WHAT I HAVE TRIED TO CAPTURE IS THAT FAMILIES - WHETHER RICH OR POOR, BIG OR SMALL - ARE COMPLEX CONSTRUCTS AND THAT THE PUBLIC FACE OF THE INSTITUTION MAY NOT ALWAYS MATCH WHAT ACTUALLY TRANSPIRES WITHIN.
I recall listening to Billy Connolly once as he joked about "deprivation" and how in reality when you were brought up poor - as he also was, in Glasgow - that you didn't actually realise you were poor. I never felt that way. My initial memories are from living in a standard Glasgow tenement in Memel Street - now demolished. We shared a 'close' with other families though I only remember one family who lived at the top of the staircase and who had a big dog whom I adored. In those days children were almost feral. We were always clean and tidy when we left the house but when not at school we were very much expected to get out and play after having done an allotted amount of house work. For the most part we were indentured servants who cleaned, washed, polished and hoovered the house every Saturday morning. We also had to learn a lot of skills such as wall-papering, carpet fitting and general DIY.
There were four children and I was the youngest. We would get up to all sorts of adventures some more hair-raising than others, a lot seemingly aimed at scraping together some extra money: we were quite ingenious at doing this. We moved to a new council estate on Balgrayhill when I was still young. The houses were terraced but generously sized and didn't 'look' like council housing that surrounded us. Our view, in the distance was a giant sprawling concrete estate that was and remains a little terrifying to me. However we lived next to Springburn Park and we spent a lot of our youth in that park playing games, boating, building forts or making bows and arrows from bamboo that seemed to have gone wild. We invariably came home "mocket" (filthy) and that was rarely rewarded.
My mother cared for us four kids and effectively ran the household budget which was limited as my father never held down a steady job the entire time I was at school. The home was a clean and tidy place with usually one dog (always called Rex) and two cats (Smokey & Buster who lived forever). Approaching the time to move onto secondary school I decided to "get on a bus" and literally find a decent school away from my part of Glasgow. I was fortunate and found learning easy and I seemed rare in actually enjoying the tranquillity that school provided. I knew as a "swot" I would be ruthlessly bullied if I went to the local school. Instead I found a decent school (Thomas Muir) in an area nearby that was more affluent called Bishopbriggs. Certainly I was teased for coming from a poorer area but I was never really bullied and I soon made a great group of friends who didn't mind my balanced lack of skill in sports but good achievement in most other subjects (bar languages). I was often amazed at the ease of my friends and classmates as they got trendy new trainers and tops whilst I made one purchase last for a year. I had started a paper round around this time and built it up over time and even expanded that from an evening round to then including Sunday papers as well. I was soon making a decent little income for myself. These fives years in High School were hugely formative for me and embedded a deep respect for education as a means to radically change the outcomes for everyone's lives as well as the need to work hard to make your way in the world.
These works explore the nature of family and are often inspired by events and incidents that are quite personal. However, what I have tried to capture is that families - whether rich or poor, big or small - are complex constructs and that the public face of the institution may not always match what actually transpires therein. I dedicate work to the spirit or character of family members - including those pets. On starting Family 3 (blue swirls), my mother actually got ill and died. This caused a lapse in my work whilst I perhaps over-thought how to capture her (blue in these works refers to a mother figure). I noted mum had actually lost one child at childbirth and so I decided to capture all five of the children she gave birth to - as I know she never ever forgot and in deed infrequently would mention her birthday. I also tried to capture a mothers innate flexibility and strength. Other works refer more directly to key memories and/or locations that seem to shine more brightly than others when I was thinking about what to do here. As with all my work hopefully everyone can view and perhaps be inspired to think about people and events from their childhood or family.