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Thursday 10th
posted by Morning Star in Arts

CHRIS BARTTER reports on an art exhibition fired by the ongoing independence debate

The Art of Scotland’s
Political Awakening
Kelvin College, Glasgow

AN OLD converted school in Glasgow is an unusual venue for an art exhibition but perhaps it’s entirely in keeping with this show which, according to its curator Max Wiszniewski, “seeks to add to the dialogue about how art, politics and society can inform one another.”

The Art of Scotland’s Political Awakening, mounted by Common Weal, draws on material produced during and after last year’s referendum debate and it certainly shows an increased political engagement by Scotland’s artists.

On show are cartoons, posters, paintings, prints, sculpture, installations and video interviews from Mark McGowan, aka the Artist Taxi Driver, along with work from prominent Scottish artists — Adrian Wiszniewski, June Carey and Ken Currie, to name but three.

Yet what’s on offer doesn’t necessarily live up to the show’s title. Campaign posters and cartoons produced in the heat of the debate are necessarily topical and often highly critical.

But of course they date quickly and in an exhibition that professes to look forward, that sometimes means they lose topicality — Lorna Miller’s cartoon of Johann Lamont drowning in a sea of oil being an example because of the recent collapse in prices.

And some of the hostility depicted during the referendum debate, such as Alastair Strachan’s Shoulder to Shoulder, sits uneasily with any attempt to create a dialogue covering all of Scotland.

Yet the material dealing with wider societal and community issues is far more successful artistically and politically.

Ken Currie’s Big Fish and Alastair Wallace’s Sub and Sub Acqua deal with the issue of Trident, while Elizaveta Maltseva’s prints on the hackneyed topic of Scotland’s battle with the bottle introduce a fresh perspective on the problem.

But the highlight of the exhibition is Charlotte Duffy’s cardboard box shelter which, roughly stitched together, forms a post-referendum “sanctuary.”

Inside are some pithy slogans and images referencing many issues that need to be addressed, from homelessness to borders, and they do so in a remarkably inventive way.

If we are to take the “political awakening” forward — in whatever medium we choose — it will surely be, as this exhibit suggests, in what we all make of it together.

The exhibition is at the Glasgow Kelvin College, West Annexe, 75 Hotspur Street, Glasgow until December 16. Free.