JOSEPH MCGLENNON: SKYESTAGS
A collection of eight photographs by Joseph McGlennon.
Edition of 8 + 2 AP
'When I was a boy living in Glasgow, my granny had a biscuit tin she kept in a secret place. I would see her carefully removing things from it once in a while and, over time, realised it was where she kept the household money. The details are hazy, but its effect on me still lingers. On the tin was printed a bulky red stag against the violet hills and watery skies of an isolated Scottish wilderness. It was Sir Edwin Landseer's The Monarch Of The Glen - A more fitting fiscal guardian would be hard to find.
Leaving your birthplace behind rarely means forgetting it and I’m as proud of my ancestry as anyone. Walking into our home in Adelaide, South Australia, was like stepping into a time warp, a Scottish-annexed state where the tyranny of distance had been erased, vast oceans crossed and where you found yourself standing on highland ground. All around were mementos of the old country: paintings, crests and biscuit tins bearing familiar Scottish imagery.
I have always been drawn to the formality of Victorian painting; its structure and pictures layered with meanings that are understood through a shared knowledge of symbols and their context. The images in this exhibition, Skyestags, are set against the dramatic landscape of the Isle of Skye and the stunning Attadale Estate. These regal stags are the protagonists in a narrative that needs to be unravelled by closer inspection.
Working with the taxidermy departments at the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, and the Kelvingrove Museum, Glasgow, I am able to invite scrutiny that might otherwise be difficult to achieve. The viewer will discover that both the foreground and the distant landscape are not just washes of colour, but rich in the kind of absorbing detail that only close proximity can fully reveal. The taxidermy brings its own legacy and history. In Skyestag 8, one might imagine Queen Victoria herself viewing this 19th-century taxidermy piece from the Kelvingrove Museum. For me, it was a great find in the labyrinth that is the museum's storage.
My work has a recurring theme: the fragility of beauty and experience. It represents an endeavour to remember and preserve what once was. Not for nostalgia's sake (we all know there's no future in that), but rather how loss defines us. This series identifies the link between Landseer’s paintings and the identity of a small, passionate, northern European nation called Scotland.'