broken.‘ she says. ‘lixciting work was encouraged by stretching traditional techniques to the limit.‘
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before our tender gaze. Fake furs, nylon, flock and formica become the malicious stage scenery accompanying the remembered glamour of youth.
Robber, the first solo show of work by photographer Steven Tynan, is ‘in your face’, according to the gallery blurb. Old age is the subject of this small exhibition, where large-scale colour portraits of old souls are paraded
a bright red skin-tight, frock and tap dancing shoes perches hesitantly on a stool, brandishing a white-topped cane. In another, a bare-chested figure of uncertain sex dressed in a battered fez and full music hali make-
up, kneels on the floor of a perfectly
ordinary kitchen. In a third, we spot a
memento-horse and horse blanket as
Tynan turns a man on crutches into John Wayne: we ‘geddit’ behind his back, our irony satisfied.
In Tynan’s photographs of elderly people in the north west of England,
his subjects stand, kneel or recline in
an angry display of individuality. Almost all the portraits are of single figures: they appear detached and self-obsessed except in one photograph of a dancing couple. The colours are strong and sometimes sickly, particularly the red that Ieaches out from dresses and lipstick in many of these pictures, and the scale of the blow-ups serves to emphasise texture, of both tacky interiors and ageing skin.
Tynan’s portraits are compelling but
cruel: he is an intruder in trainers who i demands memories and performances
from the blind and the weary. Despite
? the surreal touches, these portraits 3 lack humour and grit and leave you ' feeling chilled and uncomfortable.
Tynan’s careful stage-managing of
each shot underlines his curious position as ringmaster-come-
undertaker: he grants these old people
their last pantomime escape, and then seals them in emulsion. (Robin Baillie) In one permit, a bewigged woman in ' Robber is at Stills Gallery until 3 Dec.
56 The List l8 November—l December 1994