Sam Ainsley is an artist and teacher who taught on Glasgow School of Art’s influential Environmental Art course from 1985 and then co-founded its Master of Fine Arts course, which she led from 1991 to 2005. Next year her work can be seen in Women In Revolt!, a touring show organised by Tate Britain. Ahead of that, Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art is currently hosting Wednesday Is Cobalt Blue, Friday Is Cadmium Red, Ainsley’s first major institutional show. It runs until March 10, 2024.

What’s the last book you read?

It was Red Thread by Charlotte Higgins, on mazes and labyrinths. The book is endlessly fascinating as she traces the origins of labyrinths through literature, archaeology and art, and had real resonance for me as I’d recently made a small work about Ariadne using a red thread to help Theseus escape the Minotaur’s lair. Dr. Catriona McCara has written an essay using the analogy of the “red thread” in my works for my Gallery of Modern Art exhibition.

What’s the last film you saw in a cinema?

Just this week I watched Killers Of The Flower Moon at the GFT, the latest Scorsese film which was outstanding and did not seem like three and a half hours at all.

Favourite actor?

Again, there are many but I’m a great fan of Mark Rylance. He was brilliant in Wolf Hall but he is entirely believable and enthralling in every role he has played.

The Herald: Actor Mark RylanceActor Mark Rylance

What music are you currently listening to a lot?

I am currently listening to Wichita Lineman on repeat by the Dick Slessig combo. The best version in my view; this dreamy soundscape sustains me while I work in my studio.

What have you watched recently that was completely over-rated?

I don’t know if it was ever overrated but I recently watched Bob Dylan’s film Masked And Anonymous about a country on the verge of revolution and the comeback of a singer. Really disappointing and a wasted opportunity despite an all star cast, including Jeff Bridges, Penelope Cruz, John Goodman and Jessica Lange, FFS!

Recommend a podcast … One that stood out for me was The Philosophy Of Modern Song by Dylan. The range and quality of the music he chooses is fantastic; I came across some wonderful singer songwriters I’ve never heard of and have loved following them up.

Favourite musician?

Bobby Dylan of course. Always in every album there are one or two gems that have stayed with me forever. He has written some of the greatest songs of the 20th century, and my favourite album of his is Blonde On Blonde: music to fall in love to.

The Herald: Work in progress for The Idea of North, 2023Work in progress for The Idea of North, 2023 (Image: Alan Dimmock)

And song?

Too many to mention, but if I had to pick one it would be Ae Fond Kiss by Rabbie Burns, one of the most beautiful love songs in the world.

Vinyl or MP3 ?

Always vinyl (I wish I hadn’t sold my LP and 45 collection back in the 1970’s when I was penniless – one of my worst moves financially as many are worth a fortune now).

What has been your most formative cultural experience?

My first visit to Japan when I was a Fine Art student in Newcastle in the 1970s. I was writing my dissertation on traditional (Tea House style) Japanese Architecture and visited some of the most beautiful buildings in the world. I had been fascinated by Japanese culture, as the complete opposite to our own, since my formative years. It made me want to spend my life making art and made me realise you are the sum of your experiences; what you do, what you read, what you discover, what you love/hate. These are important for anyone but especially to an artist.

Blur or Oasis?

Neither, they’re both crap.

Irvine Welsh or Robert Louis Stevenson?

Stevenson of course.

What haven’t you managed to get around to yet but will when you have time?

Too many to mention. I want to watch my box set of the films of Powell and Pressburger (again). I want to re-watch all of Andrei Tarkovsky’s films. I have piles of books all around me that I’m desperate to read but have no time for at the moment. Here’s a few: A Field Guide To Reality by Joanna Kavenna, Girl In White by Sue Hubbard, Modern Nature by Derek Jarman, Affinities by Brian Dillon, and Ian Gibson’s biography of Federico Garcia Lorca.

What was the most memorable recent theatre show you saw?

No contest – it was the new version of Rite Of Spring choreographed by Pina Bausch and performed by an African theatre company, Common Ground(s) with Germaine Acogny and Malou Airaude. It was breathtaking and blew me away. Beautiful and memorable.

Who or what do you always turn off?

The list is long: Trump, Putin, Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, the entire Conservative Government (especially Braverman) and, after his statement on Gaza, Keir Starmer. They will have to answer to history. They have no morality or integrity.

You’re in a station or airport shop ahead of a journey. What magazine do you grab?

Usually Interiors magazine or a foodie mag.

Favourite comedian?

I’m not a great fan of comedians in general as I find most of them unfunny (I prefer jokes). But if I had to pick one it would be Lenny Bruce for his anger, filthy language and subversion.

If you’re a fan of graphic novels, what’s the best one you’ve ever read and why?

I am and the one that stands out in my memory is Maus by Art Spiegelman, about his family’s survival of the Holocaust and banned in many US States at the time. Brilliantly drawn and written.

Favourite clothes designer?

Issey Miyake. His fluid often asymmetric clothes make every woman look great and I yearn to own anything by him if I could only afford it.

Recommend a TV box-set … I hardly ever watch TV these days, I mostly watch films on my laptop (especially in bed!) but for pure escapism I recently watched all six series of Outlander, starring Sam Heughan and Catriona Balfe. It seemed very authentically done (unlike most historical dramas) and the sets and costumes were sumptuous. It is set in Scotland, France and the USA up to the American revolution and has the best sex scenes I’ve seen anywhere. Ever.

Fiction or non-fiction?

If I had to choose I’d opt for fiction (the lie that tells us the truth)

Favourite film?

The Great Beauty by Paolo Sorrentino – a love letter to a man and a city, Rome. I could also name every film by Kurosawa and Tarkovsky. I love the epic quality of these films but they also have beauty in every frame.

Recommend an album …

I would recommend Aretha Franklin’s Greatest Hits for dancing to, and anything by the brilliant contemporary composer Arvo Pärt. Mesmeric, uplifting, sad, joyful, everything you want to experience in music.

The Herald: The Rite of Spring, Edinburgh International FestivalThe Rite of Spring, Edinburgh International Festival (Image: Maarten Vanden Abeele)

And a novel … An old but brilliant series of novels by Doris Lessing, Canopus In Argos, her so-called science fiction novels (though they’re not) where Earth is encountered and described by other worlds unbearably seeing all our faults and qualities. My favourite is The Marriages Between Zones Three, Four And Five where the endless lack of communication and misunderstandings between men and women are played out.

Barbie or Oppenheimer?

Oppenheimer of course. I cannot bear the thought of Barbie.