Issue 196
Winter 2016


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Jun 27, 2017
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    Quite the thing at Kelvingrove


    IN AN AGE of fast moving video games, it is perhaps surprising that comics continue to be popular, but one of the reasons may be that, as with books, there is always the possibility of returning to the scene and observing fascinating details at leisure.

    So, in an exhibition of work by Frank Quitely (aka Vincent Deighan) at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum in Glasgow, many of the visitors poured over pages of The Broons, Desperate Dan and Superman, carefully reading the individual panels and often laughing over the witty drawings.

    Indeed, they could go further: at the end of one of the rooms was an enormous mural showing Superman flying over Kelvingrove itself and, in a corner, baskets of masks and capes which the visitors could put on before taking photographs of themselves visiting the art gallery and museum in disguise.

    The foreword of the catalogue points out that comics have a long history in both Glasgow and Dundee, and that, in the former, The Glasgow Punch, founded in 1932, predates the London Punch Magazine by nine years, while in the latter, D.C. Thomson has been publishing comics since the second part of the 19th century.

    However, Vincent Deighan is a recent addition to those artists involved in the genre. Born in 1968 and educated at St Bride's High School in East Kilbride, he began drawing comics at an early age and, indeed, was so worried that his parents might not like what he was doing that he adopted his pen name (excuse the pun!) of Frank Quitely to hide his identity.

    By the 1990s, he was spoofing The Broons by drawing The Greens for the underground comic, Electric Soup, and not long after that working on The Sandman, Flex Mentallo, Pax Americana and We3.

    In the exhibition, there is plenty of space to display his work that is shown by delicate drawings in pencil on paper, drawings in pencil, and pencil & ink, on Bristol board, drawings in liquid acrylic and gouache on water colour paper, and digitally produced prints.

    There are also murals and short lengths of film, a few 3D models and a Superman cape.

    The work demonstrates Quitely's tremendous versatility and, in particular, his ability to create movement in the panels within page layouts and an almost super reality in some of his huge faces. And the images vary from the romantic to the horrific. There is even a painting showing a car rushing through a crowded street that looks as if it might have been done by Johnny Johnstone on speed.

    Besides showing the work (including murals done specially for the exhibition), there is also information on the people Frank Quitely collaborated with, including the writers Alan Grant, Bruce Jones, Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison and Mark Millar. And the catalogue suggests that Quitely's artistic work belongs to the rather unorthodox tradition set by other Glaswegian artists, including Martin Boyce, David Shrigley, Christine Borland and Douglas Gordon, all of whom studied at Glasgow School of Art, as did Quitely (though very briefly).

    The catalogue also notes that, in the Comic Invention exhibition held at the Hunterian last year, Quitely was shown alongside Rembrandt and Lichtenstein, and that this year, Quitely will receive an Honorary PhD from Glasgow University. Well, you can't get much more Establishment than that!

    Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum, until October 1

    RICHARD CARR

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