Skip to main content

John Byrne – Sitting Ducks

Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh, June 14-October 19

It was a chance meeting with an Edinburgh councillor on Leith Walk that
eventually led to Sitting Ducks, painter and playwright John Byrne's
show of rarely seen work that opens at the Scottish National Portrait
Gallery this month before touring to Inverness. Having suggested to
Byrne that it was about time he had a major show in the capital, the
councillor wrote to the National Galleries of Scotland, who agreed, and
the wheels were duly set in motion for the exhibition of some fifty-odd
works drawn mainly from private collections dating as far back as the
1960s, many of which have never been seen publicly before.

“It was just stuff I remembered that people had bought,” Byrne muses,
“so I made a list. A lot of it is stuff I've not seen since I did it,
drawings of my children, things like that.”

There are self-portraits too, including one from the early 1970s “which
can be dated from the fact that I'm wearing bell-bottomed jeans.”

Not everything on show will be complete, however, including an
eight-foot diptych of Billy Connolly, which has been on loan “in
perpuity” to the People's Palace in Glasgow, where only one half of the
painting could be found. Such a loss sits with the recent rediscovery
of sketches  for a mural Byrne painted on a gable end in Partick in the
1970s, which were found in a skip next to the old Third Eye Centre.

“I think they'll be a bit more careful at the National Gallery,” Byrne
says.

A new publication will accompany Sitting Ducks, along with assorted
merchandise. Byrne twinkles at the prospect.

“They put your face on a plate or a tie or something,” he chuckles.
“Which I'm not averse to at all.”

The List, June 2014

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Honourable K.W. Harman: Ltd Ink Corporation

31 Bath Road, Leith Docks, March 17th-20th

In a monumental shipping container down by Leith Docks, a Sex Pistols tribute band is playing Anarchy in the U.K.. on a stage set up in the middle of the room. Either side, various constructions have been built in such a way so viewers can window shop as they promenade from one end of the room to the next, with the holy grail of a bar at either end.

Inbetween, there’s a confession booth and a mock-up of a private detective’s office with assorted documentation of real-life surveillance pinned to the walls. Two people seem to be having a conversation in public as if they're on a chat show. An assault course of smashed windows are perched on the floor like collateral damage of post-chucking out time target practice. A display of distinctively lettered signs originally created by a homeless man in search of a bed for the night are clumped together on placards that seem to be marking out territory or else finding comfort in being together. Opp…

Scot:Lands 2017

Edinburgh's Hogmanay
Four stars

A sense of place is everything in Scot:Lands. Half the experience of Edinburgh's Hogmanay's now annual tour of the country's diverse array of cultures seen over nine bespoke stages in one global village is the physical journey itself. Scot:Lands too is about how that sense of place interacts with the people who are inspired inspired by that place.

So it was in Nether:Land, where you could see the day in at the Scottish Storytelling Centre with a mixed bag of traditional storytellers and contemporary performance poets such as Jenny Lindsay. The queues beside the Centre's cafe were further enlivened by the gentlest of ceilidhs was ushered in by Mairi Campbell and her band.

For Wig:Land, the grandiloquence of the little seen Signet Library in Parliament Square was transformed into a mini version of the Wigtown Book Festival. While upstairs provided a pop-up performance space where writers including Jessica Fox and Debi Gliori read eithe…

Nomanslanding

Tramway, Glasgow until July 2nd
Four stars

In the dead of night, the audience are split in two and led under-cover into lamp-lit tented structures. Inside, what look like peasant women on the run lead us down a ramp and into a large circular pod. It feels part cathedral, part space-ship, and to come blinking into the light of such a fantastical structure after stumbling in the dark disorientates and overwhelms. Sat around the pod as if awaiting prayers to begin, we watch as performers Nerea Bello and Judith Williams incant mournfully on either side of the room. Their keening chorales embark on a voyage of their own, twisting around each other by way of the international language of singing. As if in sympathy, the walls wail and whisper, before starting to move as those on either side of the pod are left stranded, a gulf between them.

This international co-commission between Glasgow Life and the Merchant City Festival, Sydney Harbour Foreshaw Authority in Australia and Urbane Kienste …