The Best Shows to See During Glasgow International

We’ve selected our favourite exhibitions and projects, including a presentation by Turner Prize nominee Delaine Le Bas and Susan Philipsz’s collaboration with students

BY Lou Selfridge in Critic's Guides | 06 JUN 24

Kim Bohie | The Modern Institute | 6 June – 5 September

Kim Bohie, Leo, 2023. Courtesy: the artist, Gallery Baton and The Modern Institute/Toby Webster Ltd., Glasgow

A dog makes any painting better, or so it seems. In one canvas from the series ‘Leo’ (2023), Kim Bohie’s black labrador retriever looks back over his shoulder like the eponymous subject of Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring (c.1665). In another painting, the dog appears to spread out, sunning himself beside blooming pink flowers, a patch of sea visible in the distance. Leo certainly seems like a diva, but Kim’s paintings are relentlessly undramatic in contrast, enjoying the stillness of quiet observation, the sublime silence of empty landscapes; paint is applied so sparingly that, if you look particularly closely at the leaf fronds in Towards (2019), you can see the strokes of an almost-dry brush against the canvas. These simple, pure paintings come at you, palms open, as a record of something beautiful – honest confessions from a place and a moment worth looking at. 

‘Radio International’ | King Street Car Park | 7 June – 23 June

Susan Philipsz and Radio International Collective Radio International 2022
Susan Philipsz and Radio International Collective, ‘Radio International’, 2022, installation view at Manifesta 14, Prishtina. Courtesy: the artists; photograph: Paul Barsch

A silver Opel Corsa in King Street Car Park may not seem like a site for art, but get inside the car and you can experience ‘Radio International’ (2024), a series of sound works transmitted via radio. The project, a collaboration between Susan Philipsz and students at Dresden University of Fine Arts and Glasgow School of Art, is constituted of over two hours of recordings; the works are best received in chunks, rather than listening to the whole thing in one sitting. Contributions range from Patryk Kujawa’s From Jean to Jean, Twice, drawn from the first and last letters written by Jean Cocteau to his lover Jean Marais, to Celeste Aurora MacLeod-Brown and Nat Hairsine’s Alphabet, an encrypted message composed of various seemingly-random noises, from which a ‘sonic alphabet’ is constructed. It’s worth visiting both to experience Philipsz’s thoughtful construction of the project and for the introduction the recordings provide to the work of various young artists. Just be sure to hop in the right car. 

Delaine Le Bas | Tramway | 7 June – 13 October

Delaine Le Bas, Incipit Vita Nova. Here Begins The New Life/A New Life Is Beginning, 2023, installation view. Courtesy: the artist; photograph: Iris Ranzinger

Three bottles of Delaine Le Bas’s urine sit on a shelf, beside which hang a series of prints, each depicting a bottle of Zigeuner Sauce (Zigeuner Sauce: Pisslotovs 150620, 2020). In the year Le Bas created this work, the popular tomato and paprika sauce was renamed Hungarian Sauce in recognition of the implicit racism of ‘Zigeuner’, a German word used by the Nazis to describe Roma and Sinti communities. In her prints, however, Le Bas has scored out the word and stuffed a rag in the top of each bottle, transforming them into Molotov cocktails. Other works in this expansive exhibition include a six-metre-tall sculpture of a woman holding snakes in both her hands (Goddess, 2019), and a handwritten copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with Mickey Mouse’s face painted in the centre, red paint falling from his mouth, the Disney character rendered as an icon of capitalist greed and the words ‘£ $ OVER HUMAN RIGHTS everywhere’ hanging above the painting (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 2013-). Le Bas’s work here is, as ever, brash and bold.

‘Anticipate, Sublimate’ | 83 Portman Street | 7 June – 23 June

Alexis Kyle Mitchell, The Treasury of Human Inheritance, 2024. Courtesy: the artist; co-commissioned by Glasgow International and The Vega Foundation

In one corner of a former church hall hangs a package of oxtail stew, vacuum-sealed into a small, airless bag, rippled like the folds of a brain. In the opposite corner, pinned to the wall, are two signed test reports verifying that the stew is safe to eat and providing a breakdown of its nutritional values. The repurposed hall housing Ima-Abasi Okon’s sculpture is vast and, aside from the small objects in its corners, largely empty; the physical distance between the two items adds to the feeling that the paperwork has almost nothing to do with the stew, institutional documents failing to capture anything beyond the most basic details about it. In an adjoining room The Treasury of Human Inheritance (2024) plays, an hour-long film by Alexis Kyle Mitchell which flickers through old family videos, recordings of online physiotherapy sessions and footage of a tarot reading, telling an intimate history of disability and disease in Mitchell’s family and beyond. The film becomes increasingly disjointed, and in its last moments, the image is almost completely taken over by visual warping and macular distortions, all colours fading to white.

Jamie Crewe | Radclyffe Hall | 25 May – 23 June, Saturdays and Sundays, 12:00–16:00

Jamie Crewe , Defixiones , 2024
Jamie Crewe, ‘Defixiones’, 2024, installation view. Courtesy: the artist and Radclyffe Hall; photograph: Sean Patrick Campbell

Look at the eyebrows in Jamie Crewe’s new series of painted portraits. Some of the brows are almost impossibly thin, while others merge into a monobrow, bushy hairs meeting across the bridge of the nose. It’s not just the eyebrows that vary wildly, either. Some of Crewe’s subjects appear unconvincingly posed, while others look almost glassy-eyed, caught in a moment of in-betweenness. Painted from a range of reference photos, Crewe improvises on the basic outline of a face: these people don’t exist, at least not as they appear here, each painting instead formed from a collage of real and imagined features. Alongside their oil paintings, Crewe includes several inscribed lead sheets (‘Newark Drive defixio’, 2024) and an air harp (Wet Harp, 2024), lending a soft, enchanting feel to the space – even if at times the harp sounds unsettlingly dissonant. The setting recalls Susan Sontag’s observation in Against Interpretation (1966), that ‘[n]one of us can ever retrieve that innocence before all theory when art knew no need to justify itself.’ These paintings, however, need not justify themselves: they are, quite simply, very good.

*No image supplied 

Cameron Rowland | Ramshorn Cemetery | 

Ramshorn Cemetery is a strange sort of urban idyll, its patchy grass consumed by weeds, dappled shade falling from deep-rooted trees. Buried within are many of the Glasgow merchants who benefitted handsomely from the labour of enslaved people on plantations in North America, including tobacco traders John Glassford and Andrew Buchanan. It’s this history that the American conceptual artist Cameron Rowland will confront when they close the cemetery to the public. For now, there is scant information surrounding this ‘unauthorized closure’, in keeping with Rowland’s wider opacity – the artist refusing, for instance, to provide more than a skeleton of biographical detail about themselves. Rowland’s obstruction of Ramshorn Cemetery, however, promises to recentre its connection to this racist history, disrupting the small but steady stream of visitors hoping to enter, asking them to question a space they might otherwise walk through without a thought to who is buried there, and with what money they bought their plots.   

Main image: Delaine Le Bas, Incipit Vita Nova. Here Begins The New Life/A New Life Is Beginning, 2023, installation view. Courtesy: the artist; photograph: Iris Ranzinger

Lou Selfridge is a writer based in St Andrews, Scotland.