John Byrne


Art Is Such An Elitist World

By Christina Milarvie Quarrell 

Art is such an elitist culture

Having attended the John Byrne retrospective at Kelvin Grove the first thing that struck me was that art is such an elitist culture – the cost of admissions was as follows:

Under 16s Free Entry

£5 Concessions

£7 General Entry.

Photograph credit Christina M-Q

This was disappointing as I believe there should be no cost entry for all. Glasgow City Taxpayers have paid enough already for this Building – all Museums and Exhibitions should be free.

This exhibition I believe would be so enjoyed by many working class communities. However, their entry cost of £5 or £7 will be eating or heating money to the many. This raises the further question for me – Why gatekeep working class people even further?

Self directed Community Groups/Community Workers (unpaid or paid) will have to search for grants or any kind of funds if possible to cover the cost of entry. For such an important figure in Scottish creative history – this exhibition should be open to all.

Who John Byrne is and his life story:

Who John Byrne is and his life story raises my spirit. His humour talent multiple skills as an artist, writer, sculptor are breath taking. What a feast which triggers in me feelings of Hope and Love and Possibilities.

Photograph credit J. Curwell.

Through the exhibition. I find belief in what I might do, how I may harvest my creative self. I find most of all an enormous sense of permission in a kind of mind blowing way.

As a working class woman artist and poet, my ongoing challenge for over four decades is not to give up. Oh! The Sheer Joy of What Might Be Possible when viewing this exhibition.

My sense of understanding, my choices to create art, to write poetry, to boldly dare to believe every day that I can be a Creative Woman – Rose up in my heart as I journeyed through this smorgasbord of every kind of musical, visual and spoken art.

To say “yes I can” to feel ownership of my striving to be a Poet and Artist. A growing sense of confidence and validation arrived as I walked around and around his glorious creations and loved characters.

I wanted to kiss and hug what felt like my old friends especially the characters from The Slab Boys and Tutti Frutti that celebrated working class Glasgow with incisive humour, dialogue and visuality.

I wanted to dance (and did as Be-Bop-A-Lula came on) as the music played. John Byrne is a polymath and a genius – his ability and artistic drive to express himself so fully into his 80s, offers hope to each and everyone of us.

Photograph credit Christina M-Q

He describes this process as “I am labourer to my unconscious” six words which distil his whole life and which I immediately in a Jungian fashion understood. My life journey has been and is still to strive to keep the best mental health I can against life’s trials and tribulations.

“Expression not Suppression” is my mantra. The Mental Health of All Scotland’s People would soar upwards if expression through art was more our daily bread.

We need bread and we need roses as the song says. In our DNA is the pivotal imperative to express our human emotions through any kind of art. This Exhibition is a like a Biblical Parable we could all learn from, about the importance of our need to be involved in our Scottish cultural roots and the ancestry of our working class artistic heritage.

What of all the working class art hidden, disappeared or never seen or heard or made?

The John Byrne Exhibition is a beautiful song to the heaven’s for me. I felt so determined to push on with my own work after my visit. Once home I instantly began to plan new work, my mind birling with ideas. Planning a return visit to the Exhibition to soak in and absorb more of that determined atmosphere of possibilities.

I will take my three grandchildren to watch and listen to their sense of all that this visual feast offers for their young souls.