Never before seen Alasdair Gray mural goes on public display

Alasdair Gray with his reworked mural, which was originally a private commission in 1965. The print is on display at The Lighthouse gallery. Picture: John Devlin/TSPL
Alasdair Gray with his reworked mural, which was originally a private commission in 1965. The print is on display at The Lighthouse gallery. Picture: John Devlin/TSPL
0
Have your say

It was first commissioned in 1965 by the son of a cinema impresario to decorate the stairwell in his family’s townhouse in Glasgow’s fashionable North Kelvinside district.

Now a reworking of a mural by celebrated Scots artist Alasdair Gray has gone on display for the first time, finally allowing the general public a chance to see it.

The four-metres high piece - an inkjet print - has never been seen before by the general public. Picture: John Devlin/TSPL

The four-metres high piece - an inkjet print - has never been seen before by the general public. Picture: John Devlin/TSPL

The piece, which stands four metres high, is an inkjet print based on the original artwork which remains in a private house near the former BBC studios in the city’s leafy west end.

It was developed by Gray with help from Roger Farnham, a printmaker who has known the artist for 30 years, and Lin Chau, who worked closely with him on the famous Hillhead subway station mural.

The mural forms the centrepiece of a new exhibition, Facsimilization, which runs at the Lighthouse in Glasgow city centre from 12 February until 25 March.

Gray made a rare public appearance at the gallery to unveil his work on Friday. The artist was seriously injured after a fall at his home in June 2015.

The 83-year-old said he was pleased to have the opportunity to revisit the original mural, which was commissioned by George Singleton, son of the well-known cinema chain founder of the same name.

“I had painted a mural for him at his previous house, but he and his wife had left to find somewhere bigger,” he said. “He asked me to do a black and white mural. The vision was to fill the space. He let me go straight ahead. So I painted a big mother earth goddess along with another grim warrior figure and put in various other fantasies as well.

“I was hugely influenced, I suppose, by Hieronymus Bosch. I was putting in a lot of figures that intrigued me.”

Gray added he could not recall his fee for the original work, but admitted the mid-1960s were a lean time for him financially. “I didn’t get many commissions and didn’t sell many paintings,” he added.

There are number of differences between the new print and the original mural, with existing characters moved around and new ones added.

“I’m used to reworking my pictures,” said Gray, who shows no sign of slowing down his creative output. “I’ve been carrying around various paintings unfinished for about 50 years. There’s one I began in 1965 that I think I may finish this year.”

READ MORE: Alasdair Gray: a unique view of Scotland

The townhouse in Kelvin Drive is now owned by Richard and Sandra Phelps, who moved to Glasgow from London in 1983. The couple were not aware of Gray or his work when they first viewed the house but were swiftly enlightened by a neighbour, the writer Hugh Douglas.

“We liked the mural from the word go but I can’t say we rooted around to find a work by Alasdair,” said Mr Phelps. “When we bought the house there was some damage to the mural, but Alasdair sent one of his assistants to carry out some tidying,” added Mrs Phelps. “We have had people in the past knock on the door to ask to see it.”

Gray, who is best known for his 1981 novel Lanark, is also putting the finishing touches to Dante’s Sublime Comedy: A Paraphrase in Prosaic English Rhyme - a free verse translation of Dante’s Comedia into modern English.

It is due to be published by Canongate later this year.