Avril Paton made her name painting Glasgow scenes and, as Deedee

Cuddihy reports, one of her latest works, a portrait of a tenement and

its inhabitants, has attracted a lot of attention

ANNE MENDELOW, who owns the Gatehouse Gallery at Rouken Glen Park in

Glasgow where Avril Paton has been enjoying a huge success with a show

of her most recent paintings, tells a story about an afternoon she spent

with the artist earlier this year.

''We were in the Winter Gardens at the People's Palace having tea or

something and I was chatting away when I noticed that Avril was hardly

listening to a thing I was saying; she was constantly looking past me at

all the activity that was going on around us.''

No doubt Avril was sizing up her surroundings, seeing if she could

make a painting out of them. And if she ever does do a Winter Gardens

scene, it will be interesting to see who buys it, for it was the

People's Palace a decade ago which had the foresight to purchase the

work which marked a turning point in Avril Paton's career.

Thousands of people know the painting by now, although not all may

have noted the artist's name. It's called, simply, The Barras 1984 and

has proved so popular that postcard and prints eventually had to be made

of it to satisfy all the punters who wanted copies for themselves.

Since then, Avril Paton has gone on to paint other vibrant Glasgow

scenes, Paddy's Market (a number of times), the garden festival (several

times over), Pollokshields allotments, a crowded concert at the Tramway

theatre, and to more acclaim than that first Barras painting, the

spectacular Windows in the West. It's been on loan to the Gatehouse

Gallery but has, in fact, already been purchased by Glasgow Museums for

the royal concert hall.

According to Anne Mendelow (who says she could have sold it several

times over during the current show -- and for more than the original

#10,000 asking price), the painting has been known to gather bigger

crowds during intervals than the concert hall bars.

You can understand why. For Windows in the West (as in the West End of

Glasgow) is a near perfect portrait, not only of a handsome tenement

building but of its inhabitants, glimpsed through the windows of their

flats, going about their daily business.

The detail is fascinating: children playing in a ground-floor

sitting-room; a young man working at his desk; a drinks party in

progress; a cat in a dining-room where the table has been laid for


You feel you could look forever but never see it all.

Even better, it's a portrait of a real tenement (in Saltoun Street

behind Byres Road) and real people, many of whom the artist knows


Avril lives right across the street from the building in an attic

flat. In fact she's included herself among the guests at the drinks

party and can be seen, back to the window looking towards her host.

It took the artist more than four months to complete Windows in the

West and she was surprised to discover, once the painting was finished,

that no-one living in the building had been aware that they were under

such intense scrutiny.

Although it was originally planned that the picture would receive its

first public outing at the current show, Windows in the West was taking

up so much space in Avril's flat that Anne Mendelow cleverly suggested

they should lend it to the royal concert hall in the meantime.

However, reaction to the painting was such that Glasgow Museums

decided to buy it, to the delight of everyone (apart, that is, from

those few well-heeled individuals who saw it at the Gatehouse Gallery

for the first time and were also dead keen to purchase.

Not surprisingly Avril has been deeply gratified by all the fuss over

her most ambitious painting to date.

''I've never had a response like this before -- even to the Barras

one,'' she says.

''The picture has done exactly what I aim to do with my work -- it has

'spoken' to a broad spectrum of people; not just people who know about

art but people who feel they haven't got a clue about art or are even

scared of it.''

She isn't sure why this style of painting -- this marriage of

buildings and people -- that she's developed over the past decade is

proving so popular (over #30,000 worth of paintings -- excluding Windows

in the West -- were purchased in the first few days of the show).

''I've always painted people,'' says Avril, who comes from Arran and

whose parents and grandfather were also artists. ''But I didn't realise

how important architecture was to me until I started painting the

Glasgow pictures.

''It was only later that I remembered the books which had fascinated

me as a child. There was an encyclopaedia of art which I loved and, no

matter how many times I looked through it, I would always come across

something I hadn't noticed before.'' (An important feature of Avril's

own work, as it happens.) ''And there was also an encyclopaedia of

architecture which I dipped into almost as often.''

Avril paints what she calls ''situations'', and a situation she has

returned to a number of times in her work is Paddy's Market.

She's well aware that some people can only see the negative side of

Paddy's, but for her it represents what could unashamedly be described

as ''life's rich tapestry''.

An inveterate wearer of second-hand clothes -- only the best mind --

and seeker out of objets trouve (''I love the fact that they've had a

life before me,'' she explains), Avril says that at Paddy's Market

''there's always a chance that you're going to find a treasure''.

* Avril Paton's exhibition continues at the Gatehouse Gallery,

telephone 041 620 0235, until October 27.