Patricia Cain: Drawing (on) Riverside

June 2011

Publication: The Times

Over the past four years the former Pointhouse shipyard on the Clyde has been a hub-bub of activity around the construction of the new Riverside transport museum designed by Iraqi architect, Zaha Hadid. Hadid’s building is a typically grandiloquent, arresting but oddly minimalist gesture – an essay in line and form. Seen from the air, the latest addition to Glasgow’s rapidly regenerating waterfront resembles a wave or gently-cascading waterfall.  The completion of a Hadid building is rarely a quiet affair – the new museum, which opens on 21 June, is no exception and has already attracted international attention.


During the construction process Glasgow-based artist, Patricia Cain, has acted as a kind of unofficial ‘artist-in-residence’ for the project.  She has skilfully recorded the nuts, bolts and guts of the building – now artfully concealed behind Hadid’s gleaming, zinc-plated exterior.  Using a variety of techniques – and collaborating with a number of other artists and designers – Cain, with a great deal of dogged determination, has succeeded in assembling a large body of work which demonstrates a mature skill in conception and execution. 


Cain’s work with architect-artist Ann Nisbet takes the form of a large stylised sculpture which uses the languages of ship-building, architecture and sculpture – a wooden-ribbed hull has been plated using the same technique and materials as Hadid’s larger structure. Elsewhere – demonstrating diversity of technique and an enquiring, experimental approach – Cain has worked with digital and graphic artist Phil Lavery to create an elegiac film of Glasgow’s recent past which incorporates words by the late Edwin Morgan, music by P.J.  Moore and film clips showing the demolition of parts of Glasgow in the 1960s Oscar.  Cain’s collaborations with glass artist Alec Galloway and printmaker Rosalind Lawless show a real exchange of ideas and techniques.


Cain carefully considered the content of her show – to contextualise her own approach she has included work by other artists such as the great Muirhead Bone and the lesser known William Simpson.


Cain’s imagery is devoid of a human element – an essential component in the progress of the structure and one which Cain’s artistic predecessors such as Léger, Stanley Spencer and, indeed Bone, did not ignore. This ‘omission’ may disappoint some who see such large scale construction as an partnership between human toil and technological prowess. But it’s clear that Cain’s focus is very much on the formal and compositional aspects of the building process. Here, she succeeds wonderfully.