A guide to Scotland's grassroots visual art groups in 2014

Featuring David Dale Gallery, Glasgow Open House, 2|1|4|1 and the Black Cube Collective

‘Quite often, as a graduating student, it's hard to see what lies past graduation,’ explains Max Slaven, discussing the beginnings of the David Dale Gallery and Studios. In 2009, alongside Ellie Royle and Ralph Mackenzie, Slaven founded the gallery: ‘We felt it was important to have the organisation for us to enable the momentum built up in art school to continue.’

Things have developed rapidly since then: in the past five years David Dale has evolved from makeshift studios in a derelict building in Glasgow’s East End, to a prominent contemporary art space: ‘Fairly soon into the project we became more interested in supporting and facilitating exhibitions and other artists’ work rather than our own, and have developed this interest into our current programme.’

Slaven, Royle and Mackenzie met at the Glasgow School of Art, where they had previously worked together on collaborative projects as students. ‘[We were involved in a] project called the Glasgow Collective while we were in our final year…and this was instrumental in showing us that we had the possibility and ability to self-organise and create opportunities for ourselves,’ continues Slaven.

Self-organising as students was the catalyst for the formation of the Glasgow Open House team too. ‘We had a lot of fun working together on group exhibitions [as students],’ describes Amalie Silvani-Jones, director of the group. ‘One I remember as particularly relevant was held in an empty flat in the West End. Someone was in the middle of moving and still had the keys to a big flat that was lying empty, so invited us to take part in a group show there. It was fantastic!’ The group – all graduates from the GSA – are now working on the second iteration of Glasgow Open House festival. Their last event showed work in over 36 domestic spaces across the city.

Silvani-Jones credits her time at college as being part of the project’s success: ‘you leave with a big strong network of friends and contemporaries, and the festival wouldn't have been as successful without the support and involvement of these people.’ 

The founders of the 2|1|4|1 collective also met while studying. Rosie Roberts and Frances Lightbound met on the Painting and Printmaking course at GSA, while Kirsty Macleod, who studied at Grays School of Art, met Lightbound at High School. Recognising the advantages of their exchanges while at different art schools, 2|1|4|1 was created to provide a platform for discussion and critique across the Scottish emerging art scene. ‘We wanted a space where graduates from all the art schools in Scotland could begin to see each other’s work and goings on,’ explains Roberts. ‘We also partake in curatorial endeavours such as our recent show Draw In to try and create a dialogue between potentially disparate practitioners.’

Over in Edinburgh, Ronald Binnie, Svetlana Kondakova, Leo Starrs-Cunningham and Piotr Skibinksi met at Edinburgh College of Art and founded the Black Cube Collective in 2012. The group has already made a huge impact on the contemporary arts scene, participating in two European Commission backed projects: ‘[These projects] enabled Scottish artists and technologists to collaborate on funded projects, the results of which were then shown both in Scotland and in Brussels, and helped to influence EC policy on art and new technology,’ explains Binnie.

Binnie is happy to share the secrets of the group’s success: ‘Work with people you trust, you know and like… above all, be prepared to do a lot of work for very little initial return. Like art in general, do it because you’re passionate about it.’

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