John Taylor: Glasgow & Sometimes Further Afield

Publication: The Times   
August 2016

JOHN TAYLOR: Glasgow & Sometimes Further Afield
Glasgow Print Studios 

The artist John Taylor, who celebrates his 80th birthday this year, worked for many years as a printmaker at Glasgow Print Studios. His work is closely associated with screen-printing and other print forms. Here, in a series of works completed in the past ten years, he shows that he equally adept as a watercolourist. This medium is traditionally associated with landscape, seascape, and still lifes. Its essence is rurality, the pastoral and a kind of softness of vision which the thinness and delicacy of paint somehow engenders.  It is less often associated with urbanism and the depiction of city-scapes and post-industrial structures. It is therefore a mark of the confidence and experience John Taylor lends to the medium that these scenes of canals, flats, city doocots, railways and pylons seem so convincing, and so appropriate. There is something quietly celebratory about these images. They do not suggest decline but rather a sense of spirit of place, born of affection and familiarity. Although these images are entirely devoid of human figures they are full of the impact of human presence. The doocots of Ruchill and Partick, which line the banks of the Glasgow branch of the Forth and Clyde Canal, are tall, distinctive structures made from improvised materials. They are rightly celebrated as part of the city’s rich architectural heritage and testify to a way of life which has endured for generations.  They are one of the many types of vertical structure which punctuate the city’s horizons. It is difficult to conceive of electricity pylons or blocks of high-rise flats as structures which should be admired. In Taylor’s hands the delicacy of  his medium somehow transforms these from threatening imposition to welcoming components of a real, all-encompassing vision. A work such as Shortening Winter Day seems to combine all the elements associated with traditional watercolour (the play of light and a kind of translucent beauty) with the vision of a post-industrial city. In Taylor’s way of seeing, all of this is worthy of inclusion and depiction. For those who miss the rural, there are a number of scenes of a highland village and fields and farmland surrounding the West Highland Way. Although skilful and pleasing these images do not have the impact of the scenes Taylor depicts from his home patch, with all the affection and intimacy that these reveal.