Oran Mor to unveil Robert Burns murals to celebrate life of the Bard

Ten paintings have been created for Oran Mor, in the city's west end, by artist Nichol Wheatley to coincide with the 260th anniversary of the birth of Burns. Picture: Contributed
Ten paintings have been created for Oran Mor, in the city's west end, by artist Nichol Wheatley to coincide with the 260th anniversary of the birth of Burns. Picture: Contributed
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A series of vast murals depicting the epic Robert Burns poem Tam O’Shanter have been created for one of Glasgow’s leading arts centres.

Ten paintings have been created for Oran Mor, in the city’s west end, by artist Nichol Wheatley to coincide with the 260th anniversary of the birth of Burns.

Wheatley, 47, has spent most of the last two years working on the murals, which are around three metres wide and two metres tall.

However, he had to take a break for more than two months to work as a concept artist in the pre-production phase of the making of the Netflix Robert the Bruce epic Outlaw King.

The murals depicting the 1791 poem have been designed by Wheatley to fit on to the ceiling of Oran Mor’s main bar. But they will also be hung in its main auditorium each year to coincide with the venue’s annual Burns celebrations.

Wheatley previously worked with the artist Alasdair Gray on his work for the auditorium of Oran Mor – one of Scotland’s biggest pieces of public art – and the nearby Hillhead underground station.

Wheatley was first approached about creating work for Oran Mor by entrepreneur Colin Beattie after he bought the Byres Road building, which opened as a bar, restaurant, nightclub and events venue in 2004. It is best known for launching the lunchtime theatre series A Play, A Pie and A Pint.

Wheatley, who was brought up in Kinross and studied at Glasgow School of Art, said: “Years ago, the thought was that I might start at the bottom of the auditorium and Alasdair might start working at the top.

“However Alasdair, who is an utter genius, had such an incredible scheme in his mind, to depict the universe in murals in the auditorium. As that flowered, it rapidly became evident that I shouldn’t do anything other than help Alasdair. We’ve really become colleagues after working on and off for about 12 years.

“I actually had the first conversation about the Tam O’Shanter murals with Colin in 2006.

“But it was not until about two years ago that he approached me to say he really wanted me to come and do them. I gave Colin a few ideas of how I would set tackle it and how I saw it. He basically told me ‘off you go’ and left me to it for two years. He’s the pretty client. He utterly believes in the artist.”.

I thought it would be best to think of the murals as an allegorical set of paintings and the themes about a man getting drunk, lusting after women and the abandoned kirk. I also thought it would be really interesting to put Tam O’Shanter more into the landscape than other paintings have.

“The story has been in my head since I was taught the poem as a kid.

“I’ve always wanted to make these paintings and this commission has been a challenge and a delight.

“I’ve been working on the murals pretty much constantly for the last two years, although I was hired to be a concept artist on Outlaw King. I was hired right at the beginning of the production to draw out what scenes may look like.

“I ended up working on it for around ten weeks. They asked for to stay on for longer but I told them I needed to work on this job for Oran Mor.”

Mr Beattie: “Nichol’s rendition of the ten paintings created for Oran Mor will prove to be a truly significant addition within the canon of Burns art.

“His work is simply magnificent and I’ve no doubt it will stand tall amongst all the other great Burns art that has preceded it. The creation of Oran Mór was to encourage ‘Art for All, All Year Round’ and it’s important to me that we support Scottish artists.

“I’m confident this commission will help bring Burns to a new generation.”