Roger Billcliffe’s footing within Glasgow is shown in the range of his gallery’s choices, says Jack Mottram
ROGERBILLCLIFFEGALLERY 134 Blythswood Street, Glasgow 0141 332 4027 www.billcliffegallery.com Mon-Fri 9.30am-5.30pm, Saturday 10am-1pm
Though Roger Billcliffe opened the doors of his gallery in 1992, taking over the building that formerly housed the Fine Art S o c i e ty of wh i c h h e w a s director, his association with the arts in Glasgow stretches back to the late 1960s, when he first oversaw the art collections at Glasgow University. Along the way, Billcliffe has published books examining the legacy of the Glasgow Boys and the Scottish Colourists, and a brace of highly regarded works on Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
This background sets the tone for Billcliffe’s work at his own gallery, which specialises in contemporary and 20thcentury painting, with works chosen according to simple criteria. “I show work which appeals to me,” he says, “and I’m much more interested in the painted and drawn than I am in the conceptual.”
That is not to say that the Roger Billcliffe Gallery is a fuddy-duddy establishment. Gallery Two is devoted to bringing work by younger artists to wider attention, and more challenging work is at home here among the landscapes, portraits and still-lives.
The programme of current and forthcoming shows further reflect the gallery’s general ethos. The main gallery is now playing host to the Land of the Mountain and the Flood, a group exhibition that gathers together work by gallery artists on the theme of the Scottish landscape, from Bill Wright’s still, quiet watercolour views of Jura to Michael Corsar’s cloud studies in oil, via the oddly tropical imaginings of Jack Knox and Alma Wolfson’s glowering skies.
After this showcase of established
Scottish artists, the gallery turns its attention to the next generation, with a show devoted to new work by emerging artists selected by Billcliffe as the cream of the crop of recent graduates. Then, to round out the year, the gallery will hold a set of solo exhibits from Mhairi McGregor, James Fullarton and Glen Scouller, before mounting its annual postcard show, which offers a valuable opportunity for collectors to snap up works by artists whose fullscale canvases command high prices.
As well as the themed group shows, support for young artists and the main business of solo shows of new work from the artists it represents, Billcliffe also deals in craft, design and applied arts. Since 1994, director Lynn Park has built a solid reputation for the gallery as a centre for the best in ceramics, jewellery, metalwork, silver and glass, initially by British makers, but with an increasingly international remit.
Interestingly, rather than simply stocking a range of work for sale, Billcliffe blurs the usual distinction between fine and applied art by mounting full shows by designers, offering visitors a chance to appreciate their practice as a whole. Recent highlights include Liz Tyler’s fluid, organic and ornamental jewellery pieces in gold and platinum, and Alan Craxford’s mix of simple forms, luxurious materials and hand-engraved patterning.
Michael Corsar’s oil, Late in the Day, is at the gallery as part of the Land of the Mountain and the Flood