[Picture of Alexander Stoddart working on a bust]It was extraordinary. It really was. Back in the early 1990s Glasgow was basking in it’s year of culture and garden festival.  Architects Page and Park built the Italian Centre and kicked off the whole idea of a new quarter to the city — an addition to the arrondissements municipaux for Glasgow, what-is-now-known-as the Merchant City. The crowning glories of this building are the commissioned statues by Sandy Stoddart.

Imagine — a massive classical statue was transported from a workshop in Paisley to Glasgow city centre — traffic was in disarray!

I really admire Sandy Stoddart as a sculptor, but mostly for rebelling against the rebellion, for being true to sculpture – and that for me is incredibly important; this is not 2D, not a painting or illusion, this is grand public sculpture, and I have always held that genre aside for special respect and attention.

I like that Stoddart slags off Tracy Emin and Damien Hirst.  I like that he did excel in the modern ways before calling a halt and going full-out for the ancient traditions.

From Wikipedia:

Stoddart went, aged seventeen, to train in fine art at the Glasgow School of Art where he studied from 1976 to 1980.

There he settled on sculpture and initially worked within the modernist vogue.

Stoddart has recalled an epiphany moment several times: when, after finishing a riveted metal pop-art sculpture (praised by his tutors) he found a bust of the Apollo Belvedere,

“I thought my pop-riveted thing was rubbish by comparison. It’s extraordinarily easy to pop-rivet two bits of metal together and extraordinarily difficult to make a figure like the Apollo, but I thought I had to try.”

Stoddart wrote his undergraduate thesis on the life and work of John Mossman, an English sculptor who worked in Scotland for fifty years. His work remains an influence on Stoddart.

Stoddart graduated in 1980 with a Bachelor of Arts degree, first class, though he was demoralised by his peers’ ignorance of the art history: “the name Raphael meant nothing to them”.

He went on to read History of Art at the University of Glasgow.

Afterwards, he worked for six “difficult” years in the studio of Ian Hamilton Finlay.

Although Hamilton Finlay is considered one of the most important Scottish artists of the 20th century, Stoddart profoundly disagrees with his working methods:

“Finlay was the godfather of a problem that’s rampant everywhere today. He called the people who made his work ‘collaborators’. What we call them nowadays is ‘fabricators’. They’re talented people who are plastically capable, but they never meet their ‘artist’. They’re grateful, desperate and thwarted.”

Sandy’s work is just wonderful, and I actually love that people don’t even realise that this style still lives, that new works are around — the statue of David Hume on The Royal Mile in Edinburgh and more.  Most folks I guess would imagine these to be Victorian.

I like his work, I like his approach and I like his attitude.  His statues enrich where I live, and are quickly assimilated into the background — which is nevertheless a grand background.  The Second City of the British Empire deserves Alexander Stoddart’s work!


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