Saturday, 13 October 2012

Wall needed for Robert Stewart ceramic mural

Douglas Academy was opened in Milngavie, East Dunbartonshire, Scotland, in 1967. By 2009 the school was deemed no longer fit for purpose and a new PPP-funded school was built in its place.

Thanks to Peter Trowles, Mackintosh Curator at the Glasgow School of Art, the ceramic mural by Robert Stewart that was created for the original building at the time of its construction has been saved. There's one problem. The 800 or so tiles are sitting in crumbling cardboard boxes and lack a wall. Peter and a colleague spent two days painstakingly removing the tiles from their doomed site when the school was about to be demolished. What is now needed is a wall, preferably something around five metres by three metres, for the mural to be relocated to. In fact, the central block of the mural measures around 1.5 x 1.5 metres, so, at a push, a space that size would do.

I've already written about the significance of Bob Stewart on this blog, in relation to his similarly threatened mural at Eastwood High School, Newton Mearns.

As school estate is rebuilt, or being considered for redevelopment, more and more artworks have questionable futures. The Stewart at Milngavie was given considerable attention by Liz Arthur in her monograph on the artist (pp.125 and 127), and from the images and text its historic place is clear. Apparently 'inspired by the sight of a seagull passing in front of the sun while Stewart was lying on his back looking at the sky on holiday on Oronsay', this strong, polychromatic abstract work is a sixties icon that pays homage to Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Glasgow Style. Its days within a school environment might be over but surely it is worth reinstalling somewhere for all to see.

Students of the 'To School?' honours and postgraduate modules in the Art History department at the University of St Andrews were shown tiles from the mural when they visited the Glasgow School of Art, the cradle of Stewart's career between 1949 and 1984, on 10 October 2012. That same day they (and I) also participated in the research seminar dedicated to 'Sculpture in Schools' at Glasgow University's Institute of Art History.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Robert Stewart was my tutor at Glasgow school of art. He was inspirational. I greatly admired this particular piece of work. Can you tell me where it is now? I hope it has been preserved. Maybe a good place would be the new building replacing the Newbry tower or the textile centre at finneston.