Glasgow International

The biennial art festival is opening up the city’s forgotten spaces as emerging and established artists show their work in unusual sites

If you’re in Glasgow this April you may find yourself considering the sentiment behind Alasdair Gray’s novel Lanark: if a city hasn’t been used by an artist, not even the inhabitants live there imaginatively. That is certainly not the case here. Over 18 days in April, vacant buildings, alleys and even skating rinks will become temporary spaces for contemporary art as more than 200 local and interna­tional artists show their work across 57 sites, providing plenty of evidence that Glasgow’s inhabitants are indeed a vividly imaginative bunch.

Unbound, 2013, Claire Barclay. Image by Annette Kradisch courtesy of the artist and Stephen Friedman Gallery

Unbound, 2013, Claire Barclay. Image by Annette Kradisch courtesy of the artist and Stephen Friedman Gallery

The artists are part of the biennial Glasgow Inter­na­tional (GI), which has been quietly building momen­tum in recent years. Visitor numbers topped 201,000 in 2014, and this year’s programme is already looking bigger and bolder. It is focused on the rejuvenation of the kind of vacant post-industrial spaces that are increasingly evident in many cities. Usually when the global spotlight shines down on a large cultural event, the reaction from officialdom is to try to show the city’s best side – its great museums, thriving shopping districts, impressive architecture – and divert attention away from the gap sites and abandoned buildings that signify the loss of once-thriving industries. But Glasgow’s success as a culturally astute city comes in part from its dualities and contradictions, and those empty spaces instead provoke the imagination to view defunct industrial spaces as sites for experimentation for an increasingly diverse artistic milieu.

Tessa Lynch, whose installations can be seen at the Gallery of Modern Art, has been inspired the building she is exhibiting in.

Tessa Lynch, whose installations can be seen at the Gallery of Modern Art, has been inspired the building she is exhibiting in.

An integral feature of every GI festival has been Open Glasgow, which shows work by emerging Glasgow-based artists conceived specifically for the city. These artists generate many of GI’s exhibitions, perfor­mances and events, as well as much of the joyful, anarchic energy that fills the city for two weeks.

Raising, 2014, Tessa Lynch. Images courtesy of the artist

Raising, 2014, Tessa Lynch. Images courtesy of the artist

Standing Wave, 2015, Felix Welch. Image courtesy of the artist

Standing Wave, 2015, Felix Welch. Image courtesy of the artist

This is just a taster, you can browse the full article on pages 162-166, issue 105.

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Words Rhona Warwick Paterson
Event 8th to 25th April, glasgowinternational.org