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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)

Monday, 6 May 2013

Stephen Sutcliffe: Outwork


Stephen Sutcliffe: Outwork
Tramway 2
25 Albert Drive, Glasgow
0845 330 3501
Tramway 2
Until June 30
Meeting Stephen Sutcliffe in his top floor tenement flat overlooking Alexandra Park in Glasgow’s east end on a fresh spring morning feels like I have stepped into one of his film collages. In fact, I expect to see excerpts from our interview – perhaps a grainy scan of these words you are reading now – cut into a future project.
He has form in this respect. For years, Sutcliffe has been collecting the ‘Tell us what you think’ cards from galleries. 
In his collage-based film, Outwork, which he has reconfigured as a three-screen installation for a new exhibition at Glasgow's Tramway which opens today, Sutcliffe has placed out-takes from 1981 comedy, The Cannonball Run, starring Burt Reynolds, Farrah Fawcett, Sammy Davis Junior and Roger Moore, within the frame of a selection of said ‘Tell us’ cards.
It gives a knockabout feel to Outwork, which by his own admission is a mix of high and low culture; like much of his work to date. Harrogate-born Sutcliffe, who studied drawing and painting at Dundee’s Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art (DoJCA) as a mature student before moving to Glasgow where he gained an MFA from Glasgow school of Art, is now a major figure in the world of contemporary art films. 
His work has been shown at Tate Britain and the Whitechapel Gallery in London and he was even invited in 2010, in partnership with the Serpentine Gallery, to design for luxury knitwear brand, Pringle, along with the likes of Turner prize nominee, David Shrigley, celebrated Scots polymath Alasdair Gray and actress, Tilda Swinton.
Outwork, winner of the third Margaret Tait Award, takes its name from an essay by French philosopher, Jacques Derrida, in which he questions the necessity of literary prefaces.
This is classic Sutcliffe territory. He brings a geekish fascination with high culture, in the shape of high priest-types such as Derrida, English poet Christopher Logue, German filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder and influential sociologist Erving Hoffman, and blends it with his own cultural reference points gleaned from a 70s and 80s childhood spent watching too much television.
Sutcliffe, who worked as a cashier in a bank until the age of 25, claims he didn’t read at all until he left school. For someone whose flat is awash with books, as well as videos, this is quite a statement
“Jaws was one of one of first books I read,” he explains. “After I’d left school, my granny got a box of books from the library and it was in there. I don’t think I realised that it was a book before it was a film, even though I’d watched it several times by then.”
Reading Jaws, quite literally, opened the floodgates for Sutcliffe. “A friend of mine says he got into high culture through pop music, but I always think I got into it through television,” he explains.
While Sutcliffe worked in the bank by day, he was reading voraciously by night. He also started painting with a school friend who had gone to art school in Hull. “He was so cool,” he recalls. “It made me want to go to art school too.”
He applied to do a foundation course at Batley School of Art in West Yorkshire and from there, applied to study in Dundee, because he says he had read that outside London, the Scottish art colleges were the best.
“I think my enthusiasm got in,” he laughs. “I talked and talked. I’m not the most technically adept. I always felt I was running to catch up.”
Sutcliffe is perhaps being falsely modest as he received a first class honours degree from DoJCA. He stayed in Dundee for a few years after graduating, working with the artist-led group, Generator Projects, before moving to Glasgow in 2000 to study on the prestigious Master of Fine Arts course at GSA.
For this new exhibition at Tramway, Sutcliffe Outwork is an installation for multiple screens, including new animated sequences and exerts from previous films as a form of subtle notation to the film.
As he admits, you don’t really have to know about the background to a Sutcliffe film for it to ‘work’ as a viewer. I would say – having now talked to him at length about his high/low culture magpie approach to making his work – that it helps.
Sutcliffe is like the guy you meet in the pub with whom you have a laugh over some old Monty Python sketch, or the merits of Charlie’s Angels versus Starsky and Hutch, before moving on to him telling you about a seemingly intellectual book which sounds – for all its academic weight – like it should be your next book at bedtime.
“I like stuff that is problematic,” he says. “Perfect works are really boring. Stuff which is universally accepted as being great, I find quite annoying. I always describe myself as a collage artist, not a filmmaker because there are different films in same frame.
“The essence of collage is that things sit together with shocking dissonance. When it is too complimentary, it doesn't work. I like the mix of low and high culture. I stand up for both high and low culture!”

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