Alec Galloway opening Timewinds ExhibitionAlec Galloway opening Timewinds Exhibition

Maggie Bruce by Alec Galloway

The following is an extract from a speech by Alec Galloway
made at the opening of the Timewinds Exhibition in March 2009

We are told by those supposedly in the know that ART and SCIENCE don't mix. Scientists analyse and inquire, eventually coming up with clinical facts. Artists on the other hand dream and express emotion as they try to unravel and understand how the world works. How could such extreme and diverse branches of human enquiry ever co-exist?

I believe that the work of Maggie Bruce demonstrates precisely how science and art can not only co-exist but also actually succeed in a union of the two spheres, and certainly in these new works demonstrate that one could not have happened without the other.

I first met Maggie in 2006 when she very kindly showed me around her work as part of a winter group show here in the McLean. I remember the day vividly and of how I was struck by the ingenuity of her work. At first glance, especially with someone like me who is short sighted, I was drawn in by the richness of the colour and forms. They reminded me of tiny paintings by Chagall, rich in detail and very vivid and unusual in their colour schemes.

However closer inspection revealed that they were not actually paintings at all but photographs. I was immediately hooked, and started to really look deeply into the tapestry of images. What I found intriguing was the fact that many images were montaged together, a range of rich layers of recognisable views, landmarks, buildings and objects, all based on Maggie's photographs from across Inverclyde.

The more I looked, the more they revealed themselves to me, and the more immersed I became in them. But more than just a collection of images randomly placed together the works were poetic and told a story. I was impressed by the craftsmanship and like many inquisitive (nosey!) artists, with faces pressed up against the glass, I couldn't unravel how they had been made. Where were the torn edges, the collaged textures and lines, the little mistakes and blobs of glue that are usually evident in collaged work?

I could see none. The pieces were clean, meticulous, beautifully crafted and assembled, which for someone who works in a very slap dash and messy way was very impressive but also highly distressing! I immediately felt the urge to run home and clean up my messy studio! (Artists are sensitive about this stuff!!). Each image told a story and I was drawn into each one as I began to try and unravel the mysteries within each piece. They were like little puzzles that demanded attention, challenging the viewer into de-coding their mysteries.

These attributes are, for me, what make Maggie's works so engaging and full of depth. We are drawn into the story and I am certain that every one viewing comes away with having experienced something different from the next person.

Maggie Bruce by Alec Galloway

The following is an extract from a speech by Alec Galloway
made at the opening of the Timewinds Exhibition in March 2009

And so to this most recent body of work. Timewinds - the idea, for what has become the first artist in residence scheme at the McLean, was hatched back in 2007. Curator Val Boa decided that it would be a great idea to have someone deal specifically with pieces of the museums collection, and Maggie was duly chosen to fulfil the task. But this would not be a normal artist in residence scheme where the artist is given carte blanche, as well as financial support and acres of space ....

Oh No. This proposal would deal directly with the museum's permanent collection, those pieces displayed by the museum and also a few hidden pieces that fill the shelves and vaults behind the scenes of the public display. The subs bench if you will!

Many of you will be familiar with the history of the museum and know that it underwent a major overhaul in 1990. This meant a major restructuring of certain areas and also meant trimming the collection to fit the new layout. When I look at Maggie's new works now I am reminded of certain artefacts that I used to see in the old collection. Memories are sparked of rainy Saturdays spent as a child with my friends pouring over glass cases filled with exotic beetles, huge spiders, African masks, and all to the background sound of unsupervised, misbehaving children dodging in between huge pieces of shipyard engineering and grizzly bears! I'm sure that anyone who has been familiar with the museum over the years will also discover some familiar hidden artefacts of their own in these magical new artworks on display.

I think another thing to recognise is the ambition of both Maggie and Val in realising this project .The sheer scale and physical nature of the works is clearly very impressive and I think demonstrates the level of commitment from Maggie and Val. I was amazed to see the individual size of each piece, especially because I know Maggie's normal comfort zone in terms of scale is no larger than an A3 piece of paper! If we were to equate this leap in scale to another artist, someone like Jackson Pollock who produced 5-meter wide canvases in his prime then his paintings would be about the size of the Municipal buildings! Quite a feat and not always easy to adapt to, but as you can see Maggie has managed to pull it off with style.

Its clear that she has worked tirelessly over the past two years and those of you who know her will bear witness to her scrupulously thorough methods of working. Only Maggie Bruce could have produced such an in depth and meticulous study. Only Maggie could have had the patience to undertake the rigorous technical and analytical processes that require great discipline in realising these artworks.

Maggie Bruce by Alec Galloway

The following is an extract from a speech by Alec Galloway
made at the opening of the Timewinds Exhibition in March 2009

If we cast our eye around the room and take in some of the detail we find that there is a lot going on in these works. They are far more than just a collection of random images collaged together. I recently asked Maggie who were her biggest influences in terms of her development as an artist, expecting her to rhyme off a list of illustrious photographers, pioneers in the field of image making. However it was actually a painter - the Scottish artist Ronald Forbes whose name came to the fore. I was very pleasantly surprised by this, and immediately understood why Maggie would cite him as an influence. Forbes uses a variety of images in his paintings, which are painted on canvas, and he very successfully, and dynamically plays with the picture plane itself. His work juxtaposes seemingly unrelated objects and symbols which develop a relationship through placement. His manipulation of scale creates rich vocabularies of ambiguous imagined scenes and scenarios. I was able to understand fully why Maggie would find inspiration in his work, and I can certainly see echoes of his influence in the way she too places and composes her symbols texts, colours and forms within the picture plane.

When I look at both artists I can understand why Maggie takes inspiration from Forbes work, but it would be unfair to ignore perhaps the more subliminal influences that I feel are also evident in these new pieces.

For me any artist who deals in the placement of ideas in a collaged fashion owes some debt to Picasso who pioneered the technique during the 1940's and perhaps his spirit can be found in the some of Maggie's decision process when deciding which symbols should have prominence and which ones should assume a quieter role. I can also sense some of the photographic adventurism of pioneers such as Man Ray and Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, and even coming up to date with contemporary practice, the photomontages of Scottish artists Callum Colvin and Callum Angus definitely spring to mind.

I think that it would be true to say that these works definitely challenge the notion and categorically prove that Art and Science do mix. Without the science and technology it would have been impossible to document through the medium of photography the original visuals from the collection that these works celebrate. Without the science of computer programming it would have been impossible to take those photographs and feed them into a computer before manipulating, colouring and composing them into the works of art that you see here today.

However it is Maggie's artistic sensibility that has informed the final outcomes and only the decisive actions and inquiring eye of an artist could have placed specific symbols, forms colours and textures together with such deftness and skill.

On a final note and in answer to the question can Art and Science mix, we don't even have to look at the work to find the answer. Maggie Bruce is living proof that they can both work in equal harmony. She is a Scientist who became an Artist.

Alec Galloway
March 2009