Jack Mottram, 'Review' (The Herald, 07/05/2008)

This show has been a long time coming. In 1971, a short film for the BBC was proposed, a tale of a woman raking over the coals of a failed relationship, the story told in a series of flashback scenes made up of paintings by Alasdair Gray and poetry by Liz Lochhead. This promising project was shelved, and Gray’s work for it was sold, given away to friends, and even lost. Now, all the works are here, reunited and restored, and matched once again with Lochhead’s poems.

The result is at once a tantalising glimpse of what might have been, and a standout show in its own right. For those familiar with Gray the artist from the illustrations in his books, these complex, colourful paintings may come as something of a surprise - they are unmistakably in his style, but less stylised, more free, and peppered with intricate detail.

In Snakes And Ladders, Gray lavishes attention on the board game, with its worryingly lifelike snakes, and the rug it rests on, but leaves the woman considering her next move as a light sketch, the brown paper he uses throughout the series in place of canvas showing through. In the rather hallucinatory Credit Panel for the unmade film, lurid skyscapes frame delicate portraits of Lochhead in an Afghan coat, and Gray himself, peering over his specs.

Wonderful stuff. It is fitting, too, that Gray is showing at Glasgow international: while he has a good few years on his peers in the festival, he is a key influence, often unacknowledged, on many an artist working in the city today, not least for his broad, holistic polymathic approach to making work, be it written, drawn or painted.