Liz Lochhead's love of art is writ large all over her home and every

one of the pictures tells a different story, discovers Clare Henry

IN 1974 Liz Lochhead's grannie died. ''The money from her bank-book

was divided between all the grandchildren. I got #25. Maybe it was #30.

It wasn't very much anyway. Then again it was -- because my rent was

only a fiver. I wanted something to remember her by and I really, really

liked Calum MacKenzie's drawings. I always have and I always will. I

asked him if he'd got a wee something I could buy for #25 to get framed.

''When he arrived he rang the bell to ask for help to carry it up the

stairs! So I suppose you'd say I didn't so much buy it, as conned it out

of him! It's a superb big painting full of Celtic mystery: poetic,

multi-layered, expressive; flooded with grey sea light and covered with

tiny rubbings of symbols and transfer drawings of cavalry, planes, and


''Calum is a painter I really rate. I've got three of his works. I

never get tired of them. I prefer his tough paintings to his prints. In

the 1970s/1980s he spent too much time on administration as director at

Glasgow Print Studio. He should paint more.''

Glasgow School of Art is a veritable breeding ground for much more

than painters and sculptors. Think of Robbie Coltrane, Ian Drury, John

Byrne, Alasdair Gray, Jimmie McGregor, Muriel Gray. Liz Lochhead,

writer, poet and playwright, was there from 1965-70. After all, only an

art-school training could produce her rib-creasing Shade Card Poem:

''Vymura is super in Durer, Or see what you think of this new shade,

Vlaminck. Picasso is newsy . . . grey, greeny, bluesy. Derain's all the

rage . . . that's hot pink Fauve-ish. There's Monet, that's Mauvish . .


Every inch of the walls of her flat also testifies to a continued

passion for art. ''Lots of these pictures and prints are presents. We

need a bigger house! Artists are so generous. I want them to know how

much I appreciate having their work.

''Keith McIntyre gave me that wonderful large monochromatic ink-wash

picture of the Moffat Ram being given its ears by the angel in return

for writing catalogue notes for his 1986 exhibition at the 369 Gallery

in Edinburgh. We put it in pride of place in the lounge.

''Once we'd hung it we decided to fill up the rest of the wall with

mainly black and white images -- like Ian Fern's stunning monotype,

Jonathon Robertson's wedding-party etching, my husband Tom's lithograph

of Venetian carnival characters that he did at the Print Studio, several

strong nudes by Gerry McGowan from 1982-6 next to his new rigorous

abstract -- I love that tiny wee bit of light amid the black -- and

Michael McVeigh's interiors.''

Liz Lochhead turned to writing full-time in 1979 after a period

teaching at Bishopbriggs High School -- where I first met her when I

went to teach an evening-class there. McVeigh was a student during her

period as Writer in Residence at Dundee's Duncan of Jordanstone College

in 1980.

''I always really liked his stuff -- it's naive in the best tradition.

When the Scottish Sculpture Trust was trying to raise money for the Hugh

MacDiarmid memorial via auctions he gave a lot of his work and I bought

quite a few, like that couple in bed, the scene through a window and a

group of men in the pub.''

While at Dundee Liz herself made a poem print called Black Fairytale:

Beauty and the Beast. The rampant creature ''was hot; he grew horns, he

had you screaming mammydaddy''.

''It says it's the fifth of an edition of 25 but in fact we only

printed five because the etching plate got lost!'' Earlier works include

a portrait -- ''the only decent first-year drawing I did,'' she

maintains, ''that and the figure with red stockings on the far wall''.

The hall houses two of her brightly coloured acrylic paintings. ''I was

looking at funfairs, slightly abstracted. I also so admired Alan Davie.

Still do. The paintings aren't like his but perhaps there's a bit of

influence. Whatever talent I had I lost it around third year!''

At that time Liz Lochhead was only interested in abstract art,

although now most of her collection is figurative. The exceptions are

prints by John Taylor and Jacki Parry (her Autumn Burn is a wee jewel

and I adore the power of Black Cut) and one which hangs in the kitchen

called Grid by Jim Pattison. ''There's a story to that. The picture Tom

and I bought from his show got stolen before we could collect it -- so I

had to choose another one on my own. Luckily my husband and I always

like the same things so it's not a problem and you can buy the most

wonderful things for such modest amounts. We often go to exhibitions

with no plan to buy anything but come home with another one because

pictures are so cheap.''

As you would expect, work by her friend the poet/artist Alasdair Gray

features strongly all the Lanark illustrations; an early pencil portrait

of Liz from 1971; a remarkable head reflected in a mirror so that the

ceiling rose and cornice float above; a rich red velvet nude, a

wonderful wedding present from Alasdair. Several of Lochhead's pictures

are by friends or art-school contemporaries such as Peter Kirley who

lives in Crieff. ''Our most recent buy, from his Perth show, is a

gouache of a dark brooding landscape. It has a really strong Celtic feel

but could be abstract too.''

Meanwhile Liz is presenting Radio 4's With Great Pleasure on Sunday,

February 20, which draws together a spirited collection of poetry,

prose, and drama peopled with monsters, mythical creatures, and aliens.

She is also getting ready to film her new play, a Tartan Short called

Latin for a Dark Room in March, while doing minor rewrites of Mary Queen

of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off for Brunton Theatre and the Lyceum in

the summer. A busy lady writing happily surrounded by lots and lots of

favourite pictures.

LIZ bought Tom a picture for his last birthday. Last year Roger

Billcliffe's special Valentine Show was so well received he decided to

make it an annual event. Until February 19 his Glasgow gallery has a

selection of pictures from 30 artists including the permanently lovelorn

Sylvia von Hartmann (also exhibiting at Edinburgh's Open Eye Gallery

with Linda Farquharson) while Aberfoyle's Green Gallery shows February

Flowers. A touch of fun and lightheartedness at what is a rather dreich

time of year.