0n the buses
Travelling on the back row of a Number 34 bus in Glasgow, Nicola Atkinson- Griffith took in the sights and got sitters for a series of portraits. The results are now on show. Words: Paul Welsh
In Glasgow, buses can cause a real stir. From the green, white and gold of the corporation’s old ﬂeet (a sure sign of Celtic support, many argued) to the striking orange of today (an ‘Up The ’Gers!’ response?) it seems every punter has something to say about the city’s double-deckers. They are a handy excuse for being late, regardless of whether they’ve actually been used as a means of transport. They can prompt memory recall of other parts of the city, offer a means of escape, or be cursed as they slowly crawl the roadways. Buses still rule our streets and the urban mind.
And now, artist Nicola Atkinson-Griffith has turned her mind to the urban beast. In what seems a ceaseless exploration of urban life — she once made a huge chandelier out of teaspoons collected from hundreds of Glasgow households — her latest multi-faceted artwork, Number 34, has tapped into the people, vehicles and routes of the Glasgow network.
Based in an office at Glasgow’s Larkfield bus depot, courtesy of Strathclyde Buses, Atkinson- Griffith has being travelling daily with a complimentary bus pass on the Number 34. Running between Govan and Castlemilk, Atkinson-Grifﬁth has looked out the window, day-dreamed and chatted to fellow passengers. And appropriately. the resulting exhibition is to be seen at both terminus points — the
‘Every route means something poignant and this one is no different. One person said the 34 had seen them through their whole life. It was like a loyal friend — late now and again, but it always eventually turned up.’
Bussing along: Nicola Atkinson-Griffith on the Number 34
Pearce Institute in Govan and the Fringe Gallery at Castlemilk
‘I am interested in the different communities created by buses,’ says Atkinson-Griffith. ‘Every route means something poignant and this one is no different. One person said the 34 had seen them through their whole life. It was like a loyal friend — late now and again, but it always eventually turned up.’
For anyone born before the car—obsessed age. this anecdote should sound familiar. Traditionally. buses connect people and places and this is not unusual territory for Atkinson-Griffith. ‘The main theme of my work is recognising we are not alone.’ she says. ‘For me, the sense of people. places and ideas being linked together is very important.’
Text has been used as part of the project. Printed on adhesive vinyl. ‘fragments of internal dialogue‘ have been stuck to the ceiling of the lower deck in each of 240 buses at the Larkfield depot. Private thoughts in a very public, moving space. they include such lines as ‘You are not alone’. ‘I just need to talk to someone’. ‘I hope she sits beside me’. ‘I could kill for a cup of tea’. ‘I cannot wait to see the game tonight.‘
Another element is a series of passenger portraits. on show at the Fringe Gallery. After putting up a poster on the Number 34 asking people if they wanted to be painted, Atkinson-Griffith received responses from 25 willing sitters. By a strange coincidence. 25 is the number of streets between Castlemilk and Govan, the exact number Atkinson-Grifﬁth hoped would respond.
Meanwhile, over at the Pearce Institute the mood is a little different. A huge photograph of part of the Number 34’s route is hanging on the wall, alongside the words ‘It feels like thisjoumey is taking for ever.’ And we all know that feeling.
On The Number 34 by Nicola Atkinson-Griffith is at the Fringe Gallery and the Pearce Institute, Glasgow Mon 17 Mar-Sat 5 Apr.
preview ART Artbeat
THE NATIONAL GALLERIES of Scotland's administration is smiling again after being told last autumn it was a touch greedy in its Lottery application for £50 million to convert Glasgow's George Square Post Office into a National Gallery of Scottish Art and Design. Awarded £63 million in lottery money to convert the Dean Centre, opposite Edinburgh's National Gallery of Modern Art, it will now be able to house its collection of works by Leith-born artist Paolozzi. The architect chosen to revamp Thomas Hamilton's 1830's edifice is Terry Farrell, designer of Edinburgh's International Conference Centre and London's new Charing Cross. Some are unhappy at the London architect’s appointment, in the absence of competition for the job. One Edinburgh architect has called him 'a Jack the Lad of architecture'. But will this provoke further acts of art terrorism? Last year, one undercover operator painted the toenail of Paolozzi's foot at Edinburgh's Picardy Place, believing it vastly improved the outsize sculpture. With news of this recent development, he promises more of the same. Lock up your Paolozzisl
THERE'S GOOD CHEER at Inverleith House in Edinburgh‘s Royal Botanic Gardens. It has just been awarded £20,000 by the Scottish Arts Council. A good move this, considering it has staged some of Scotland's hottest art shows and is one of the nation's finest art venues. As Andrew Nairne, visual arts director at SAC says: ‘lt’s an indication that Paul Nesbitt, [the gallery's curator]. is doing a good job.’ And Nesbitt, never one to rest on his laurels, has got moving quick. He’s just returned from a New York recce for the gallery‘s Festival show, Theories Of The Decorative, which will include a line-up of work by contemporary US artists.
AND FINALLY a footnote. Having completed her work on Glasgow's buses (see Preview, left), Nicola Atkinson-Griffith is soon to take on the public transport of Karachi. Off to Pakistan in April to look at bus decoration there — an artform in itself — she is to be given a bus to decorate and will then head back to Glasgow to decorate a Glasgow bus, Pakistani style.
Bird 's eye: Paolozzi's Paris Bird
7—20 Mar 1997 THEM”