In 1990, the year Glasgow was named European Capital of Culture, posters, badges and postcards appeared around the city proclaiming the words ‘Capital of Culture / Culture of Capital’. They were an early work by Ross Sinclair and encompass many of the ideas he has continued to develop: a playful and provocative use of language; an engagement with public spaces; an interest in economic and political agendas and the place of people within institutional and social structures.
Sinclair is particularly interested in the nature of identity – what it is and how it is formed. His own body became a tool in his art in 1994 when he had the words ‘REAL LIFE’ tattooed across his shoulders. Since then, his ‘Real Life’ projects have taken many forms. Several have featured Sinclair himself, photographed or filmed with his back to the camera. He has made works for the public realm and galleries using a multitude of materials and methods including posters, billboards, slogan T-shirts, neon signs (all commonly associated with advertising techniques), videos, performances and a ‘Real Life’ market stall in 1999. Real Life and How to Live it in Auld Reekie (2013) flooded Edinburgh with over 45,000 artworks using multiple forms and locations to create a dynamic portrait of the city. He often produces immersive, multimedia installations, such as Real Life Rocky Mountain (1996), first made at the Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA), Glasgow. This fake hillside, populated with stuffed animals and artificial trees, rocks and grass, is an invented, idealised view of what Scotland might be. Sinclair was a fixture on the installation, strumming his guitar and playing songs from Robert Burns to Scottish bands of the 1990s. As a former drummer in a band, a guitarist and songwriter, music remains important to Sinclair. It is a social activity that can sustain traditions or represent a worldview. For the twentieth anniversary of ‘Real Life’ in 2014, Sinclair has produced a project with Collective, Edinburgh that explores the past, present and future of ‘Real Life’ through music and collaborative activity.