by Jack Mottram, a freelance writer based in Glasgow · About · Contact · Feed


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Galleries are not always perfect places for looking at art. They can be guilty of pandering to an elite, and are often in­tim­id­at­ing, even to seasoned art fanciers. Might it not, then, be a good plan to bring art out into the world, in­stal­ling it in spaces where people gather, rather than hiding it away in white cubes and museum halls?

This show, housed in a café on the ground floor of the old Sherrif Court, is not so much an argument against that idea as an argument in favour of the practice being forbidden by law.

In­spir­a­tions matches work by the likes of John Bellany, Ken Currie, Peter Howson and the late Steven Campbell with portraits of the artists by Shahin Memishi. This might be an in­ter­est­ing conceit, were it not for the fact that Memishi is - and this is a generous as­sess­ment - only a fairly capable painter, to the extent that it is a surprise his subjects agreed to sit for him. Memishi, it seems safe to say, has a higher opinion of his own work than that, setting up his Two Figures on an easel in front of Ken Currie’s brooding and bleak White Terror II, almost com­p­letely obscuring one of the best works here. I was offended by this, goodness knows what Currie would make of it. A portrait of John Bellany attempts to com­mu­n­ic­ate that painter’s recent adoption of a bright palette by sur­roun­d­ing him with primary-hued squiggles. This ham-fisted tactic is thrown into sharp relief by the presence of Steven Campbell’s Un Homme et une femme, with its knowing, soph­ist­ic­ated nods to Picasso.

To make matters worse, the hanging of the show is chaotic, and absurdly cramped. Half the paintings are skew-whiff on the wall, others are plonked un­ce­r­e­mo­n­i­ously on the floor. A fine col­lec­tion of drawings by Peter Howson - as always, more sa­t­is­fy­ing than his painting - is fixed so high on the wall that visitors wanting to take a good long look at them will be forced to stand on a chair. One final, farcical note: Steven Campbell’s name is mis­spelled, as Stephen, both on the label beside his painting and in the title of Memishi’s portrait of the artist.

Whatever the faults of tra­di­tion­al gallery spaces, visitors can at least expect work to be hung with the aid of a spirit level, at eye level, and with the details of the work both present and correct. Here, the only in­form­a­tion you can trust is the list of high prices.

It’s not clear whether Memishi genuinely beleieves his work to be of the same calibre as the painters who inspire him, or if he simply has the brass neck to drum up publicity for his mediocre paintings by part­n­er­ing them with the work of some of Glasgow’s best, and best-loved artists. Whichever it is, Memishi has em­bar­rassed himself, and this show will irritate, or even anger any art lovers lured by those big names on the bill.

This review was not published in The Herald on September 3rd, 2008.