Erasure and Reinstatement : Gray the Artist, Across Space and Form

Glass, Rodge; Hames, Scott and Pittin-Hedon, Marie-Odile and Manfredi, Camille, eds. (2022) Erasure and Reinstatement : Gray the Artist, Across Space and Form. In: Scottish Writing After Devolution. Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh. ISBN 9781474486194

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In his home country, Alasdair Gray's art is highly visible. Though much essential work is elsewhere, its presence is most evident in Glasgow, the place he has spent his life. In terms of the visual practice, much of that life has been dedicated to doing two things. The first is preserving, in pictures and words, Glasgow's disappearing past. The second, also conducted across space and form, is imagining Scotland’s possible futures, seeing as he does Scotland as a place with the unfinished business of national self-determination. In this chapter, I wish to look at the possible future, the unfinished present, also at the disappearing past. When studying Gray's visual archive that past is critical, not least because until recently the artist's own work has been disappearing too. Not that visitors to today’s Glasgow would know it. In the West End, where he lives, Gray now seems inescapable. His work is not reserved for locals. You do not have to seek it out. Thousands witness it every day, simply by travelling there. In the following chapter, I will argue that Gray's art has consistently suffered erasure of various kinds, for decades being – unlike his widely celebrated literary output – largely neglected, replaced or destroyed. Using his murals – now an integral part of Gray's Glasgow – as case studies, I will then trace how the 21st Century has seen a radical reinstatement of Gray's visual practice into the landscape.