Jan Patience

Joan Eardley: Time and Tide, Clydebank Museum & Art Gallery, Clydebank Town Hall, June – October 2015 & Joan Eardley: A Sense of Place, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (Modern two), December 2016 – May 2017

Joan Eardley, who died in 1963 aged 42, is one of the most revered Scottish artists of the twentieth century. The curators of Time and Tide in Clydebank in 2015 secured a raft of key loans as well as unseen archive photographs taken by Eardley’s close friend, Audrey Walker. Two years later, Joan Eardley: A Sense of Place focused on Joan Eardley's relationship with two communities on the brink of extinction; Townhead in Glasgow and Catterline on the north east coast and shed light on the forces which drove this singular artist. As we move towards the centenary of her birth in 2021, it would be fitting to see a major exhibition in her adopted city of Glasgow.

Louise Bourgeois: I Give Everything Away, Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, October 2013 – February 2014

This exhibition complemented a bigger presentation of Louise Bourgeois’ work, A Woman Without Secrets, at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art but for me, size didn't matter. It quite literally rocked me back on my heels. When she made the drawings and prints featured in I Give Everything Away, Bourgeois was an old woman, yet the work pulsed with life. And Bourgeois' subject matter was her own life. Over two floors, viewers were treated to Bourgeois’ Insomnia Drawings, a mind-clenching collection of 220 drawings and writings made between November 1994 and June 1995 when she suffered from sleepless nights ,and a series of large prints made at the end of her life.

Until: Nick Cave, Tramway, Glasgow, July – November 2019

Having not encountered "the other Nick Cave" until this year, what a joy to be acquainted with the art of the African American artist, Nick Cave, as opposed to the Antipodean musician. Cave's monumental yet intricate work completely owned this former tram depot. Cave's mind and eye boggling Kinetic Spinner Forest consisted of 1,800 mobiles made from metallic spinning garden ornaments. This dazzling manmade forest of spinners hung from the rafters in steps and stairs. When you got in about them, you realised some had at the centre a teardrop, or a hand-gun. Until was a giant shiny tapestry which overwhelmed the synapses yet nourished the soul. It made me sad, happy and angry all at once.

GENERATION, venues across Scotland during 2014

Generation was part of the Glasgow 2014 Cultural Programme, in collaboration with the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Over 100 contemporary artists exhibited in 60+ galleries, exhibition spaces and venues in Scotland between March and November 2014. History will probably look back on 2014 as a defining year for Scotland. It was also a year in which it claimed its place at the forefront of contemporary art on the international stage From a recreation of Steven Campbell’s landmark On Form & Fiction to Douglas Gordon’s Pretty Much Every Film and Video Work from about 1992 until Now, and Dalziel + Scullion’s installation Tumadh: Immersion staged between Stornoway and Edinburgh, we were treated to some real art doozies.

George Wyllie, A Life Less Ordinary, Collins Gallery, Glasgow, March – April 2012 & George Wyllie Retrospective: In Pursuit of the Question Mark, The Mitchell, Glasgow, November 2012 – February 2013

For nearly 40 years, Strathclyde University's much-missed Collins Gallery showcased the work of artists, particularly in the sphere of craft and the applied arts. Its last ever exhibition was devoted to the work of Glasgow-born George Wyllie, whose first major exhibition was held there in 1976. Wyllie, who died in May 2012, was able to visit the exhibition a few months before his death. His reaction? "Did I do all this?" The end of 2012 saw another major exhibition in Glasgow devoted to Wyllie, who was best known for his Straw Locomotive and Paper Boat "social sculptures". The exhibition at The Michelll Library was visited by more than 12,000 people, many of whom were astonished at the sheer brio and energy of this self-taught artist.

There Will Be New Rules Next Week, DCA, Dundee, July – September 2013

Dundee's visual art scene has always been vibrant and with the reopening of The McManus museum and art gallery in 2017, followed by the V&A Dundee in 2018, it's been some decade. Throughout the teenies, as I've decided to name the last 10 years, DCA has been at the epicentre of a power of creative activity. It is hard to pick one show as a favourite but There Will Be New Rules Next Week was a joyous exploration of the work of artist, illustrator, teacher and nun, Sister Corita Kent in 2013. Her bold and sunny use of colour and graphics set the tone of the 1960s civil rights movement and was much emulated. A joyful affirmation of the power of visual art.

Voice and Vision: The Poetry and Art of W S Graham, Pier Arts Centre, Stromness, Orkney, September – November 2018

Greenock-born poet W S Graham (1918-1986) was widely unrecognised in his lifetime, despite being a literary lynchpin of the St. Ives artistic community that collected around Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicolson in the 1940s. One of the 20th century's foremost poets, he is known most widely for his wonderful poetic elegies to artist friends, but the focus of this small Pier Arts Centre exhibition was his ongoing passion for “doing a few drawings.” Here they were, in all their never-before-seen glory – illustrated manuscripts and postcards, notebooks, letters, drawings on the backs of envelopes, geometrical abstracts, views of tin mines and his “Etruscan” heads, all placed in context alongside major St. Ives artworks from the Pier collection, in this fascinating reappraisal of the poet as artist.

NOW, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, 2017-2019

There have been some memorable exhibitions these last ten years at the SNGMA, from Karla Black's fabulous first major institutional exhibition in Scotland, to Surreal Encounters which, for those who, like me, have a fascination for artists books, letters and ephemera, was manna from heaven. But NOW, which began with Nathan Coley's wonderful “The Lamp of Sacrifice” and ends, currently, with the imaginative brilliance of Katie Paterson, was a constantly fascinating juxtaposition of artists and ideas, designed to showcase the diversity of contemporary art practice. Amongst many other things, I particularly enjoyed Kurd-Iraqi artist Hiwa K’s superb two screen projection, “The Bell Project” as foil to Susan Philipsz' installations in 2017.

And per se and, Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh, March 2017- April 2018

Ingleby Gallery's year-long series of tiny overlapping exhibitions in the drawing room sized gallery space of their Georgian townhouse – a stopgap between gallery premises - was a rolling programme of thought-provoking pairings. Having left their warehouse-sized Calton Road premises and moved back “home” (literally) whilst renovating their new gallery space, the Inglebys began the series with Mark Wallinger's short film “The End” coupled with a rare 1511 edition of Albrecht Durer’s The Apocalypse, before Wallinger himself was replaced two weeks later by Katie Paterson's “All the Dead Stars”. And so it continued, repaying regular visits with glimpses of 15th century altarpieces, Morandis, or gems such as Alexander Calder's “Grand Cirque” until the gallery's new premises down the road were complete and business as usual was resumed.

I still believe in miracles, Inverleith House, Edinburgh, July – October 2016

Inverleith House, the cutting edge contemporary art gallery in the heart of Edinburgh's lovely Royal Botanic Gardens, ran for 30 years under the curatorship of Paul Nesbitt. Its much lamented demise came quite suddenly in 2016, making this joyous, celebratory group exhibition a last hurrah. “What’s the point in showing someone everyone else has already shown?” Nesbitt said to me, outlining his curatorial thinking, as we walked round looking at Warhols and Twombly's, as archive material from the Botanics mingled with Dan Colen's concrete whoopee cushions. It all celebrated three decades of inventive, often thought-provoking exhibitions which had thrown a new light on the gardens outside – and vice versa. Inverleith House, in new guise, will be programmed by RBGE Head of Exhibitions Emma Nicolson, from 2020.

GENERATION, venues across Scotland, 2014

Looking back over 25 years of contemporary art in Scotland, and marking the international interest in work being created here, Generation was the country-wide show designed to showcase the absolute diversity of work being produced on our shores. A part of the Glasgow 2014 Cultural Programme, instituted around the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, its programme comprised more than 100 artists – Douglas Gordon, Claire Barclay, Rachel Maclean, Karla Black et al - in venues ranging from Jupiter Artland (whose own exhibition series these last ten years has been frequently superb) to Stornoway's An Lanntair. Turner Prize winners jostled, new artistic connections were made, and round the country, many innovative education projects brought young people just that little bit closer to contemporary art.

Sarah Urwin Jones