Key facts about the artist

Real Life Rocky Mountain
Real Life Rocky Mountain (1996)

In 1994 he had the words ‘REAL LIFE’ tattooed across his shoulders
Kilcreggan, Argyll
Glasgow and Los Angeles
Sinclair writes his own songs, and plays both drums and guitar
The Glasgow School of Art


Interview: Ross Sinclair

Video: Art in Scotland TV - Ross Sinclair : 20 Years of Real Life

Video: Art in Scotland TV - Julie-Ann Delaney on GENERATION at Modern One

Video: Guitars Instead of God

Video: The Orkney Song

About Ross's work

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. 



Ross Sinclair (born 1966 in Glasgow) studied BA Environmental Art (198490) and MFA (199092) at The Glasgow School of Art, including an exchange to CalArts, Los Angeles (1992). Solo exhibitions include those at: Angelika Knäpper Gallery, Stockholm (2010); Art Metropole, Toronto (2004); Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe (2002); and South London Gallery (2001). Group exhibitions include: Nothing in the World But Youth, Turner Contemporary, Margate (2011); I-Lands, Odense and tour (200910); and Aichi World Expo, Nagoya (2005). Collections include Hamburg Kunsthalle and the Arts Council. Sinclair is a Reader in Contemporary Art Practice and a lecturer in Sculpture and Environmental Art at The Glasgow School of Art and regularly publishes texts on art. He lives and works in Kilcreggan, Argyll.

More information

Claudia Zeiske and Ross Sinclair (eds), Ross Sinclair: We Love Real Life Scotland, Deveron Arts, Huntly, 2012

Ross Sinclair: If North was South and East was West, Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe, 2004

Ross Sinclair: Real Life and How to Live It, The Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, 2000

Elsewhere on the web