The playwright and artist John Byrne has attempted to clarify his outspoken comments on Glasgow School of Art which caused controversy and a debate over the role of drawing in art schools.


Earlier this week Byrne's comments to a Highland magazine, in which he said GSA was a "fun factory" and that none of its students could draw, ignited a debate over the traditional skills taught at art school.

However, it is understood Mr Byrne has been upset by the controversy over his remarks on the art school, which he attended between 1958 and 1963.

He was said to be keen to "set the record straight" this week, after his remarks, for Highland Life magazine, were reported earlier this week.

Mr Byrne said the point he was trying to empathise was that "real artistry" is overshadowed by the attention grabbed by contemporary art awards such as the Turner Prize.

On BBC Radio Scotland he said: "There's lot of great painters who don't get their due.

"There are some wonderful painters about, and surely they are due some publicity - not everybody knows of them, that's the problem.

"It's all promotion and some of it is empty and vacuous."

Glasgow School of Art has not commented on Byrne's opinions this week.

In his controversial comments, he focussed on what he believes is a lack of drawing ability at the school.

Byrne said: "Not one of them can draw - they all have delusions of grandeur.

"It's no longer an art school - it's more like a fun factory.

"When I was there, all of the big studios were as Mackintosh had designed them - you were a community and the whole place was a community, but now it's every man for himself.

"It's now all split into rabbit hutches and you have to be on your own with your laptop. It's more like a third-rate night school as far as competence in drawing goes.

"It's like going to a music school and nobody's got an instrument."

Mr Byrne also claimed that some people came to the art school "in the hope that something will rub off on them and they'll win a Turner Prize".

Glasgow School of Art and its graduates have been at the centre of a visual art success story which leading German art curator Hans Ulrich Obrist has called the "Glasgow miracle".

Graduate Douglas Gordon became the first Scot to win the Turner Prize in 1996 and this year it was won by Glasgow-based artist and GSA alumni Duncan Campbell, the seventh artist with Scottish links to take the prestigious prize since 1996.

His work was made for the Scotland + Venice show, which was curated by Glasgow's Common Guild gallery and visual arts organisation in 2013.

This year's Scottish show at the Venice Biennale is being staged by Graham Fagen, also a graduate of the GSA.

Byrne added: "I was talking to the students there and I gave them what for - if you want to be rich and famous you have to realise that it's hard graft.

"The people I admire work every day - Francis Bacon, David Hockney, they all work seven days a week and work hard

"If you're prepared to do that and wait - because you may never get any recognition - that's what you have to do."