Hullo everybody! Hope you’re all had a fantastic time over Christmas, and that you’re all looking forward to an even better new year!

Now, I’ve been talking about this artist, Alasdair Gray, for about a week now without having the time to get around to talking about him – I’ve been in contact with his work for almost all of my life. It’s ubiquitous throughout Glasgow, and if you live here it becomes a real part of your cultural makeup.

I’m used to the more grotesque aspects of his style, where reality is portrayed as a flawed, ugly thing that nonetheless is deserving of being captured and rendered as art. But this exhibition gave me the chance to see many different sides to Mr. Gray, and to appreciate the full breadth of his talent.

Simply put, the man is amazing. From the excessively dramatic lights and darks of his youth, to the subtle experimentations and simple lines capturing real life of his later years, he has tried and accomplished so much throughout the years. I feel really privileged to have been able to witness and marvel at such a fantastic spread of his work first-hand, especially in such an amazing place as the Kelvingrove.

But what I really want to talk about is one specific part of the exhibition. At one point in the 70s, a visual history of Glasgow was being put together for The Peoples’ Palace, another of Glasgow’s finest institutions. The curator realised, however, that although they had plenty of material showign Glasgow as it was at the turn of the century, they had precious little to show of the (then) current era. So she commissioned Gray to go out and capture Glasgow as it was there and then, to draw and paint the streets and the denizens thereof, from highest standing to lowest ebb.

The results of that project were stunning, to say the least. I wax lyrical about Glasgow now, but you can tell from the wonderfully put-together paintings just how much the place was suffering in the 70s. Shipyards and foundries were closing, and the populace found it difficult to adapt to a post-industrial life. Buildings and shops were left to crumble, and often people turned to drink just to cope with the sheer harshness of life.

But the people carried on, and they persisted, and they did it with a quiet defiance, a sheer nobility of character that clearly comes through in Gray’s paintings. The world, as you can see, is literally crumbling around them. But they have lives to live, and they will do so whether bound by poverty or no. It is this spirit that Gray captures, that keenness and the sharp, witty intelligence of ordinary folk from around the city that I found most impressive. I hope Glasgow never loses that.

I think it’s a project that’s well-worth repeating; we, as a society, are much better now at being able to record history as it occurs through social media, through the ubiquity of cameras and other recording devices. But can we truly capture the spirit, the soul, the zeitgeist through our digital means? Or are we merely sharing information and committing literal reports down to bits and bytes?

Can art accomplish what data capture cannot? Catching the intangible and presenting it for others to interpret some long way down the line?

Like I said – a project well-worth repeating, I think!