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This collection presents some artists who have been inspired by the intertwining of work and our everyday lives; our horizons, our emotional life, the accessibility of leisure time, and our agency as political members of society. It also presents some documentation of the world of work specifically related to the industrial past in and around Glasgow.



Film still: Kate Davis,  Weight, UK, 2014, HD Cam, B&W/ Colour, Stereo, 11:06 min. Courtesy of the artist.  A black and white film still of a white woman standing next to the stove and sink  of a 1940s/1950s kitchen, she is drinking from a china cup , and is wearing a flowery apron.

Film still: Kate Davis,  Weight, UK, 2014, HD Cam, B&W/ Colour, Stereo, 11:06 min. Courtesy of the artist.

Kate Davis lives and works in Glasgow, she works across a range of media, including film/video, drawing, printmaking, installation and bookworks. Questioning how to bear witness to the complexities of the past, Davis’ artwork is an attempt to reconsider what certain histories could look, sound and feel like. This has often involved responding to the aesthetic and political ambiguities of historical art works and their reception.


The film Weight, which was a co-commission between LUX and the BBC, takes a 1961 BBC documentary about Barbara Hepworth as its starting point. It explores how televised depictions of creativity constructed our understanding of artistic production and other forms of labour. Weight re-imagines the value systems that this documentary is predicated upon and proposes an alternative vision.

Reversibility (Militant Methods), 2011.  Framed pencil drawing and silkscreen print on paper 135 x 80cm. photo: Ruth Clark. Courtesy of the artist.  A drawing and silkscreen in the style of the front page of a pamphlet from 1908. The text (printed in green) reads "The Militant Methods of the N.W.S.P.U. Christabel Pankhurst LL.B. Published by the Woman's Press, 4, Clement's Inn, Strand, W.C. Price one penny." The oval drawing in the middle is a pencil portrait of Pankhurst, made in a way to replicate the damage on the original pamphlet, which has distorted her features and means some text from the following pages is slightly visible. 

Reversibility (Militant Methods), 2011.

Framed pencil drawing and silkscreen print on paper 135 x 80cm. photo: Ruth Clark. Courtesy of the artist.

The Militant Methods of the NWSPU is a transcription of a speech made by Christabel Pankhurst in 1908, which detailed the NWSPU’s need for, and use of, a militant approach to their endeavours. Davis discovered this small pamphlet in one of Glasgow Museums’ archives and was startled by its damaged state and the fact that the portrait of Christabel Pankhurst printed on its cover had been defaced and her features somewhat eradicated.

Here we can see the artist’s attempt to capture in a drawing every detail of Christabel Pankhurst’s defaced portrait. This tender yet disturbing reclamation is framed by the text from the pamphlet’s cover (in its original font and layout) and displayed as a largescale poster. (Glasgow Museums)

More of Davis' works can been seen here.



Dorothea Lange was an American photographer. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, she used her photography as a way of reporting the plight of the unemployed and hungry, this is seen in one of her most well known photographs, Migrant Mother (1936).


“Her concern for less fortunate and often overlooked individuals, and her success in using photography (and words) to address these inequities, encourages each of us to reflect on our own civic responsibilities. It reminds me of the unique role that art—and in particular photography—can play in imagining a more just society.” (Sarah Meister)

Dorothea Lange, Migrant Mother, black and white photograph, 1936, public domain image. A black and white photograph with lots of grey tones depicting a white woman with a concerned frown looking into the distance, she's wearing a worn cardigan and loose check shirt, her hair is cut in a bob. Her right hand is touching her chin. She is holding a -just visible - baby in a blanket and two small children are snuggled up to her facing away from the camera with matching short cropped bob haircuts and worn clothes.

Dorothea Lange, Migrant Mother, black and white photograph, 1936, public domain image.



Click on the image below for a mural gallery.

Murals are artworks that are painted directly onto a wall, often outside in public space, so they bring art directly into the public sphere. They are sometimes commissioned by councils or private funders, or organised through the community, sometimes they are 'unofficial' and take people by surprise when they appear. Early forms of mural can be seen as cave paintings; find out more in the DRAWING section of the website.

In the middle ages murals were made directly onto dry plaster, and then from around 1300, in Italy, the method known as fresco secca was used; mixing colour pigment with wet plaster. In 16th century Europe, a process whereby oil paintings on canvas were attached to walls was popular. The Mexican Mural movement from the 1930s - celebrating the Mexican Revolution - generated many murals with strong political and social messages. In Germany, The East Side Gallery is a small section of the Berlin Wall that remains as a monument to the fall of the wall and holds mural artworks painted in 1990. There are many contemporary murals filling empty wall spaces today, usually in urban environments.

Alasdair Gray's celing mural in  Òran Mór , Glasgow. CC image. The mural is highly detailed and depicts several narrative illustrations that range from mythical symbolism, astrology and the relationship between human life and 'nature'. The background colours are strong blues and the images are bright white outlines with other vivid colours.

Alasdair Gray's celing mural in  Òran Mór , Glasgow. CC image. 

Gray's ceiling mural (in collaboration with Nichol Wheatley) for the auditorium of the Òran Mór venue on Byres Road is one of the largest works of art in Scotland and was painted over several years. It shows Adam and Eve embracing against a night sky, with modern people from Glasgow in the foreground

CLICK HERE for an online project documenting the mural in Garnethill, Glasgow, initiated by John Kraska.

CLICK HERE for a clip of John Byrne discussing his mural on a gable end in Partick.



Workers leaving the Singer Sewing Machine Factory. Public domain image. The image is an aged black and white postcard depicting the Singer factory, with clock tower and two tall chimneys, railway lines running towards it and crowds of workers walking away from the factory, facing towards the camera.

Workers leaving the Singer Sewing Machine Factory. Public domain image. 

Originally made for the BBC by Maurice Smith, this documentary looks at the story of Clydebank, and a homage to its great product, the Singer sewing machine. A social and economic history of one of Scotland's great former industrial towns, and the people who made it famous.



Charlotte Ginsborg , Rose Kowalski, Wake Work, (film still)  2007. Courtesy of the artists and LUX, London. A colour film still depicting a city scene with tall terraced housing, blocks of flats and taller buildings in the distance. The colour is slightly washed out.

Wake-Work is a 16mm film that explores what it means to work. Its subject matter is one building, Shacklewell Studios, a converted warehouse, and the people employed there. As a cinematic portrait the film cuts across genres of documentary, art and drama to provide an intimate social document of the changing working patterns taking place in east London at the start of the twenty-first century. 



Sylvia Pankhurst was a prominent Suffragette, and later an anti-fascist campaigner, as well as being an artist. She trained at Manchester School of Art, winning the prize for best female student in 1901, going on to win a scholarship to the Royal College of Art, London. In 1907 she travelled around England and made portraits of working women, including those in Staffordshire potteries to the Glasgow cotton mills. 

Her artwork - and work made by others involved in the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) - has similarities with its contemporary, the Arts and Crafts movement in that it fuses functional crafted items with political ideas. She designed tea sets and banners amongst other things.

Pankhurst's artwork was recently displayed at the Tate as part of the centenary of votes for women.

More information can be found about her work HERE and HERE.

Sylvia Pankhurst: WSPU Membership Card. Courtesy of Helen Pankhurst. The text on the membership card reads "The Women's Social and Political Union Member's Card. Women demand the right to vote, the pledge of citizenship and basis of all liberty. Issued by the National Executive Committee. Hon Secretary Mrs How Martyn, & Hon Treasurer Mrs Pethick Lawrence, 4 Clement's Inn, Strand, W.C. The image is a painting of a group of women in long skirts and aprons holding a banner that reads "VOTES". They are variously carrying buckets and a baby. It is painted in a simple realistic style predominantly in brown and blue shades.

Sylvia Pankhurst: WSPU Membership Card. Courtesy of Helen Pankhurst.



Watch the video above to hear about the textile design and production of the famous Paisley patterns at the Paisley Museum and Gallery.

The patterns stem from Persian and Indian designs; the teardrop shape growing from stylised flowers and other natural forms. In the 18th and 19th centuries, in the wake of continued British colonisation and oppression throughout the world, old silk trade routes were used to transport goods, and shawls from Kashmir patterned with the teardrop designs made their way to the UK. They were very popular. By then weaving had become the main aspect of Paisley's industry, and versions of this fabric were produced, eventually using Jaquard looms, which enabled more colours of thread to be used in one piece. (Sources here and here)

Wool & silk Paisley shawl, circa 1830. Public domain image. A photograph of a piece of fabric made from a Paisley design; a repeated pattern of a teardrop type shape in muted brown and cream colours.

Wool & silk Paisley shawl, circa 1830. Public domain image.




"Oscar Marzaroli is arguably Scotland’s most notable documentary photographer. His photographs and films of Glasgow from the 1950s through to the 1980s captured a period of enormous change with images of people going about their lives in the city, at work and at leisure.

Many of the black and white images depict children playing in the streets, and many simply capture the city in bygone days. Some of his most well known images detail Glasgow's Gorbals community in the 1960s. He was a photographer of great ability who captured the nature of the city and people with sensitivity and empathy. Whilst many of Marzaroli’s photographs of Glasgow are instantly recognisable, such as ‘The Castlemilk Lads’ or ‘The Golden Haired Lass’, Marzaroli worked all over Scotland and further afield as a photographer and filmmaker" (Streetlevel Photoworks)

CLICK HERE information about the Marzaroli Archive.

CLICK HERE to watch Glasgow 1980, a documentary directed by Marzaroli in 1971, speculating on how Glasgow would look in the 1980's after the redevelopment of its traffic system and the construction of new housing developments.



Click on the vide above to watch a BBC documentary about Duke Street, Britain's longest street, running from Glasgow city centre through the heart of Glasgow's East End. Elegant Victorian tenement blocks line the road to the south of Duke Street. Yet just 40 years ago, those tenements were under threat. This is the story of how a group of pioneering residents took on the Glasgow Corporation in a battle to save their homes.



William Morris (1834 – 1896) was a British textile designer, poet, novelist, translator, and socialist activist associated with the British Arts and Crafts Movement. He was a major contributor to the revival of traditional British textile arts and methods of production.

Find out more at the V&A website HERE.

Click on the image below for a gallery of Morris' designs.



Painting The NHS

"Aliza Nisenbaum is best known for her bright, large-scale portraits of people and community groups. Inspired by the dedication of Liverpool's key workers, the artist has created a series of paintings of NHS staff from Merseyside who have worked tirelessly for their community during the pandemic. Follow the story of how Aliza made these works and hear the personal stories of the NHS staff."


" Mexican-born artist Aliza Nisenbaum joined Hirshhorn assistant curator Betsy Johnson for a discussion about her vibrant, community-based portraits, which have taken on new meaning during this time of social isolation. Nisenbaum’s best-known artworks are intimate portraits of fellow immigrants—a natural outgrowth of her volunteer work on projects such as artist Tania Bruguera’s Immigrant Movement International (IMI)—many of whom are undocumented and accustomed to living in a state of relative invisibility. A firm believer in the importance of interpersonal relationships, she has developed a practice that is founded upon an attitude of openness and collaboration with her models, empowering them to make choices about how they are represented and soliciting their feedback throughout the process. Recently, Nisenbaum has begun to incorporate images of people dancing into her paintings, inspired in part by a quote from writer and activist Alice Walker, “Hard times require furious dancing.” A salsa dancer since her teens, the artist frequents social arenas, such as salsa dance clubs, to observe how people assemble in spaces that offer community, and sometimes sanctuary, for groups that often face scrutiny for their age, gender, nationality, or sexual orientation. Her models are selected from these experiences, and together they tell an uplifting story about people, their histories, and the power of empathy."

Hirshhorn Museum



Mike Dibb 'Naturally Creative. This film was a speculative feature length documentary for Channel 4 about the origins of human creativity, developed in collaboration with the late writer and art critic Peter Fuller.

Documentary filmmaker Mike Dibb is perhaps best known for Ways of Seeing, his pioneering and vastly influential television essay on art and society made with John Berger, but he has directed dozens of important films in a career spanning six decades. Diverse by nature, Dibb’s work has traversed the fields of post-colonial literature, improvisatory jazz, and the very nature of concepts such as creativity and play, while always remaining grounded in everyday experience. (Vimeo)

CLICK HERE for a link to Whitechapel Gallery's online exhibition of Dibb's work, including online talks and essays.

Mike Dibb 'The Country and City'. This film formed part of “Where we Live Now”, a BBC2 series, made up of five separately directed one hour films, each presented by a different writer.



by Neil Bickerton

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