The artist book has long been a means for artists outside the system to distribute their ideas to a wider audience. The much-extolled Glasgow ‘grass-roots’ art scene has a vibrant history of contributions to this format, from low-fi fanzines such as Mainstream and British Mythic, to the various publications produced by Transmission Gallery, Stop Stop and Switchspace. Now, as the art market increasingly finds a home in Glasgow—in the form of challenging new commercial galleries—the artist publication has taken on a slicker form, with higher production values. These two recent offerings from Sorcha Dallas represent contrasting approaches to this genre.
Kate Davis’ bookwork Bread is an art-piece in itself. Davis’ hostile take on the theme of sustenance recalls Sylvia Plath at her most savage, though there are also echoes of the violent image-puns in Martha Rosler’s classic feminist performance ‘Semiotics of the Kitchen’. The patronising command ‘speak up’ is spelled out, cipher by cipher, and interspersed with monochrome photographs of a woman washing bricks in a domestic sink. The allusion to verbal reticence is combined with an atmosphere of muted discomfort, created by the heavy angular forms and the texture of the wet bricks. The photographs are fragmented into gridlike sections that give the imagery a strong compositional value, enhancing the stark verticals of the piled bricks and the subject’s rigid silhouette.
Gary Rough’s Take Me With You is a more standard artist’s publication, cataloguing some of Rough’s most significant works to date, including the neon sculptures shown at Sorcha Dallas earlier this year. Sarah Lowndes’ detailed essay focuses on the linguistic dimension of Rough’s practice, exposing the complex nuances of works such as ‘You Dirty Bitch’, 1998, ‘Gay Neds’, 2003, and ‘You Should Quit’, 2004. Lowndes situates the development of Rough’s practice alongside his contemporaries, such as Douglas Gordon and Dougie Payne (of the successful Glasgow band Travis), drawing further illuminating comparisons from the works of Leo Tolstoy and Ed Ruscha.
Laurence Figgis is an artist living in Glasgow