AFTER the Inferno, one of Scotland's greatest living writers and artists is preparing an artistic Thank You.

Alasdair Gray, the writer of Lanark and celebrated designer and painter of portraits and murals, has once again begun work on one of his most celebrated works of art: the murals inside the popular Glasgow venue Oran Mor.

Video by Colin Mearns

Gray, 84, has recently published his version of the first part of Dante's Inferno, is now at work on around 30 portraits of the tradesmen, joiners, security experts and labourers who helped transform the former church, on Great Western Road in the west end of Glasgow, into a venue and auditorium.

Working from a series of photographs, Gray is creating portraits of the various people involved, and using these portraits to decorate a series of mirrors.

On one, he has created the legend: "On this wall, tradesmen who changed the upstairs gallery of the former Botanic and Kelvingrove Church of Scotland into this auditorium in July 2004."

Gray has also recently published, with the Glasgow Print Studio, a new print of his famous image Bella Caledonia to raise money for his Inspiring Scotland Bursary.

The artist, whose fall outside his house in 2015 disrupted his many projects, said: "I am trying to finish the design, of the decoration for Oran Mor.

"There's some mirrors, so it is a chance to picture of all the tradesmen and workers and others who worked on Oran Mor, back to when it was opened in 2004.

"I got the tradesman at the time photographed so I could work on the portraits: there is about 30 of them, around four on each, some more, some less."

The Gray art works in Oran Mor are some of his most famous works, including its notable ceiling mural in The Auditorium, one of the largest pieces of public art in Scotland, commissioned for Oran Mor by Colin Beattie, its owner, who refurbished the former church from 2002 to 2004.

The venue, with a bar and restaurant, is also home to the successful theatre series, A Play, A Pie and A Pint.

The Bursary in Alasdair Gray's name announced its latest winner this week.

Artist Claire McGinlay won the bursary for a proposed body of paintings which will focus on the "whitewashing of abuse claims at the Sisters of Nazareth Orphanage in the 1970s and 80s."

She said:"I am thrilled to have won this award. It reassures my confidence in the work I am currently developing that explores the impact of story-telling to highlight urgent causes. I hope to reach a wider audience and highlight the evolution of our social landscape in relation to art practice."

The Alasdair Gray Inspiring Scotland Bursary was first created in 2017 and open annually to post-secondary students pursuing a career in music, fine arts, theatre, dance or cultural studies and is designed to fund innovative, multi-disciplinary creative proposals.

The Glasgow Print Studio have published a limited edition silkscreen print of Gray’s Bella Caledonia to raise money for the bursary.


Bella Caledonia    Photograph by Colin Mearns

The image first appeared as a black and white book illustration in Gray’s prize-winning novel Poor Things and features on his Hillhead Subway Station mural.

Gray added: "Artists, writers and musicians are the eyes and the ears — the five senses — of all successful nations.

"I’m delighted that the funds raised through the sale of these prints will be put to use to help Scottish students, I hope for many years to come."