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Alasdair Gray – Spheres of Influence I and II

GOMA until May 25th 2015/Glasgow School of Art until January 25th 2015
Five stars

It's only too fitting that programme image for the first of these two
shows that form part of the Glasgow-wide Alasdair Gray season, lovingly
and meticulously put together by Sorcha Dallas to mark Glasgow's
original renaissance man's eightieth year, is a compass. For both the
GOMA show it heralds and its accompanying GSA show join the dots
between those who influenced this poppiest of classicists and those who
followed in his wake, with Gray both wide-eyed bridge and beacon
between the two.

So at GOMA we move from Durer's crucifixions, Blake's judgements and
Aubrey Beardsley's erotic politesse to Japanese figurative art, line
drawings by David Hockney, the vintage poetics of Adrian Wiszniewski
and Chad McCail's poster-size take on wisdom and experience. The
umbilical links between these and Gray's own works are made plain, yet
remain tantalisingly fresh even as the join is gloriously exposed.

Over at Gray's alma mater things are brought even closer to home, as
volumes poached from Gray's own home library including a Radio Times
annual appear alongside book covers for his own work and contemporaries
such as Agnes Owens. There's a mix of the meta-physical and the
grizzled in pieces by Eric Gill, drawings by Peter Howson and the
rad-fem desires of Dorothy Iannone, while Stuart Murray's dole culture
cartoons bring things bang up to date.

The frontispieces of each of the four books that make up Gray's 1981
novel, Lanark, which reimagined Glasgow as a fantastical
magical-realist kingdom, appear in both shows as pivotal works. Adorned
with super-heroic bodies set against infinitely accessible but densely
detailed landscapes, seen together they are comic-book multi-verses
writ large.

Finally, Hanna Tuulikki's two pen and ink images, Ascension and Fall,
encapsulate the spiritual, the erotic and the heroic, the holy trinity
of Gray's world, which grows more magical by the day.


The List, December 2014


ends

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