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I'm an arts journalist & PR consultant living and working in Scotland. I've been a journalist for more than 25 years. I write a regular column for Scottish quality newspaper, The Herald. I deliver a PR service with an arty bent and work on a consultancy basis with arts organisations, including Scotland's leading creative industries festival, XpoNorth & broadcast support body, ScreenHI. I am currently co-writing a book about the celebrated Scots artist, George Wyllie, with his daughter Louise. Instrumental in making a celebration of his life's work happen in 2012. For more information, see www.georgewyllie.com When I'm not being a mum/working, I talk to my dog. He laps it up. Contact me on janpatience@me.com (All work © Jan Patience)

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Building on Blood, Sweat & Tears

I've been thinking about buildings and the blood, sweat and tears built into the bricks with them after visiting Patricia Cain's Drawing (on) Riverside exhibition at Kelvingrove in Glasgow for the second time.

There is a real elegiac feeling to this exhibition, which features Cain's large studies of the new Riverside Museum under construction as well as the results of collaborative work with architect Ann Nisbet, glass artist Alec Galloway, printmaker Rosalind Lawless and digital expert Phil Lavery.

Cain's complex studies of buildings in an exposed state, mainly the Riverside but not exclusively, dominate the wall space. They are so intricate, you find your brain twisting into a knot as you look at them. Her Riverside Triptych III is a phenomenal piece of work which depicts with forensic precision the skeleton of the building which is now firmly under cover.

The collaborations are inspired. Rosalind Lawless's style could not be more different from Cain's. Her simple, blocky shapes and mark-making remind you less is sometimes more.

Alec Galloway's curved green-tinted glass, like the hull of a ship, is etched with Cain's drawings and is an object of breathtaking beauty. I can see it in a large empty room with a black slate floor. Cast adrift.

Cain and Ann Nisbet worked together for 10 months to an architectural installation. Looking at it, it feels half-boat, half-building, with its wooden struts and girders. A lovely thing, with the the majesty of a large boat and the beauty of a curvaceous building - a bit like the Riverside.

The trigger for me engaging emotionally in this exhibition was standing watching a couple of films spliced together by Phil Lavery to the strains of music by PJ Moore of the Blue Nile. The music was actually part of a separate 3d installation (called a Pepper's Ghost) made by Lavery using Cain's work as a base. It also uses Edwin Morgan's poetry to great effect.

The two films; Pathe News' Bombing of the Clyde and photographer/director Oscar Marzaroli’s futuristic film, Glasgow 1980, showed all too vividly how Glasgow's buildings rose and fell. In black and white.

Marzaroli’s 1971 film showed how the city would look in the 1980’s after the redevelopment of its traffic system and the construction of new housing developments, planned in the mid 1970s. (The editor of the film was a young up-and-coming film-maker called Bill Forsyth.)

In the film, a figure stands watching a tenement being demolished with his back to the camera. The building falls and a cloud of dust (just like the dust cloud in the wake of the bombing of the Twin Towers) tumbles towards the figure who stands stock still until the dust cloud forces him to swing his coat around towards the camera.

Elsewhere in the film, workman (with no hard hats on) are toiling on high-rise buildings, kids are playing on demolition sites. Life goes ownwards and upwards.

The human element of construction - and deconstruction - is laid bare. People's lives - and their footprints - are all over the Clyde and its past lives.

Through a process of intense personal creative labour and collaboration, Cain has managed to touch on what it is about significant man-made constructions, such as great ocean-liners which were produced on the Clyde, or the new Riverside Museum or Scotland's parliament building.

It's about creating something out of nothing - drawing expertise from countless individuals along the way. It's about pride in a job well done. It's about hard work and resourcefulness. And most of all it's about building a future. Even if future generations pull it apart.

A link to a film by Isla Pedrana and Solveig Suess:


Drawing (on) Riverside
Patricia Cain
Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum, Glasgow
Until August 14, 2011
0141 276 9599

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