Best of British 7 comes to Glasgow

The seventh <strong>British Art Show</strong> arrives in Glasgow at the end of this month, and we're pretty bloody excited to see such an extensive survey of contemporary art in Scotland. So much so, we had to speak to <strong>Sue Tompkins</strong> about her upcoming performance

Feature by Andrew Cattanach | 05 May 2011

Having already been to Nottingham and London, this impressively hefty show makes its way up north to showcase the best of British art from the last five years. With 39 artists, including eight graduates from Glasgow School of Art, it’s unlikely anyone will try dissuading you from seeing it all.

Spread over Glasgow’s three major art institutions – GoMA, CCA and Tramway – it’s doubtful you’ll catch the whole thing in an afternoon. But where the London leg would have set you back a few quid, here in Glasgow all they ask is you don’t piss in any of the galleries. This allows you to take your tantric time about it, perhaps revisiting some of the lengthier video works.

There’s also a pretty tasty looking series of one-off events, including a live performance by Glasgow graduate Sue Tompkins. “I do text works that are usually installations, but they didn’t want that,” Tompkins says of her BAS7 commission. “They just wanted me to do performances. My job is to do a performance in every city that it’s in.”

Tompkins’ performances are normally partly spoken and partly sung. She keeps time by shifting her weight from foot to foot, as though incapable of staying still. Meanwhile, her face is endearing, smiling at the audience as she repeats the same sentence over and over until its sense is reduced to abstract sound. “They take a lot of time to write,” she explains. “In between I use a lot of the writing I make for everything else – text contributions, books, lots of group shows, and things like that.”

Once the singer of Glasgow based band Life Without Buildings, Tompkins has often found it difficult to define what she does as art. “For a long time I remember thinking it was hard to call myself an artist and hard to call myself a writer, because I didn’t really fit into either,” she says. “As time’s gone on I’ve become less worried about that definition, I suppose.”

Originally from Bedfordshire, Tompkins recently moved back down south after years of living in Glasgow. She bears a close bond with the city nonetheless. “It feels like home, Glasgow. All my friends are there, really. It sounds a cliché, but it is an amazing place to be an artist.”

And an amazing place to see art – especially between 27 May and 21 August. Glasgow will be premiering some new works, not seen in the other cities. The CCA will show part four of Nathaniel Mellor’s Ourhouse series, a quartet of films that follows an eccentric and dysfunctional family living in rural England, trying to deal with the arrival of an uninvited ‘object’ the family fail to recognise as a human.

There will also be a special 24-hour screening of Christian Marclay’s film The Clock. Constructed from segments of films in which the characters interact with a clock, watch or a particular time of day, the film counts down the minutes in real time for the duration of one whole day.

GoMA will be showing a brand new drawing by Oban-born artist Charles Avery, who, through drawing, sculpture and installation, has spent over a decade creating an imaginary island full of odd beasts and peculiar characters. An exquisite drawer, Avery’s large scale piece will be a definite crowd pleaser.

Last, but not least, those unable to go all the way to Italy to visit the massive art festival, the Venice Biennale, need not fret. Sculptor, and Glasgow School of Art graduate, Karla Black, who is representing Scotland at the festival this year, will be showing work at Tramway alongside fellow alumni Mick Peter, Luke Fowler and Duncan Campbell.

A rare treat for Scotland, the British Art Show should see visitors swamp Glasgow from all round the country this summer. With a range of artists as broad as this, there’s a little something for everyone. And if you’re cultural omnivores like us at The Skinny, you’ll likely be in your element.