Oracles in the Community
Glasgow's Public Libraries
A Veil Past Which I Could Not See"A Veil Past Which I Could Not See" 2009, acrylics on canvas. 92 x 122cm.  (This picture is for sale. POA)

"There was a Door to which I found no Key:

There was a Veil past which I could not see:"

                                                Fitzgerald's translation of Omar Khayyam's Rubaiyat.

 

This is the self-taught man from Glasgow. He fought in the Spanish Civil War, squaring up against Franco's Moorish Regulares at the Battle of Jarama. He has always used public libraries. He lives in a tenement building and knows the Latin name for every tree in the park. He works in the shipyards and sweeps the streets and he is unemployed.

He doesn't say much, but he likes reading words like Kaikobad and Kaikhosru* to himself out loud. He dragged Benny out of the pub whenever he saw him and put him up for the night. He is trying to understand, but it is always just out of reach.

His most prized possession is his library card.

*Again, from the Rubaiyat.


About the exhibition
This exhibition  is primarily about the public libraries of Glasgow and their many functions and importances to the communities around them. This is the very subjective view of an "Old Romantic". Please visit the exhibition on the fifth floor of the Mitchell. All pictures (with the exception of "Whiteinch - An Island Again") are for sale. Please e-mail with enquiries.


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veildetailth

 

There are secret letters hidden within some of the paintings which form a word. Read the poem to find out what to do with the secret word.  
The best way :
1. Have a look at all the works.
2. Then read and think about the words in "The Song of the Libraries".  The first task is to identify which picture is being referred to, then to work out where in the picture the secret is...
3. Put the letters together and work out what to do with them. You will then travel on to the next step.
 LIMITED EDITION HIGH QUALITY GLYCEE  SIGNED PRINTS ARE AVAILABLE OF ALL PICTURES- CLICK HERE TO EMAIL THE ARTIST
Knightswood

"Carrying the Message"

Frank McNab, 2009, acrylics on canvas. 52 x 62cm. Framed.

Knightswood Library is an unprepossessing example of garage forecourt architecture. On the outside. Inside it a gateway to all the artistic excellence and learning in the world. One child from a high-rise block borrowing a book on Picasso makes Knightswood Library as valid as the Bodlean.

Here the spirit of the autodidact flies across the bookshelves as he carries the book to the child slowly approaching with its mother. The bird accompanying him is the hoopoe, also known as Solomon's messenger (it carried his words to the Queen of Sheba). This all symbolises the advent of new technology and the library's established ability to transport the reader to other worlds.

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Elderpark1

"After the Shipyard at Elderpark"

Frank McNab, 2009, acrylics on canvas. 40 x 50cm.

 The self-taught man has just finished a Saturday nightshift at the yards in Govan and is now standing among the columns of Elderpark waiting for the library to open on a sunny Sunday morning (one of the original conditions of Lady Isobel Elder's bequest was that the library should open on a Sunday!). He is reading Fitzgerald's translation of the Rubaiyat:

            Awake! for morning in the Bowl of Night

            Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight.

Situated in its own park, Elderpark Library is one of the most beautiful places in Glasgow.

LIMITED EDITION HIGH QUALITY SIGNED GLYCEE  PRINTS ARE AVAILABLE OF ALL PICTURES- CLICK HERE TO EMAIL THE ARTIST
Dancingthum

"Dancing with Athena"

Frank McNab, 2009, acrylics on canvas. 40 x 50cm.

 The self-taught man has hooked his glasses into his jacket's breast pocket and is teaching himself to dance from a book in the Couper Institute. He is, therefore, dancing with Athena, the goddess of wisdom and learning. She is in the shape of the owl. Everything is frozen in time and, although there are many strong diagonals, there is an element of stillness which is created by the pyramidical composition. The picture is about his obvious concentration which has conjured up the empty library, the moonbeams, and the dancing partner...

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MiltonJdthm

"Thomas Hardy at Old Milton"

Frank McNab, 2009, acrylics on canvas. 40 x 50cm.

 Before the move to the superb new library, the people of Milton had their library in a small single-storey rectangular building behind the local church. There are many narrow pedestrian lanes in this area, only really practical for those with local knowledge, which give the place an oddly rural feeling. This, together with the distance from the hustle and bustle of the city, brings to mind the intense imagery of the opening sequences of Hardy's "Jude the Obscure". A young boy gazes longingly at the golden glow in the distance. The city of spires, of course, is not quite what he imagines it to be.

LIMITED EDITION HIGH QUALITY GLYCEE PRINTS ARE AVAILABLE OF ALL PICTURES- CLICK HERE TO EMAIL THE ARTIST 
Farawaythm

"Far Away"
Frank McNab, 2009, acrylics on canvas. 40 x 50cm
Elderpark above Thermopylae. Leonidas can be seen in the distance on one of the peaks of the Gates of Fire waiting for the sun to come up. This painting is all about the ability of our minds to free us from any constraint. Leonidas and the Spartans believed the best thing which could possibly happen to them was to die for their society:

                        "Go tell the Spartans, Passerby,

                        That here, obedient to their laws,We lie."
                                                                            Simonides

So the shipyards and tenements around Elderpark can be replaced by idyllic landscape. If you believe it.

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Leonyouthm

"Now You"

Frank McNab, 2009, acrylics on canvas. 40 x 50cm

 

Leonidas combs his hair before the battle of Thermopylae. He stands in front of Elderpark. The Spartans were cruel and extremely harsh, but elements of their society seem admirable: their first responsibility was to the state and they took pride in turning their backs on wealth and comfort. (Interestingly, they prayed to the goddess Athena.) This sense of the value of responsibility was once a strong guiding force among the self-taught in our city and was perpetuated by the public library system. "Now You" refers to the responsibility now passed down to us all as citizens of Glasgow to visit them and utilise their facilities as much as possible.

LIMITED EDITION HIGH QUALITY GLYCEE PRINTS ARE AVAILABLE OF ALL PICTURES- CLICK HERE TO EMAIL THE ARTIST
milton2thm

"Golden Lustre" (Milton2)

Frank McNab, 2009, acrylics on canvas. 40 x 50cm

 

The title comes from "Paradise Lost" and tells you where this is. The reference is alludes to the extraordinary ability of community libraries to enable people to transcend their physical place and change their lives. Small places give birth to huge changes. What kind of tree could that be in the garden?

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wsthm

"Woodside"

Frank McNab, 2009, acrylics on canvas. 52 x 62 framed.

 
This was built to stand out from the surrounding tenements of St George's Cross and although there aren't so many tenements now it still dominates. In this work the nearby high rise blocks have changed into strange mountains with doorways in them. There really is a wood at the side and the dragon still exists as a sphynx guarding the door.

The disconcerting combination of wild and cultivated in the landscape reflects the palladian decoration of the architecture.

LIMITED EDITION HIGH QUALITY GLYCEE PRINTS ARE AVAILABLE OF ALL PICTURES- CLICK HERE TO CONTACT THE ARTIST
Whiteinchthm

"Whiteinch Library - An Island Again"

Frank McNab, 2009, acrylics on canvas. 56 x 65cm framed (Loaned by the McCartney Collection.)

 All the features in the picture - the glass-topped tables, the slanting newspaper reading shelves, and the curved wooden attendant's alcove - can be seen at Whiteinch Library. Whiteinch is called after a sandy island here in the Clyde when the river was much shallower and now the library finds itself an island, surrounded by the expressway and the cul-de-sacs of the housing scheme.

The figure balancing so precariously above the shipyards is the self-taught man of Glasgow, the recurring theme of this exhibition. He symbolises the spirit of learning and personal development in which the community libraries were built.

(Not for Sale)

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Partickpillarsthm

"The Pillars of Partick"

Frank McNab, 2009, acrylics on canvas.  61 x 46cm.

 

The name 'Partick' is from Gaelic meaning bush or thicket. Partick Library is a beautiful building, but the two massive stone pillars guarding the entrance are extraordinary. Day after day they stand impassively while the noisy hustle of traffic and people pass by, but I believe they really exist in another place. A place of peace and stillness. Here, they just belong and do not need a function. The next time you are in Partick look at the pillars. You'll know where they really are...

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Songthm

"The Song of the Libraries"

Frank McNab, 2009, acrylics on canvas.

 

A homage to the genius William Blake and his illustrated books, this introduces the exhibition visitor to the "artistic adventure". Use your perception and knowledge to begin a journey through the strange imagination of the artist...

Those pilgrims who complete the adventure will understand why they have travelled.

Text below.

Travellers repose and dream among my leaves. 
Magical libraries give you the whole world and take you even further. The only limits are yours.
The same number as the Pleiades can be found in these imaginings And together they form a word.
This is the tail which must be added to the comet far below before it is sent through the firmament and is put to the oracle.

 
There is a meaning in the books which are read in the dance with wisdom.
"With it or on it" the women used to say. On it.
At the pillars the ancient symbol of knowledge is his own start.
Far distant on the gates of fire he is small and his case is low.
Above the torch it lies in arcadia.
Left of aspiration the weeds provide it.
And the sun paints its own initial on the tree of paradise lost.

 Now you must attach this to what is under the veil and go to where your imagination camps next...