Watch: Glasgow artist Fraser Taylor on his homecoming show at Glasgow School of Art

Glasgow artist Fraser Taylor on the occasion of his major homecoming show which opens on Saturday 16 March at Glasgow School of Art.
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The exhibition reveals the previously unseen archive of Taylor for the first time. Instant Whip: The Textiles and Papers of Fraser Taylor 1977–87 Revisited will shine a light on the archive of Taylor, acquired by The Glasgow School of Art Archives and Collections as well as showing brand new large scale works he has recently made. Taylor’s archive highlights Glasgow as a place of creativity during the 1970s and 80s.

Detail from the cover of The Bluebells 7" single Cath, designed by Fraser Taylor PIC: Courtesy The Glasgow School of Art Archives and CollectionsDetail from the cover of The Bluebells 7" single Cath, designed by Fraser Taylor PIC: Courtesy The Glasgow School of Art Archives and Collections
Detail from the cover of The Bluebells 7" single Cath, designed by Fraser Taylor PIC: Courtesy The Glasgow School of Art Archives and Collections

Writing in The Scotsman, Fraser explained the background to the exhibition and his experience in Glasgow at the time: "In 2013 I was in Scotland on a yearlong sabbatical from my teaching position at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I was participating in a residency that was facilitated by WASPS Studios, providing me with work space and accommodation in Glasgow, Newburgh in Fife and Scalloway on Shetland. At the end of that year, I was in my Glasgow studio at The Briggait when three unmarked boxes were delivered from my storage in London.

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"They contained artwork from a ten-year period; 1977-87, spanning my time at Glasgow School of Art (GSA), the Royal College of Art and The Cloth, a design and fine art studio based in London that I was a part of. I had assumed this work had been lost during numerous moves between studios and continents.

"Opening the boxes was astonishing. They contained sketchbooks, drawings, textile designs, lengths and samples of printed textiles, magazines, photographs, exhibition announcement cards and ephemera. I think there were over 600 items crammed into those boxes. It was particularly exciting to see the sketchbooks as I feel this is where ideas are formed and explored. There was an immediacy and directness that jumped off the pages and I was surprised by the assurance I had to make images at such an early age. It was evident that the core of my practice was drawing, allowing me to advance a physical understanding of materials.

"The boxes contained a plethora of things that prompted very vivid memories of Glasgow. One in particular was the invitation to my 21st Birthday party at the Vic Café at GSA. There were many magazines which contained articles on The Cloth which I founded in 1983 with David Band, Brian Bolger and Hellen Manning. The Cloth worked on a diverse range of projects in London and New York. During the four fast years that we worked together we hosted many events in Glasgow in various nightclubs and bars, and I was glad to see that I had kept the printed invitations.

"My immediate question was: what was I going to do with this discovery? I would be returning to Chicago in a few weeks so I had to move fast. Jimmy Cosgrove, who was the head of department when I studied Printed Textile at GSA, visited my studio. He was thrilled to see the contents of the boxes. He said adamantly “The Glasgow School of Art Archives and Collections Department should have this work so that students can have access to it and use it as an educational tool.” Before I knew it, the work was being delivered to their site.

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"I feel grateful to have lived and studied in Glasgow in the late 70s and early 80s. Despite a landscape of political and economic turmoil, there was an astonishing energy and determination in Glasgow. I enrolled at Glasgow School of Art in September 1977. Full of conflicting emotions, I stood nervously in the Mackintosh Building waiting to register. I scanned the room looking at all the unfamiliar faces wondering what was going to happen. Who would I become friends with? My gaze settled on a few faces. I’m not sure why, but my selection was good. Those people became my friends and impacted my life in ways that I could never imagine. My GSA experience was amazing. I loved every moment. The creative atmosphere in the studios was intense and bursting with experimentation, allowing me to find my own visual language."

"One of my most memorable experiences was in my third year. I had an interest in making garments and wanted to learn how to cut clothing patterns. My tutor Liz Munro arranged for me to study with Trisha Biggar who was the costume designer at Citizens Theatre. The Citz staged radical and visually stunning productions directed and design by Philip Prowse. Trisha taught me how to cut shapes working directly from the body and she reinforced the importance of taking risks, working with urgency, and being open to investigation, which led to surprising unexpected results. Trisha’s career sored as she moved to Hollywood to becoming the legendary costume designer for Star Wars.

"To help subsidise our student grants my friends and I had part-time jobs in a number of new fashionable bars and restaurants that were opening in Glasgow. These establishments were keen to employ young creatives. This not only provided income but encouraged new social and creative connections between diverse communities, building a shared network. This web was central in forming collaborations between artists, designers, writers and musicians. We had no internet or mobile phones, therefore meeting in bars and clubs was critical and the only way to connect and exchange ideas. We met regularly, knowing which bar our friends would be in on any particular night of the week. In Glasgow there was a vibrant, curious group of artists who took advantage of all that was happening and they wanted to be part of it and more.

"The Apollo was staging important contemporary music from around the world. A surge in new bands were emerging in Glasgow with Postcard Records at the centre. I met many of the band members in The Rock Garden, a pub on Queen Street where art students drank. Those meetings resulted in an invitation to collaborate with The Bluebells and Friends Again, designing and creating artwork for their record sleeves and printed textiles and t-shirts that would be incorporated into their live stage performances.

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"The hairdressing community was very also important, led by Irvin and Rita Rusk, whose vision and awareness of contemporary design impacted Glasgow and beyond in significant ways. They asked art students to create fashion for their extravagant hair shows. In the mid 80s, the Rusks commissioned me to design the graphics for their hair product range, which was to be launched in America.

"The idea of the exhibition Instant Whip evolved over the last ten years and focuses on the content of the three boxes. I left Chicago and moved back to Glasgow in 2017, allowing me to develop the concept. I have been working closely with Dr Helena Britt, programme leader in Textile Design at GSA, researching my archive and observing how revisiting it has impacted my practice today. In 2022 Panel, a curatorial arts organisation based in Glasgow and led by Catriona Duffy and Lucy McEachan, approached Helena and I. Panel helped us to realise our vision and the obvious location for the exhibition was the Reid Gallery at GSA, as this is where the story started. I hope people will embrace and enjoy the energy of the staging of the work, which highlights the importance of working and playing hard, and developing communities and friendships."

Instant Whip: The Textiles and Papers of Fraser Taylor 1977–87 Revisited, Glasgow School of Art, 16 March until 20 April

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