Review of Stuart Duffin exhibition March 2019

I managed to catch Stuart Duffin‘s exhibition “If Angels Cast Shadows….” on Friday, the day before it finished at the Compass Gallery, Glasgow.   However, the Gallery keep excellent photographic representations of past exhibitions, so you can find pictures from this exhibition even now on their website.

Stuart’s work is immediately recognisable for its draughtsmanship, detailed accuracy of lines, recurring appeals for peace, with symbols of birds, eggs, graffiti, and his great Motif: Jerusalem (in 1996 he had his first residency in The Jerusalem Print Workshop, followed by another brief visit to open a solo show in 1998.  He has been back on several residencies since.).  Cezanne had his Mont Sainte-Victoire, Duffin has Jerusalem.  Best known for his Printmaking, this exhibition is slightly more unusual for containing more paintings. (This exhibition, with expanded printmaking aspect, will transfer to Jerusalem in June)

“I seem to end up in places of conflict or know friends who experienced it in Croatia, Yugoslavia, Russia and Jerusalem all of which have influenced my work and deepened my thoughts”. – Stuart Duffin, Compass Gallery website


Reverse of Catalogue

The style of the work ranges from black and white Victorian Gothic “If Angels Cast Shadows” to pieces of modern graffiti as part of the work. (See pic of reverse of Catalogue)

I absolutely loved the small format mixed media collage on panels , with screws in each corner apparently bleeding aged rust – (although the ‘rust’ is painted).


Stuart Duffin video

The other standout for me was in the centre of the room: an 11 minute video piece “Still Dreaming of Jerusalem”: Stuart’s photography and video work of modern-day Jerusalem, with overlaid typography from an official document reinstating Israel as a nation, with the sunlight gleaming through leaves on a tree (olive branches) – in such a way that it seemed to be an apparition, almost human form (angel?) breaking through, shimmering into reality.  The ancient stones are shown underfoot, in walls, framing the moving modern people – if these walls could cry out – well, they seem to be, as Stuart’s pictures seem to appear on top of the walls.  The whole piece is edited with great understanding, with slow mixes and fades, by Melanie Sims.  Lovely contrasts between the moving and the still, text, picture, black and white, colour.

Screen shot 2019-03-31 at 13.26.10
Composer Malcolm Lindsay (on website)

The music is fittingly compassionate, melancholy and evocative:”Jerusalem” by composer Malcolm Lindsay was itself inspired by “the street sounds collected by Stuart Duffin in Jerusalem”.  The music was written based on both the audio sounds and the visual photography brought back from Jerusalem and is an integral part of the whole audio visual piece.  The music then in turn inspired a return trip to film more footage and also guided a particular approach to choreographing in the final work.

“The whole thing is very much a cross media collaboration between Malcolm, Melanie and myself  with each component part informing and inspiring the others.”      – Stuart Duffin

(Although the performance used on the video by BRNO Philharmonic seems more difficult to trace, there is a version readily available with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra on the album “Malcolm Lindsay: After the Snow”)

As I watched the video, I stood entranced, half in Glasgow, half in Jerusalem, until the repeating of video images used at the start gave a clue that it was time to re-emerge fully back to Scotland, present day.  This is the power of good video – it is a time-based medium but yet helps you travel through time and space to experience other cultures/places.  The editing gave it a meditative quality, fitting the title “Still Dreaming of Jerusalem”.

Compass Gallery

Compass Gallery

As well as producing a quality A5 catalogue – just the right size to carry in the hand – the Gallery hosted Stuart Duffin in a Q&A about his work, at the exhibition’s launch.  I was truly impressed by the gallery itself – staff were genuinely helpful and informative, knowledgeable about the artist’s work and referred me to other sources of information including a review of the artist’s talk.

Stuart Duffin, Compass Gallery
Stuart Duffin at Compass Gallery
Stuart Duffin exhibition
Compass Gallery Stuart Duffin

It was a very pleasant space to browse art – there’s something about having paintings and prints, which are essentially flat, displayed among 3D sculptures, interesting furniture and flowers which helps you see them as pieces of art to look good in a home, lived with, enjoyed, not just clinically presented flat slabs in a white box of a room.