Jan Patience

ARTISTS and skateboarders have a habit of sniffing out gritty, pared-back and cavernous urban spaces tucked away on the margins of town as a canvas for their activities, be that on wheels, hanging from the ceiling or on the ground.

Having heard that artists Beth Shapeero and Fraser Taylor, aka Two-Step, had hung the fruits of their latest collaborative labours in Glasgow's first indoor skatepark (which ticks all the boxes for gritty, cavernous and urban), I decided to check it out for myself.

My satnav duly steered me through the wind and rain of a dreich August Saturday afternoon to The Loading Bay, which is based in an industrial estate at Port Dundas, just north of the city centre.

When I parked up outside The Loading Bay it was jumping. Literally. I heard it long before I stepped inside because, as I later learned, the skatepark was experiencing one of its busiest ever days since opening in late 2019.

Inside, BMX and skateboarders of all ages, were wheeling around ramps while parents and grandparents sat in the cafe or watched from a safe distance. It was exhilarating to watch kids as young as five concentrate long and hard on achieving perfect parabolic party tricks.

As I watched, I began to get the connection between skaters and making art. Both require focus and repeated mistakes, as well as dexterity and innate artistry.

Most of the skaters and accompanying "minders" are concentrating on the physical act of skating or riding BMX bikes. But were they to look up, they would clock a couple of Shapeero and Taylor's screenprints; the first on the brick walled entrance to The Loading Bay, the other suspended high above the skaters, riders and ramps.

I have been watching this collaboration develop for a few months on its Instagram feed with interest, especially a foray to Greenock's Beacon Arts Centre in June, at which the pair showed four huge paintings.

Fraser is a well-kent figure in the Glasgow art scene. Having graduated in printed textiles from the Glasgow School of Art (GSA) in the early 1980s, he went on to study Fine Art at the Royal College of Art (RCA) in London. In 1983, he formed The Cloth, with fellow RCA students David Band, Brian Bolger and Helen Manning.

The studio attracted attention in fashion and pop circles for its bold use of colour and shape, as well as a desire to blur the boundaries between fine art and design. The Cloth went on to work with a series of high profile clients, including Liberty Studio/Yves Saint Laurent and for the likes of Paul Smith, Calvin Klein, Aztec Camera, Spandau Ballet and The Bluebells.

Having returned from Chicago a few years ago after a spell lecturing at the city's School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Taylor has been firing on all cylinders; making work on his own, doing workshops, teaching and creating his own textile studio, Haxton.

The collaboration with Shapeero, whom he met when they were both doing a residency in 2017 at House for an Art Lover's Studio Pavilion on Glasgow's south side, has clearly opened many creative avenues for both artists.

Shapeero has lived in Glasgow since 2011. She came to the city to study on GSA's first ever MLitt in painting. It was, she says, a good way into the city. "I met so many friends which I still have. It's a great city to be an artist."

Shapeero and Taylor hit if off instantly and kept in touch, going on to collaborate on several projects, including The Loading Bay series and a lockdown drawing project last year which saw them post more than a hundred A4-sized drawings back and forth between them during the first lockdown last year.

When I speak to Shapeero, she tells me the prints facing the cafe high above the main skating ramp area were produced at Glasgow Print Studio two days before the first 2020 lockdown. It was she recalls, "a time of frenetic uncertainty."

She adds: "The lines embedded in the drawings echo the marks of the skatepark’s floors and walls, made by various wheels, skids and slides.

"The framed prints in the foyer were created by embracing error in the printmaking process. Intentionally encouraging the unpredictable marks which emerge when a screen is poorly cleaned, the prints embrace residues of ink which describe the movement in the process or the faint traces of a previous image."

Since the skatepark is in use daily from 10am to 10pm, Shapeero and Taylor managed to use the period of lockdown earlier this year to make new drawings in the empty space and, crucially, to instal the work, which was "a feat of engineering in its own right."

Both artists are conscious that not all those who pass through the skatepark might clock their work. Laughing, Shapeero tells me that her partner, John Bailey, one of the driving forces behind The Loading Bay, overheard three young skaters in the toilet discuss the artwork during an opening event held there last Friday night.

"It went a bit like this," she says. "One young lad said, 'I can’t see any art, the other said, 'everything is the art' while the third said, 'it’s that thing hanging above the skate park.'

"Some people won't notice it," says Shapeero, "but others do. Some people are into it, others not. I like that aspect of exhibiting in a space which isn't normally used to show work."

According to John Bailey, director of The Loading Bay, the Two-Step installation is the start of an ongoing relationship with artists he'd like to keep going.

He says: "Through our collaboration with Two-Step, the potential became clear, and helped us develop our plans for our arts programme.

"BMX and skateboarding are creative activities, where you make use of your surroundings in imaginative ways. The BMX and skateboard industries are very art-centric, from product design, through to photography and videography used for marketing.

"In 2022 we would like to create an alternative education space which focuses on the likes of painting and graphic design through to skatepark design. To complement this, we'll also open a gallery with resident artists, where we'll show works from the array of professional artists in and around skateboarding in Glasgow."

As for Taylor and Shapeero, they are keen to keep the wheels of their own collaboration turning, with various projects, including one with Edinburgh's Hidden Door Festival next month in the pipeline.

Shapeero puts it this way: "We are both aware of how rare it is that you find someone you can make work with and have the trust to go at something. That works both ways. If one of us thinks it’s right, we’ll go with it."

Two-Step at The Loading Bay, 100 Borron St. G4 9XE, 07727 817216, https://www.instagram.com/two_step_collab/, Opening hours eg Open daily, 10am-10pm. Until late September. Free.


Critic's Choice

Following on from a similar small scale event in May, the ever-resourceful Marchmont Studios at Marchmont House in Duns is hosting a full-scale open studios event this weekend.

The studios, set around an old garage and stables courtyard designed by Sir Robert Lorimer, were completely restored in 2020 and have since become a base for a host of resident and artists in temporary residence.

Artists taking part this weekend include The Marchmont Workshop featuring Richard Platt Sam Copper making rush seat chairs in fifth generation tradition, eminent Scottish stone-carvers, Michelle De Bruin and Josephine Crossland, new permanent resident, Richard Goldsworthy who sculpts in wood, charring and pewter and ceramicist Annabel Wightman, who is inspired by Marchmont soil.

Special appearances will be on hand from eminent Scottish "treescape" artist, Andrew Mackenzie, who is taking a studio to display his work in combination with the launch of his first sculpture, Woodland Structure.

Laura Derby will also be there with colourful textiles in partnership with Wasps Studios while acclaimed Scottish painter Helen Flockhart will be at The Old Squash Court in a residency in another partnership with Wasps Studios.

In other news, a new poster by artist Tod Hanson which re-imagines Marchmont in support of Marchmont Makers Foundation will also be launched. A handful of artists, including Gary Anderson, Martha Ellis, Charlotte Nadau and Lou Gardiner will be presenting work made during commissioned residencies at Marchmont.

This weekend also sees a series of Outdoor Sculpture Tours. Numbers on site will be managed with staggered arrival times 30 minutes apart. Tickets are free, but required on both days.

Open Studios @ Marcnhmont Studios, Marchmont Estate, Greenlaw, Duns, Scottish Borders, TD10 6YL, 01361 866080, https://marchmonthouse.com/; Today (Sat Aug 28) and tomorrow (Sun Aug 29). Free but booking essential. See website for details.


Don't Miss

Gerber Fine Art in Glasgow has had a long association with the work of Margot Sandeman, best known for her vivid landscapes of Scotland's west coast and interior still lifes influenced by the Arts and Crafts tradition. This quietly beautiful exhibition showcases her delicate studies and drawings, created in preparation for her larger oils.

Margot Sandeman - Poetry & Harmony, Works on Paper and Oils, Gerber Fine Art, 178 West Regent Street, Glasgow, G2 4RL, 0141 221 3095, Tuesday – Friday 10am – 4pm, Saturday 10am – 2pm. Until September 1