Epic Soundtracks: Artists Who Make Music And Musicians Who Make Art

John Quin finds some suspicious packages in a railway station in Glasgow

There’s a gallery in the city where I now live that sells paintings by globally (in)famous rock ‘n’ roll stars. These often feature axe heroes caught in mid-riff. Straining half-naked males are rendered with a lurid neo-fauvist palette. Such action shots invariably feature hopelessly optimistic sky-blue backdrops. This overly muscular world is preeningly adolescent. The strummers flex incessantly – imagine the fathers of Norbert Bisky’s boys sleazily cavorting whist in exile on Main Street. Thankfully there is no trace of such testosterone o.d. on display up in Glasgow at Artists Who Make Music, Musicians Who Make Art, a show lovingly curated by Ross Sinclair at Queens Park Railway Club.

Over a hundred contributors have their works crammed salon style into the old waiting room of a still functional ScotRail station. Trains zip past on their way to Glasgow Central on one side of the platform, suburban Neilston on the other. Openings can get crowded apparently. Make sure to stand well away from the edge with that drink in your hand.

Inside the Tardis space is like discovering your new favourite shop. There’s posters, paintings, texts, sculptures, videos, garments hanging, guitar-shaped things, album covers, a record player in a corner, a disc sometimes spinning, and a digital mix-tape playing a selection of music made by the various artists on show. Unsurprisingly there’s a distinctly Scottish flavour afoot underlining the Pete Frame-style interconnections between the musicians and artists, many having had mutual art school training down through the generations; a family tree of collaborations. There are gen-you-ine popstars to be found at play here – as well as Turner prizewinners.

The sheer number of contributions is such that justice cannot be done to all in a short review. Head in and a sight gag greets you: Martin Creed’s Work No. 158 (1996). A white sheet of paper has a message written in type – “something on the left as you come in, not too high and not too low” – and is, of course, placed just where you expect it to be. Jessica Voorsanger’s humour and her love of identity games and popular culture are caught in a series of Trading Cards – football cards with players’ faces substituted by musical giants like Prince. You hear your inner child whispering: got it, got it, not got it, wanna swap? The tiny loo, too, provides a laugh. Above the toilet seat is Hayley Jane Dawson’s Wild Wee: Skye (2017) – this being a photograph of imminent al fresco micturition.

Historical piss-taking arrives with Roderick Buchanan’s Bandsmen (2018), a drawing that succinctly captures the persistently gormless sectarian tension abroad in Glasgow: two men march toward one another, separated only by a drum they both intend banging, sticks raised high at the ready. And Graham Fagen’s The Slave’s Lament (2015) references a Robert Burns poem from 1792 about a man from Senegal transported to the “lands of Virginia”, thus referencing the ignominy of Scotland’s colonial past.

The chronology of music itself is documented by Simon Starling, showing a monochrome production still from an upcoming film of concert pianist Rex Lawson performing John Cage’s 4’33” (1952). We see a beautiful shot of a push-up Pianola at Abbey Road Studio taken in February of this year. Nathan Coley’s contribution is a work on paper, a revision of his illuminated text installation Heaven Is A Place Where Nothing Ever Happens (2010). It’s a suitably tense nod to the Talking Heads song on their great Fear Of Music (1979) album. And high up in a corner of the room Martin Boyce provides a timely tribute in four letters to the greatly missed Prole Art Threat himself: Fall (for Mark E. Smith).

Instruments as objects get a look in. David Shrigley’s Problem Guitars Series are wooden prototypes, production process blanks, of customized guitars, fretless, stringless – axe victims you might say – that hang on the window like they would in a music shop. There’s a large C-print by Douglas Gordon, The End of Civilization, Newcastle Opera House (2012), where twin screens on a stage show a grand piano set on fire at a remote site in Cumbria. Speaking of torching valuables you can then read a strategically placed copy of Bill Drummond’s The Ten Commandments Of Art. Number two seems universally adhered to at QPRC: “make art for everyone”. Jonathan Monk customizes a drumhead with text, Rock Star (Character Appropriation) (2010), that has a quote by the great Argentinian conceptualist David Lamelas about documenting culture by going to gigs. If there is a work that neatly captures the spirit and meaning of the show, then this is it.

Then there are the contributions by those known predominantly as musicians. Eugene Kelly from The Vaselines has a nostalgic Self Portrait with iron fillings and magnet that does what it says on the tin, Ronseal-like, by appropriating that cheap kids toy famous from the 1960’s. Future Pilot AKA (aka Sushil K. Dade), Sinclair’s erstwhile partner in the Soup Dragons, shows his first bass guitar modified from his father’s old acoustic circa 1979. David McClymont from Orange Juice presents his cover design for their 1984 single, Bridge, a Rauschenbergian collage featuring a pleasingly oversized tyre. Here too are the original lithograph plates from the cover of their classic debut single Falling and Laughing and a rare, as yet uncoloured, sleeve of the follow-up double A-side on Postcard, Blue Boy/Lovesick paired with Josef K’s Radio Drill Time. And Mr. Edwyn Collins from Helmsdale has submitted a splendid drawing of a teal with punky Soo Catwoman eye markings.

One of the great strengths of the show is the sense of community and continuity through the decades, from the great V.U. inspired Postcard generation through post-punk revivalists Franz Ferdinand to the more recent T.G. style electronic experimentation of Golden Teacher and their spin-off projects recorded at the Green Door Studio. The latter’s Richard McMaster shows The Crusade of Doggerland. This a giant printout map of North Sea oil pipelines that has something of the subtle political impact of Mark Lombardi’s drawings illustrating the abuses of power. He’s also partly responsible for some bang-up-to-the-minute Glasgow art power-baiting on display – the album Another Exhibition at the Modern Institute (2018) by the conglomerate cheekily calling itself The Modern Institute after the blue chip gallery on Osborne Street. We’re talking a red vinyl industrial soundtrack to the city with its ‘dazzling debts’ and ‘dazzling heights.’

Ross Sinclair shows a couple of his own T-shirt paintings from his ongoing series, I Tried to Give up Drinking With Guitars Instead of God (1993–), as well as a terrific poster called Real Life and How to Live It in Auld Reekie (Bands) that tips the wink to the legendary Fire Engines.

Artists Who Make Music, Musicians Who Make Art has its heart beating to the insistent DIY rhythms of groovy conceptualism. There is no melophobia at work here. Hard to imagine, perhaps, that this small space could be so exciting, could be this much fun. To corrupt the prerecorded message from the British Transport Police: see it, savour it; sorted.

Artists Who Make Music, Musicians Who Make Art, curated by Ross Sinclair, is at Queens Park Railway Club, Glasgow, until 25

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