This is an unedited version of a profile of the ebullient Mr Anthony Green, RA, which appeared in The Herald's Arts section on Saturday September 24
ARTIST PROFILE: ANTHONY GREEN RA
Roger Bilcliffe Gallery
134 Blythswood Street, Glasgow
0141 332 4027
Octorber 1 - 25
THEY may be long gone, but the group of pioneering painters known as the Glasgow Boys are still making connections happen in the city which gave them their name.
As chair of the exhibition committee of the Royal Academy (RA) in London, artist Anthony Green had been a long-term champion of the Glasgow Boys and was instrumental in bringing the smash-hit exhibition of their work at Glasgow’s
Kelvingrove to London last year.
It was at a banquet to celebrate the opening of this exhibition at the RA last October that Glasgow gallery owner and Glasgow Boys author, Roger Bilcliffe, met Anthony Green for the first time.
“I have known Anthony Green’s work for a long time,” says Bilcliffe. “But we only met for the first time after the banquet, at which he made an excellent speech about the Glasgow Boys.
“Afterwards, I came across a news item about how it had come across and I sent it to Anthony. In the email, I asked if he had ever thought about an exhibition in Glasgow and his response was positive.
“I have always been drawn to Anthony Green’s paintings. They make me laugh, but he also has a very peculiar eye which translates into very odd compositions. They are not Scottish at all, which might seem a strange thing to say, but that made me think that an exhibition of his work make be a refreshing change, particularly as we head towards the winter.”
Speaking on the phone from Cambridgeshire, where he lives, Green, now 72, is an ebullient spokesman for his own work. “I’m a narrative artist,” he states, almost defiantly. “My work, whether it is sculptural, in oil, watercolour or print, is like an endless narrative. It is the ongoing saga of Mr Green and his family – in bed and out of bed.
“The idea behind the work is; how would you get your whole family through the Gates of Paradise.
“I’ve always been fascinated by Rodin’s Gates of Hell and this is my version of how you would get a petty bourjois family like mine through the Gates of Paradise.”
Green has always swum against the tide of prevailing fashion. “When I was starting out as an artist, abstraction was the norm,” he says. “The work of the abstract expressionists was all around and I remember wondering as a young artist what direction to take. Then I fell in love with a beautiful girl and married her and I thought, why don’t I use my own life?
“It has not always been an easy route. There have been times when anyone doing narrative art was an embarrassment to the community but I’m happy to be seen as a popular artist.
“Humanity is all about art and artists can externalise what most people keep inside. So I paint the narrative of my life and my family’s life.
“There is a lot of sex in my work and a lot of people get upset about that. People can get very twitchy. You’re not supposed to be sentimental either and I am very soppy.”
Green’s art is work to lose yourself in. Nothing is confined or off-limits. Even the shape of the art, which is, more often than not, irregularly-shaped.
The Yellow Bathroom, Mole End, is a riotous explosion of suburban curtain-twitching with knobs on featuring Mr and Mrs Green performing ablutions that we probably don’t want to see but find fascinating anyway...
Green is long-in-the-tooth enough with his art to know that he is what he is and can only be himself. “My work is very truthful,” he admits. “I try not to live beyond my status but you have to be brave. Putting your work out into the world is a but like standing in the town square in your underpants.
“Unlike previous generations of my family, nothing really unpleasant has happened in my life. It’s quite a normal life. Like most people, I find myself worrying about things like my VAT return. Then all of a sudden, your wife kisses you and takes you out of that moment.”
Although his primary medium is oil paint, for the last 20 years or so, Green has been making affordable digital prints of his work and in this exhibition, there are several affordable limited edition giclee prints for sale at this exhibition, alongside larger original paintings and sculpture work with price tags into the £20k + bracket.
“The art world is funny about digital prints,” he states. “But for me, it’s a liberation and a way of getting the narrative out into the world.”
This approach clearly strikes a chord with the public, as Green’s prints are among the most popular artworks for sale at the Royal Academy’s annual summer exhibition.
In the ordinary, yet extraordinary world of Mr Green, I’d say it’s a bonus ball for everyone.
Anthony Green will be at the Roger Billcliffe Gallery on Saturday October 1 from 11am-1pm. He'd love you to come along and say hello...