Major Exhibition of Glasgow Artist Norman Gilbert Set to Open at Tramway

Glasgow’s Southside art space, Tramway is set to present the first solo exhibition of the work of artist Norman Gilbert (1926-2019) who lived and worked in the area for over sixtyfive years. During that time, he painted intimate, domestic scenes of his wife Pat, their four children and an extended family of friends and neighbours who frequented their home on nearby Shields Road.

Along with Gilbert’s paintings, Tramway is exhibiting his pencil studies as well as textiles, objects and ephemera from his studio, which was just minutes from Tramway.

Using pattern to dynamic effect, Gilbert embellishes every intricate detail of the painting, exaggerating outlines and contours to build depth and spatial complexity. This technique, combined with his inventive narrative eye, draws audiences into the paintings inviting them into Gilbert’s world in which he has teased out the daily rhythms and intimacies of family life.

In his own words Gilbert said“…each colour and shape enhances every other colour and shape, so it’s entirely satisfactory; so it’s at peace”

Gilbert’s studio was based in the family home and the interlacing of pattern and motif echo the confluence of art and life which defined his process. From the 1970’s fashions of his teenage children and printed textiles created by his wife Pat, to the architectural motifs of their Victorian tenement, Gilbert’s paintings are steeped in domestic life.

Perhaps most poignantly Gilbert’s work has also come to mark the passage of time, as fashions change and children grow, his subjects age and life unfolds. Notably his works feature his four sons as they grew up, formed relationships, and had children of their own. He also painted many portraits of his wife Pat, continuing into old age in paintings such as ‘Chair’ or ‘Pat’ characteristically titled simply but evoking in them the complex intimacies and inner emotional worlds that make up a life.

Gilbert continued to paint in his nineties through the final years of his life, and in the absence of people to sit for paintings, he turned to his garden and nature, making detailed pictures of plants. He also carried on painting the objects that have been constants in his work over the years, such as chairs, tables, ceramics, and textiles that feature repeatedly in his paintings, always managing to give them a new narrative and interpretation.

Whilst displaying a vivacity that defies adherence to formalist trends, each painting is also testament to Gilbert’s rigour and dedication to his practice over his 70 year career. His canvases were created over months through a meticulous process in which he first created the painting as a pencil drawing, following this as a black and white painted study before moving on to the final version in colour. Many of the black and white studies, incredible paintings in their own right, will feature as part of the exhibition.

The exhibition will be open to the public from 3rdSeptember 2022 – 5th February 2023.

Irene Brown

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