Gallery of Modern Art – A Trio of Exhibitions

I made a brief visit to the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow on Saturday to see their current exhibitions and some impressed more than others.

On the ground floor was the John Samson 1975-1983 exhibition. Samson was a Clyde shipyard worker and activist in the 1960s who went on to study at the Glasgow School of Art becoming a writer, musician and artist and joining a bohemian circle of other artists. By the 1970s he was creating films which concentrated on those living at the margins of society – although nowadays the majority of these groups operate within the mainstream. There are films in the exhibition which cover such diverse topics as Tattooing, Amateur Railway Enthusiasts, Clothing Fetishism, Darts, and Sex and Disability. The one drawback was that only one film was playing aloud, the others required headphones and as the Gallery was busy, there was often a long wait to view a film. The film playing aloud was Dressing For Pleasure and it contained interviews with Malcolm McLaren and Pamela Rooke, his shop’s most famous assistant, which have often been used in documentaries about the ‘70s. Due to the content of the films there’s a discretion notice at the entrance to Gallery 1 and as I was leaving I noticed a mother trying to recapture her young son who had made a determined break for the gallery to see what all the fuss was about – warning notices are always bound to attract more people …..

Gallery 2 contained a collaborative exhibition between Max Brand, a German artist, and Joanne Robertson who is from Manchester, and which is called Poppies. There was very little background or context to this exhibition which contained sculptural pieces, wall paintings and murals as well as floor art. I was left distinctly unmoved by any of it, I had no way of knowing why the exhibition was called Poppies and the only positive thing I could say about it was that it was extremely colourful. The sculptural forms were made of wire mesh and covered in torn supermarket carrier bags and there were also several clothes rails containing various pieces of clothing – including a raincoat straight from the film Don’t Look Now, which certainly gives away my age. You’ll also find various pieces of underwear on painted canvases – again I’ve no idea what that reference was. The only clue given was that Poppies explores how contemporary art in Glasgow continues to grow and evolve….. No – me neither.

Finally, in the Gallery 3 exhibition there is a combination of film and photography, called Please Turn Us On, with the most interesting piece being the film The Continuing Story of Carel and Ferd, filmed between 1970 and 1972 by Arthur Ginsberg. This was in the days before reality television and fly on the wall documentaries and it is therefore difficult for us see how pioneering it was. Ginsberg filmed the daily lives of the couple with an early version of a video camera and followed them as they planned their wedding. As it was a linear narrative I became very interested in their story, and wanted to find out more about them. I didn’t watch the film until the end but when they tell you that Ginsberg filmed ‘everything’ in the couple’s lives, then he really did film everything – which is a spoiler alert.

On this short visit my favourite pieces were the John Samson films Dressing For Pleasure and Britannia (as I love locomotive restoration) and the Ginsberg film Carel and Ferd – probably because I prefer linear storylines and I know the reality television genre so well and my Don’t Miss would have to be Carel and Ferd, if no other reason than to listen to 1970s Californian-speak ….. it couldn’t be anything else.

I’d love to know if you’ve visited and what you thought of these artists and their work.

John Samson 1975-1983 is on until 17 April 2017

Poppies is on until 11 June 2017

Please Turn Us On has been extended until Summer 2017