For the next six weeks at Cafe Bru, 734 Dumbarton Rd, Glasgow G11 6RD, a major painting I have just completed will be on show. It shows the re-union of a group of friends (we used to meet up in this very cafe every month!) in a composition based on Caravaggio’s “Calling of Saint Matthew”.
Members of “the cooncil”:
Craig Munro, who coined the name “The Cooncil” and was a wonderful driving force behind the group. Craig died in 2020 of the cancer which meant he had to endure severe disfigurement in the last years of his life.
Professor Willy Maley works at Glasgow University and is a well known figure in literature and the arts. He is an author, playwright, and poet.
Dini Power is also a writer and artist. She has been a teacher and librarian (two of the most important professions) and has worked in the film industry and in editing.
Christina Gallagher worked in pub management and healthcare. She is another driving force in the “cooncil”.
Stuart Christie was a Scottish anarchist, writer, and publisher. When aged 18, Christie was arrested while carrying explosives to assassinate the Spanish caudillo, General Francisco Franco. He was later alleged to be a member of the Angry Brigade, but was acquitted of related charges. Stuart died in 2020.
Allan Tall is a veteran actor, musician, and composer. He has performed in many tv series and has toured Europe with Scottish Theatre companies. Although popular and well loved for his wonderful live music performances, Allan now devotes much of his time to his painting and writing.
Frank McNab, the artist, lived in Thornwood till August last year. Just before he left Thornwood he was in discussion with the Mayor of the Montmartre district in Paris with the intention of creating a link between the two communities and helping to bring Thornwood to the world’s attention as a thriving and creative area.
Clutching her little bunch of picked flowers, she struggles fearfully to prevent the 64 strands of illness combining into a noose and pulling her down before she can properly explore the strange garden she has been left in by her parents.
Mabel Broadbear died in 1896 when she was eighteen at the Mendip hospital after suffering 64 epileptic seizures during the night. She had been left at the hospital by her parents the year before and was described as “simple and mischievous” in her records.
I hope she found even a little happiness in the garden.
This painting developed into a view of the new post covid world we find ourselves in. Influenced in colour scheme and detail by the famous “Garden of Earthly Delights” by Hieronymus Bosch, it shows the new world occupied by a strange mixture of humanity and nature.
Nature has shaped us once again with consumate ease.
A response to the surreal effect the lockdown has had in the city. The virus is portrayed as a kind of jellyfish creature floating through the streets trailing its tentacles across those who are unfortunate enough to be in the street as it passes.
This vision of the corona virus was inspired by something I saw. Someone had washed a white ladies’ dress and had placed it on a coat hanger then hooked this onto a window which was opened out at a slant above the street below.
The way the thin material billowed out in the wind like a semi transparent bell reminded me of images I had seen of some jellyfish and the way it seemed to float above virtually empty streets inspired me to paint the picture.
I imagined the virus as some frightening relentless being advancing silently along the street brushing its tentacles over the unnoticing people it passes.
The people in the windows are all displaying a response to lockdown and are very pale. They are trapped in their homes. Those outside are risking themselves. Indeed the old woman with the walking stick is being touched by a very faintly depicted tentacle and now is now infectious and likely to be ill.
I am celebrating the launch of my new page dedicated to the wonderful and inspirational tenement closes in our cities! I have been investigating and studying these environments throughout my artistic life. Glasgow City Council has three of my large major works in its collection and I have produced many paintings now in private collections both here and abroad.
I am offering a service where I will accept a commission to paint a “portrait” of your own close! (just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org)
The common close in these tenements is an extraordinary place. You are neither home or outside. The lighting in some of these toplit corner closes is as awe inspiring as a Gothic cathedral and that strange mixture of public and personal space directs our eyes as we look around. Passing folk on a stairwell can be an odd experience. We are used to seeing others on the same level as us not immediately above or below us. This sometimes has the effect of causing us to avoid staring up at the person coming down or gazing down at those coming up! ”
This is reminiscent of the Hugh Mearns’ poem, “Antigonish”…
Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there!
He wasn’t there again today,
Oh how I wish he’d go away
The painting, which contains an abundance of clues for the viewer to follow, is itself a puzzle. You are the detective and you must identify the “guilty party” using clues in Morse, semaphore, and International Shipping Flag Code, as well as straightforward logic and observation.
The intention of this picture is to help people to re-establish the skill in looking at paintings in a way which encourages reflection and awareness of meaning. This, I believe, is a way of seeing which has become atrophied in the modern world. This painting gives people a clear reason to stand in front of it and look at it.
Prints are available from the Prints page on this site.