Scots artist Gerard Burns to host exhibit in Glasgow’s East End

A Gerard Burns painting which featured on former first minister Alex Salmond's 2009 Christmas card
A Gerard Burns painting which featured on former first minister Alex Salmond's 2009 Christmas card
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SCOTTISH artist Gerard Burns is swapping the bright lights of Manhattan for Easterhouse by displaying his prized artworks in a shopping centre in the poverty blackspot.

The acclaimed painter had told of his desire to show his exhibition of portraits of Scottish public figures in the tough neighbourhood in the East End of Glasgow.

He spoke about wanting to bring his art to the masses at a star-studded exhibition in New York earlier this year where he unveiled works of big names including comedian Billy Connolly, singer Ricky Ross, former Celtic boss Neil Lennon, and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

After reading his comments, Renia Tysler, the manager of the Shandwick Square shopping centre in Easterhouse, got in touch with him to say they would love to play host to the portraits.

The exhibition will now be held at the shopping mall on December 11 with the First Minister in attendance.

It will be the only chance for people to see the paintings in Scotland and Lennon, Ross and Breaking Bad actress Laura Fraser, who also features in the exhibition, are also expected to attend.

Burns, 54, from Cumbernauld, Lanarkshire, said: “After the success of the show in New York I could have brought the paintings back to Scotland and displayed them in a big gallery like Kelvingrove.

“However I said I wanted them to go to Easterhouse because I wanted to prove that you can take art anywhere and people will get it.

“The manageress of the shopping centre read what I had said and emailed me saying they would love to have it and it’s just went from there.

“I’m delighted we have been able to make it happen.

“I wanted to take the paintings to an area of social deprivation where, for a variety of reasons, people are normally excluded from this type of thing.

“They may never have experienced an exhibition before and I’m really excited about taking it back to the people.

“I was offered a unit but we have decided to display the paintings right in the middle of the shopping centre so people have to walk past them.

“I am looking forward to people’s reactions. I am sure I will get some honesty and some good insights.”

Former teacher Burns’ exhibition called ‘A Brush With Inspiration’ also features portraits of actors Alan Cumming and Ewan McGregor, tennis mum Judy Murray and actresses Karen Dunbar and Elaine C Smith.

He spent seven months working on the paintings, jetting between the US and Scotland to photograph then paint, his sitters.

It was launched as part of the Tartan Week celebrations in April at a gallery in Glasgow Caledonian University’s New York campus.

The Connolly likeness sold in aid of the National Trust for Scotland for Pounds 40,000 but will be loaned back for the Easterhouse exhibition.

Renia Tysler, of the Shandwick Square centre, said: “I emailed Gerard and within hours he had got back to me and we were making plans for the exhibition.

“We are just a very small shopping centre in the east end of Glasgow and we have never had anything like this before.

“It is excellent for the centre and the community. The people of Easterhouse will love it.”