“Glaswegians” by Stuart Murray
Stuart Murray is one of the most original, idiosyncratic and underrated artists in Scotland. He has garnered a cult following with his series of artist’s books documenting his life as a postman, doing crap jobs, doing even worse dole courses, and leisure time in pubs. All of his work is marked by an unsentimental, unjudgmental eye, as he documents his surroundings (the Gallowgate, where he works and lives).
The first collection of his work in a mass market paperback, “Glaswegians”. collects drawings from his books “In Pubs” and “People I’ve Met While Working”, which work as standalone drawings rather than the narrative sequence of other books such as “Bucharest”. I was very glad when Stuart recently told me that the book, which was published in the Autumn, has just come out in a second pressing. His work richly deserves a wider audience.
In many ways he’s a writer as much as an artist, with an ear as sharp as his eye, who credits James Kelman as more of an inspiration for his work than any contemporary artist – certainly, there are parallels between their sometimes poetic, sometimes darkly comic rendition of working class speech and minute observation of quotidian reality.
Another older writer/artist with whom he has an affinity, and who he has exhibited with, Alasdair Gray, has commented ‘Had you been keener on very fine draughtsmanship or fonder of writing your own social commentaries instead of reporting the words of others, you would not be such a successful, Almighty Gods, spy.’
Indeed, if you were to ask me which younger Glaswegian writer could pick up the baton from that fabled generation of Leonard, Kelman and Gray, Stuart Murray is the only name I could supply.
But how does he fit into the art world? Absolutely not at all in the context of the Scottish art world, although there may be a parallel in the work of Seamus Harahan, a remarkable Belfast-based filmmaker and video artist who also documents his surroundings with a rare humour and honesty. Given that Seamus has just won the Jarman Award, perhaps official recognition will come for Stuart too. Though I doubt that he really wants or needs it – though he has confessed that he could do with the money.
Being a postman gives Stuart access to his subjects on an equal footing – he’s well known and loved in his area, as is evinced by the number of monologues in which his characters directly address him in the drawings. Indeed, Stuart, who cuts a very distinctive presence, often figures as a character in absentia, never drawing himself.
It’s also typical of Stuart’s humility that he’d never mentioned the existence of this short documentary about him to me – though shot a few years ago, I think it gives a good flavour of the man and his work.
Glaswegians by Stuart Murray – Published by Hog’s Back Press