Scotland + Contemporary Art

We talk to artists and curators about why Scotland is such a great place to be an artist, and why in the last 25 years it has produced the phenomenal range of work you can see for GENERATION: 25 Years of Contemporary Art in Scotland.

Contemporary Art


Linsey Young – Curator, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art:

In the last 25 years in Scotland we seem to have grown this extraordinary pool of talent that beats everything else in the world; you know like, we’re one of the absolute leaders of contemporary art.

Graham Domke – Exhibitions Curator, Dundee Contemporary Arts:

All of the artists are sincerely trying to communicate with the world. There’s no one trying to bamboozle you, that’s one of the things that you really see about the arts in Scotland, that the work is generous.

Matthew Dalziel and Louise Scullion - Artists:

It’s a landscape we understand, we feel we have a right to talk about it, so we see Scotland as being our kind of palate.

Toby Paterson - Artist:

Every day I come through here and it’s still like, 'ok, they actually, they did this, did they really do this?' but yeah these are the places that I spend large amounts of my life, for better, for worse.

Matthew Dalziel and Louise Scullion - Artists:

I think a lot of our work is to do with storytelling really, I think we enjoy narrative. As more and more of us live in towns and cities and suburbs we have less and less connection with those kind of rhythms and all of those kind of wee narratives that are spun out within other species. You can see these other models for living; you know, living with very little means, living in a really fragile habitat, but you know they’re surviving, and we find that endlessly inspirational.

Toby Paterson - Artist:

It’s been said before many times but Glasgow basically bombed itself, didn’t need the Luftwaffe. But then that said, you get these amazing views, its cathedral-like spaces.
What excites me about Glasgow as an urban environment is the fact that it’s a city that is in a perpetual state of flux. I love it because it doesn’t seem to know how to finish itself. Looking at this one sort of snapshot image, you can read what’s happened here over the last hundred and twenty plus years; the way that the city’s developed and the way we go about constructing places to exist in, you know the way we mess it up and try again and you know good things are lost but then I think good things come out of that process as well.

Martin Boyce - Artist:

Glasgow itself held a sort of fascination because you could go the rock garden and you could see the guys that you know like Lloyd Cole and the Commotions or James King and the Lone Wolves like having a pint and somehow you could access that world and that was really fascinating for me that world of music and you know people deciding what kind of haircut they were going to have, what kind of jacket they were going to wear on Saturday night. And then of course the art school, getting there and being there was just, everything you sort of hoped it would be and that was down to the people that I met, it was an extraordinary time and everyone seemed sort of amazing and I think most of them were.

Linsey Young – Curator, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art:

The breadth and scope of contemporary art in Scotland shows that we are a nation that are proud of ourselves and are proud of our ability to take risks and to be creative. If you go to London or if you go to New York, you go to Berlin, people know about what’s happening in Scotland, what has been happening and what’s happening now. It’s not dead, it’s not this idea that you know things were great when people were doing the environmental course at Glasgow School of Art; its much bigger than that, people understand that its artists from Dundee, artists from Aberdeen, all representing the talent that we have.

Rachel Maclean - Artist:

I think my interest in national identities started when I was living in Edinburgh and really being surrounded by a kind of touristic vision of Scotland. I think Scotland’s a great place to be in the sense that it’s very supportive of emerging artists, supportive of artists who are recent graduates, so it felt on leaving that you’re almost kind of entering a whole other community of graduates, people from Dundee, Glasgow, Aberdeen and a sense of there being a community outside of college as well that was almost as supportive as what you get within.

Jacqueline Donachie - Artist:

Transmission gallery is an artist-run gallery in the East End of Glasgow, in the merchant city. I got involved with it through friends of mine when I was at art school. People were quite excited about it because it was artist-run so it was their space. To have a place that is yours, that you can put on exhibitions, invite other artists and you were able to do exchanges and residencies. They’re a really important part of the ecology of what I would see as a healthy arts scene, that there’s people that come and there's people that go and you’re able to formulate those relationships and have a place where that outcome is seen.

Jenny Brownrigg – Exhibitions Director, Glasgow School of Art:

I think what’s been really important is the different kinds of opportunities created that retain artists after they’ve graduated and you’ll often find that through a grassroots, artist-led organisation or through studios, these kind of things make a real difference and it means that people tend to stay on rather than go to the main centres or kind of move down to London. I think that’s one of the things that’s made Scotland a place for artists to continue staying and working in.

Matthew Dalziel and Louise Scullion - Artists:

We can make stories about Scotland what are universal stories and we can make those stories with some authenticity because we’re actually here and we live it. It’s interesting because these friends in New York they keep saying 'well, to make it in the art world, you’ve got to go to New York, you’ve got to be in New York, you know, what you doing living in Dundee?' but we were the ones that was having the big show in New York and they never had a big show in New York so it’s quite interesting you know; you don’t need to be anywhere else.

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