June 15th, 2014 – Art On The Hill

I actually do have totally positive news that I realize I have not mentioned here.
Don’t know why being it’s the biggest thing I have done ever! I guess it’s just the post-show exhaustion slump!

Art On The Hill…

But to start this story I need to go back to I think summer of 2012 when I was in the early days of The Hidden Lane studio.
I was looking for some craft fairs to get involved with in Glasgow, as it had formed a major part of my income in the previous years and I was fairly experienced in that realm it made sense to get involved in a Glasgow scene.
The trouble was I couldn’t really find what I wanted, there was at that time the birth of what I would term ‘hipster fairs’ that are doing really well now (in that there are lots of them) but I feel they are really not helping the craft market economically, in-fact they are effectively destroying it.

Anyways… I am drifting from the story, point is I saw a photo from a craft show & the room looked interesting and that plants a wee seed…

Bust on to January 2013 and I put together a Facebook group called ‘Glasgow Independent Artists’ to try to collate a list of Glasgow artists with the plan to at some stage put on a big show. In the interim this group starts to function as a way for artists to ask questions and organize events and discuss ideas. We have files with artist information related to our city and FAQ, events lists, skill trade programs, and all sorts.

Forward to the end of 2013 and at the closing night of a group exhibition I got chatting with a chap who was in the middle of setting up a Southside Glasgow magazine, I mentioned the venue I had seen the other year and he says come up I can get you in & meet the owners and see the space properly, with the view to doing this show during the summer Southside Fringe Festival.
All of a sudden the option is there to actually put this plan into action.

This is a bit of my music.

Move on to Feb 2014 I finally have a proper sit down with the owner and pitched my idea, we are all good to go and I floated it with the art group which now has nearly 800 members, and by April I have application forms flooding in and it’s all going ahead.


100 artists showing in the most exciting venue I have ever seen, as far as I am concerned from an arts perspective.
Now what makes this show special?

Well first off you probably already guess I have pretty strong opinions about markets/fairs/galleries. I have got real problems with the bottom end of the scale as much as the top. But it’s the top we are dealing with next.

The Glasgow Art Fair.

It really bothers me. Here’s why.
Now in its 2nd year of nonexistence.
Now I never went, well there you go for a start you would think an artist in a city would have a damn good interest in the big annual art show? Now maybe I’m completely wrong but it always seemed to me rather pretentious and elite. High-end galleries with a select bunch of international art and validated Uk art. It’s not really a public art show.
So given that it’s not something I know about I have been trying to do some digging to get to the bottom of this. Why would Glasgow, a city of Art & Culture, not have a big art show? Really. Why?

  • 1996 / 2010 – Location George Square run by a company called UZ Arts and funded by Glasgow City Council, Scottish Enterprise Glasgow and I think Glasgow Life has something to do with it.
  • 2010 – is the last one at George Sq and in 2011 we get this (source)

IT is Britain’s biggest art fair outside London, selling the work of famous artists including Peter Howson, John Bellany and JD Fergusson. Yet despite a 20 per cent rise in visitor numbers last year, the Glasgow Art Fair has been cancelled.

Glasgow Life has confirmed there will be no event this year in George Square – where the fair is traditionally held over four days in March in a selection of white marquees – despite last year’s event attracting 20,000 visitors.

The fair will be replaced by a smaller event at the Briggait in Glasgow in July.

A Glasgow Life spokesman said: “After last year’s event, it was felt that the art fair was no longer attracting quality galleries and was not representative of Glasgow’s position at the cutting edge of contemporary art.”

Gallery owners who have exhibited at the fair in the past criticized the decision.
“There was a big mixture of galleries there last year and there was a big turnover of people,” said one gallery owner who exhibited at last year’s fair.
“It’s a real pity. There were a lot of people who enjoyed it. We did very well; people liked what we had and bought it. Is that not what art fairs are supposed to be about?”

The director of the Glasgow Art Fair, Peter Irvine, who is author of Scotland The Best! and known as “Mr Hogmanay” for his role in Edinburgh’s New Year celebrations, announced last April that he would be standing down from the event after a perceived decline in quality. His events company, UZ Arts, will be running the new fair”.

  • 2012 – Its reinvented as “The Glasgow Art Show which was held from March 23 – 25, 2012, is expected to become one of the best shows in Europe. For the show’s first year, it was held at the Thistle Glasgow Hotel. The show was born after the Glasgow Art Fair stopped in 2011. The three day event had artists with their works displayed in over 50 galleries“. This run by It has been organised by Art in Europa, which runs the Edinburgh Art Fair, but also seems to be run by the UZ Arts that did it in the first place. I’m confused.
  • 2013 – From the Glasgow Art Show FB page “Unfortunately, due to venue problems, we have had to postpone the Glasgow Art Show for 2013. We are hopeful that we can arrange something for 2014 and will post it here as soon as we have something in place. In the meantime, we are working hard towards the Edinburgh Art Fair which will return to the Edinburgh Corn Exchange in November. Further info can be found at www.artedinburgh.com
  • 2014 – Nothing

And I’m thinking can it be that outwith the realms of possibility for the artists to organize a show? It’s just a group exhibition but a couple of times bigger.
As I quoted “it was felt that the art fair was no longer attracting quality galleries and was not representative of Glasgow’s position at the cutting edge of contemporary art” emmm like hang on I have a group of 800 contemporary artists. If you can’t find work & present a worthy show you actually are not really trying very hard.
And that was the thinking with the Glasgow Independent Artists group.
And that is what we have done.

Now we might not have the budget of the big guns, and to be honest, I didn’t want to run this under the constraints of funding, we do it our way with our own money. Obviously, that entails cutting back in certain departments but what you get is access to the massive contingent of Glasgow’s art community that essentially does not exist to the mainstream upper-class galleries. You could term this the ‘underground’ movement. But there is nothing ‘underground’ about it.
It’s rampantly everywhere. Constant group shows in cafes and bars, and local venues, group efforts, solo efforts. Finding unused spots. Renting spaces. Getting free spaces. Artists teaming up.
Its only underground in the sense that certain fractions are not going to pay this movement a second glance, which is a shame but not for us…, they seem to of been so set on playing the same card over the last 15/20yrs hell probably 50yrs and the game has changed, and that card is not really cutting it. Not anymore.
They effectively said it themselves, they are bored of what they were dealing “no longer attracting quality galleries and was not representative of Glasgow’s position at the cutting edge of contemporary art”.
Really? Well, it took me about 3 days to fill a 100-artist show with some pretty cutting-edge contemporary art.

The upper level is operating on the small number of suppliers (galleries) dealing to a dwindling number of clients punting a bland mix of the same old names and work that all looks the same…
It’s all just flavor of the month work, all jumping on the bandwagon, and the new trend is excessively over-framed work. Trust me go have a look. 4 layered mounts where the overall mount and frame surface area are twice that of the picture.
The grossly expensive frame is now more important than the art it was meant to enhance. Ha ha good one.

Right now we have the explosion of social media and the public’s access to artists has never been easier, the traditional suppliers (galleries) are going to have to up their game to survive.
That game is not being upped from what I can see, whereas the grassroots level artists are connecting to grassroots art buyers like never before.

Now moving on slightly the involvement with the Southside Fringe Festival which is a program of events aimed at involving a wide range of Southside businesses and community members..
Again something I had no real knowledge of.
Not to be confused with the Southside Festival

“Southside Festival 2014 Cancelled
It is with regret that the Southside Festival Steering Group has
had to cancel the Festival for 2014. Despite our best efforts current financial considerations and the impact of poor weather from last year has meant the operating surplus required to deliver the Southside Festival is insufficient for the current year. We would like to thank you for your support in helping make the Southside Festival the single largest community-organised event in Glasgow. As supporters of the Southside Festival, you are one of our greatest assets and we hope we can rely on your continued support in 2015″.

Now I don’t know the full ins and outs. I think they were generally funded through community fundraising and some level of external, possibly council funding. Either way, there is not enough in the pot this time and no one is stumping it up. Especially this year when the only thing the council seems to care about is The Commonwealth Games.
I can also tie this in with any council-related project I have ever been near. You could almost say they make every effort to try to make the event not possible or as difficult as possible.

So if community-based events get what little funding bumped, the big shows pull out, what are you left with?

You are left with small groups sorting it out, bypassing all the red tape and just sorting things out for themselves without the problematic pandering to the support crutch. That’s called the fringe, the edge, the underground, the outsiders. That’s us.

And that’s what makes this show special.

Now I may have put this together but I certainly don’t speak for all involved. My motivations and actions are, let’s be honest here, more than a little militant if you have not picked up on that yet 😉
But someone has to be. Because the current model simply can not continue & is not functioning anyway.
It’s dire, and there is good work out there that is being stifled.
The tagline I used for the GIA (Glasgow independent artists) sums up my feelings –
“Since change is inevitable, we should learn to direct the change, rather than simply continue to go through the change…” – Gil Scott-Heron
In a way, I feel that if your driving a car and you hit ice you can take no action and perhaps you will pass over the ice…. and perhaps you will end up in the ditch.
If you take some kind of controlled action/reaction either of those results could equally happen also… so what I’m saying is it’s worth making some kind of effort to steer the car.

So the show was born.
[vimeo 95301745 w=500 h=281]

Peter Gillies : Art On The Hill from arts-news on Vimeo.

In one way this is a big artist-run art show as a possible replacement for The Glasgow Art Fair, as the first step with a minimal budget it presented 100 artists and we had nearly 400 works in the room. That’s not bad for a first go organized by 1 person.
At least a show that would encompass my desire to present art in a more accessible fashion without the usual barriers that both the artists and the public face…
By utilizing the skills and collective power of the artists we simply bypassed a stagnated system where by now the artists are in control, fund it themselves, and deal direct with the people.
Ooops we aren’t allowed to do that are we?

Well, it happened and it rocked.
And now I have set up Independent Artist groups for Edinburgh, Dundee, Ayrshire, Dumfires & Galloway, Highlands & Islands, Aberdeen. Look them up on Facebook and join.
And we shall build up those groups using the same template as the Glasgow faction and all those artists can start communicating with each other and start helping each other for the greater good of all the artists.
And we can link up the cities and connect across Scotland.
We stop all dancing to one tired tune competing against each other and dance to our tune together.

I think that’s called a revolution…

The extra good news is after the show closed I spoke with the owners who seemed duly impressed with my efforts and the response publicly so I have agreed to rent the space from them to turn it into a constant rolling exhibit with art studio spaces.
I’d like to be able to show several people a month, and have artists conducting classes and demos. Maybe invite artists on a resident basis, create a general arts hub where people can see artists at work, and find a diverse changing display of “cutting edge of contemporary art” that the Glasgow Art Fair seemed to be unable to locate.

If you are interested in finding out more about that you can keep up to date on the Art On The Hill web page, and for studio enquirers contact fringefestivalart@gmail.com

stained glass poetry

In my own work, I really have not had the time in the last few months to create anything new. I did get one request after the show for one of my poetry hangers. The idea was someone could supply me with their own verse or words and I would make a hanger. So this was a birthday present from a mum to her 13yr old daughter and was a pleasure to make. Hopefully, it will stay with her as she grows up and it will look as lovely today as it will in 50yrs.

Right now I’m going to crack on with filling these studios with artists and program the first set of exhibits.

One thought on “June 15th, 2014 – Art On The Hill

  1. juliearbuckleart

    ” If you cant find work & present a worthy show you actually are not really trying very hard.”

    Love your straight talking, Pete. The “art world” (whatever that means) needs more of it. Let’s keep this energy tapped!

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