There's much more to Glasgow-based artist ROSS SINCLAIR than his famous 'REAL LIFE' tattoo. And with a book coming out charting his life and work, he's not exactly turning his back on the
SCOttiSh scene. Words: Susanna Beaumont
NOT A LOT of people know this. but Kurt Cobain‘s suicide in 1994 happened within a
month of the death of America‘s high priest of
modernist thinking. Clement (ireenberg. Ross Sinclair knew. however. The Glasgow-based artist covered a wall with T—shirts and snippets from both men's obituaries. interspersed with text from Greenberg‘s .l/Imlvrnist Painting and Nirvana lyrics. Two very unlikely bedfellows became epitaph co-habitees in Sinclair‘s tribute.
But perhaps they‘re not really that unlikely. We are. after all. talking about Ross Sinclair. who a few years back wrote an essay entitled Nietzsche, The Beastie Boys And NIasttrr/mting xls‘xln Art Form — hardly the sign of a one-track mind sort of guy. you might conclude. More a multi-track minded artist. who genre-hops with ease. cruising from one cultural icon to another by way of a nod at self-gratification.
At 3() years of age. with a self-effacing
Get real: Ross Sinclair putting flesh on modern art
c ’01 INCH;
manner. Sinclair is hardly a pretentious upstart. More likely he‘d be described as aﬂn (/(’ sift/(I renaissance man. what with his dreadlocked hair and penchant for T—shirts. By way of recognising his status —- no waiting for posthumous tributes here — a book is coming out charting Sinclair's life and art so far. Ross Sinclair: Real Life.
An apt title. as this is the artist who in NW) had the words “REAL LIFE‘ tattooed across his back. and in all publicity shots. videos and installations since. he has sported his ﬂesh- imprinted slogan often to the point of excluding his face. Last year at Glasgow‘s C(‘A he could be found clambering bare- backed over his installation Rm! [.i/‘v Rocky Mountain in tartan shorts, like a branded product advertising ‘REAL LIFE‘ in action. An astro-turfed. reconstructed slice of the Scottish landscape. the installation featured Sinclair pottering about among the stuffed examples of wildlife. playing his guitar — everything from folksongs to Nirvana — or hanging out in a small shed checking his e- mail.
An antidote to all the Brave/wart bravado and Scotland as one great big theme-park perhaps? ln conversation. Sinclair recalls his own encounter with the Brave/wart effect. In an after-dark drinking session in a park with his friends in Williamsburg in the States. the cops arrived with lights blazing and asked to see Sinclair‘s lD. ‘They couldn‘t quite make out my European passport.‘ he says. ‘but when I said I was from Scotland. they all cheered out “Braveheart”.‘ The atmosphere lost its aggressive edge.
Not that Sinclair‘s art plays out a political agenda. It‘s more to do with the stuff of everyday. and that often involves the bedroom. Sinclair wrote in that ‘Nietzsche. etc‘ essay: ‘What is interesting about The Beastie Boys is the whole set up they‘ve made for themselves. Bedroom self—determination on a global scale.‘ And you do get a sense that Sinclair is the product of bedroom culture: teenage years spent playing the guitar. learning lyrics — he was once a drummer in a Glasgow band — but littered with moments of thinking life and getting bored. As Sinclair puts it. ‘The absence of any kind of stimulation is one of the most real situations.‘
In Real Life TV. he has recorded himself playing the guitar while sitting on the toilet and standing in front of a mirror. It is like eavesdropping on someone‘s private and mundane meanderings. But then that‘s often life. And as another sequence shows — a woman tries to scrub out ‘REAL LIFE‘ from Sinclair‘s back with a scrubbing brush — there's no getting away from it.
Ross Sinclair: Real Life is published by (CA, Glasgow on Tue 15 Apr.
4-17 Apr 1997 THE usr 13