Alasdair Gray asks to change Hillhead station mural

Alasdair Gray's mural has won many fans since it appeared in September last year. Picture: Contributed
Alasdair Gray's mural has won many fans since it appeared in September last year. Picture: Contributed
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It TOOK 14 months to create and was unveiled to the public more than a year ago.

But artist Alasdair Gray has decided he is unhappy with his much-loved 40ft long mural of Glasgow’s West End, which was unveiled at the city’s Hillhead subway station last September, and has asked for permission to carry out adjustments.

He said he had noticed flaws in the clouds he created above the familiar streetscapes, and he wants to put them right as soon as possible.

He revealed the planned alterations following the screening of a new documentary about his life and career, which showed the painstaking process Gray and fellow artist Nichol Wheatley used to create the mural.

Gray, 78, who has lived in the area since the 1960s, said: “I like the Hillhead mural. I like people liking my work – I thoroughly approve of it. Any discussion of something that you have done as well as you can when it’s been put up, it’s just nostalgia to go on talking about it.

“Now that the Hillhead mural is up, I know what’s wrong with it – the details of the night sky on the right-hand side.

“The mural is made of shaped ceramic tiles fitted together like a jigsaw puzzle. The lines where they fit together are about three or four millimetres of grey grouting. We managed over most of it to ensure that these lines go along the edges of buildings, the sides of roads or clouds in the sky. But on the night sky on the right-hand side, I didn’t make the clouds emphatic enough. So you have a lot of snaky grey lines cavorting over the space quite uselessly.”

He went on: “It could be overcome by using acrylic ink to tint it and I think it could be done in around an hour using a small step-ladder at any time.

“However security regulations and insurance insist this can only be done at night when the place is closed to the public and I’m specifically admitted wearing a hard hat, even though there’s nothing to fall on my head.

“It’s a thing Strathclyde Passenger Transport may get around to arranging some time. I’ve certainly asked them for permission.”

Gray was approached to create the mural to coincide with an overhaul of the underground station. It was based on a sketch of the West End that appeared in his book Old Men In Love.

Gray and Wheatley previously joined forces to create the ceiling murals at Glasgow’s Oran Mor arts centre.

At the time of the Hillhead mural’s unveiling, Gray said: “I have lived and worked in the district since 1969, and I knew I would enjoy depicting it, and those who use the subway, in a symbolic and humorous way. Such a mural is in a tradition of civic art that once flourished in several Italian city states, between the 14th and 16th centuries, where public buildings were decorated with views of the city.”

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, which features in the Hillhead mural, will be hosting the biggest ever retrospective of Gray’s work to coincide with his 80th birthday at the end of 2014.

Also planned is the release of a documentary charting his life and career, a festival inspired by his work and a new stage adaptation of his novel Lanark.