Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Scots Language Panels

(Panel 1. Haverin like yer storm damaged hauld yer wheesht!
Translation: You are talking like there is something wrong with your head (probably drunk), be quiet.)

(Panel 1. Detail)

I recently exhibited at the Whitespace Gallery in Edinburgh. I displayed five panels from a body of work exploring Scots language. This is a subject that really inspires me and I am going to discuss the meaning behind these panels and how they were created, but first I will talk a little about the exhibition itself.

(Panel 2. Bawheid decided tae banjo the bouncer.
Translation: That idiot thought he would start a fight (punch) with the door man.)

 (Panel 2. Detail)

The Whitespace gallery is at 11 Gayfield Square Edinburgh. It is a really nice wee venue with a lot of natural light coming in from skylights that really complemented my glass. It is run by Leigh Chorlton who was very friendly and I would recommend it as a good space to hire. I exhibited with one other artist called Andrew Smith who is someone I went to art college with and is very talented. Our work is quite different, he is a fine art painter and drawer, but I feel like they complimented each other well within the space. He also has a really good website and a blog.

(Panel 3Dae ye hink ma heid buttons up the back?
Translation: Do you think that my head buttons up the back? (suggesting that I am like a rag-doll with my head full of stuffing and no brains. Used as a rebuke when someone is trying to con or take advantage of you).)

 (Panel 3. Detail)

The five panels I displayed were initially designed to be hung in a window space with natural light. However this was not available at the Whitespace Gallery and so instead I built individual light boxes for my work. At the time this seemed like an annoyance and I was worried my work would suffer from having a synthetic light source, but now I couldn't be more delighted. I like my work in the lightboxes far more than I did as pieces hanging in a window. I think they really enhance the appeal of the glass as a overall product and make it more substantial as an object.

(Panel 4. Away an boil yer heid ye eejit!
Translation: Go away, you are such an idiot that you would boil your own head.)

 (Panel 4. Detail)

I have made these panels using traditional stained glass techniques. The different colours are created using antique glass which I then paint my designs on to with black tracing paint. First I paint the outlines and fire them in a kiln, then I paint in the shading and fire them a second time. I have also sandblasted the back of the clear float glass which has been painted with silver stain in places creating rich yellow and brown colours. these have also been fired for a third time. After my images are complete I lead my panel together before soldering and puttying it. Finally I set them into the lightboxes that I build myself. They are each lit with two fluorescent lights that are plugged into the wall.

(Panel 5Fair geis me the dry boke that yin!
Translation:That person makes me feel like I want to be sick.)

(Panel 5. Detail)

I created a series of panels based on Scots language because it is a subject close to my heart. I have always been very interested in storytelling and so this project has really fed into that. I am Scottish and I am used to hearing a wealth of sayings and local wisdom on a weekly basis. When we speak the words we use everyday we seldom think about their actual meanings. Each of these panels contains a Scottish saying that the design then illustrates. These are words of common usage where I am from and they explore the richness of my heritage. These phrases and sayings are poetic by their very nature. I was interested in de-constructing this visually as they already conjured up such surreal imagery in my mind.

 (Panels hanging in exhibition space)

Stained glass is traditionally seen in churches and depicts holy imagery. I have used illuminated lettering similar to that found on old Celtic or religious documents, often written by monks. These were very precious and never seen back when all books were handwritten. What was in them had to be of great importance because they took so long to write and illustrate. By framing my panels in this manner I elevate these colloquialisms to high lore with almost religious significance which old stained glass always had. The sayings are the modern day version of this, spoken as common knowledge. Doing this elevates local wisdom to gospel. This should create an interesting and comical juxtaposition between the religious/intellectual and rough everyday slang.  


  1. Very cool! Love the words and your depiction of them in glass!

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  3. Outstanding glass art, using such glass art is the powerful way to convey message.