Studio 58 @ Mackintosh Gallery
It’s no wonder that the exhibition Studio 58: Women Artists in Glasgow since World War II is crowded. There have been a lot of women making art in Scotland for the last 73 years, and fitting them all into one space was always going to be difficult. The walls are laden with work and the floor is generously scattered with objects and temporary walls to hang yet more work. And at first it looks like a refreshing take on the salon-style hang, with three tiers of paintings, one on top of the other. But then it dawns on you that it’s nothing of the kind and that you’re actually looking at an archive.
It’s not a real archive – although many of the works are from the Glasgow School of Art’s collection – but has every appearance of aspiring to be one: glass cabinets full of documents and artefacts; all the eccentric variety of a museum archive, including jewellery, fashion, fine art print, print for design, painting, photography, sculpture, book works, performance documentation, assemblages and drawings.
The selection is not entirely disparate, however, and curator Sarah Lowndes clearly wants to determine a continuity of aesthetic lineage, one that will inevitably link Joan Eardley with Cathy Wilkes and Margaret Morris with Lucy McKenzie. It’s what historians do, they find continuity in things, and for this many think them delusional.
Delusional or not, Sarah Lowndes’ exhibition is a sensorial treat and should be seen by everyone. It plays the archive merely because it cannot claim to be complete. There will always be blind spots and glaring lacunas in any historian’s version of things (the absence of Lucy Skaer, for instance), especially when the magnitude of the undertaking is so vast. But then again, why make it so vast? Such an endeavor requires the rigor of writing history, not exhibiting it. Studio 58: Women Artists in Glasgow Since World War II, despite being in every way an exciting and important exhibition, is a book in the making. [Andrew Cattanach]