This work is one of 4 prints by Alasdair Gray commissioned by Edinburgh Printmakers in 2011 for the exhibition The Writing on Your Wall. These bold and colourful prints were developed from a series of black and white drawings previously published in Gray’s books. Working closely with Alastair Clark in the print studio, the drawings were meticulously developed and transformed with Gray on hand at all stages despite commuting from Glasgow. They were made in August, coinciding with the Edinburgh Festival so Gray would regularly have to ‘nip out to give a talk’ or attend an event.
Aladair Gray is an artist, writer, illustrator and muralist. He is most notable for inspiring audiences with his epic novel Lanark (1981). Gray is known locally for his eccentricity and internationally as a central figure of the literary world.
Gray’s visual style is witty and accessible. His visual motifs include amazonian women; bearded men; a foetus within a skull; self-portraits; portraits of the his friends; doves and dogs. Gray mused “my portraits show me as an illustrative decorator.” This refers to the atmosphere and attention in his work. He promoted fellow writers, and enjoyed making images of friends and their children. His sitters appear idealised, more innocent than in life. Gray was born in Riddrie, son of working-class parents, and a lifelong socialist and Scottish nationalist. He lived Glasgow all his life, save for a four-year spell during the second world war, when the family moved to Yorkshire.
Gray is celebrated as “the father figure of the [late 20th century] renaissance in Scottish literature and art”(1). He was named Glasgow’s official artist recorder in 1977 and made images of the city and its people for the People’s Palace Local History Museum.
The major project of his later years – perhaps the greatest of his non-literary career – was the mural decoration of Oran Mor, an arts and leisure centre in the converted Kelvinside parish church. In November Gray received the inaugural Saltire Society Scottish Lifetime Achievement award. Gray passed in December 2019.