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Jan Patience: Extraordinary show of the power of art

© SYSTEMGrant Glennie’s A Number Of Losing Lottery Ticket Swans
Grant Glennie’s A Number Of Losing Lottery Ticket Swans

Aberdeen-born Joyce Laing was a pioneer of the practice of art therapy. Laing, who died in July aged 94, worked in prisons and hospitals over the course of a long career.

She coined the term “Art Extraordinary” for art created by untrained artists during therapy sessions.

At Barlinnie’s Special Unit in the 1970s, Laing encouraged some of the most violent inmates, including convicted murderer Jimmy Boyle, to make art. When he left prison, Boyle went on to become a sculptor.

Laing was a believer in the transformative power of art. She collected art, much of it from mental health institutions. In 2012, she donated her collection of more than a thousand works to Glasgow Life Museums.

Kelvingrove Art Gallery is hosting a display called Unlocking The Extraordinary, the permanent part of which exhibits art from Laing’s collection.

The temporary part is hosted by charity, Outside In, and features work by eight Glasgow artists.

Grant Glennie has created an eye-catching”flotilla” of delicate origami swans made of losing lottery tickets. Talk about a metaphor for life…

Cliff Andrade’s felt tip pen drawing, Journey Through A Therapeutic Landscape is a beautiful high-key colour odyssey across Britain, made after he walked from John O’Groats to Lands End while recovering from surgery for bowel cancer.

Another Andrade work is Journey Through An Internal Landscape; a “mood chart” made of colour-coded plasticine. Black is “low”, orange is “good”.

I was drawn to Adam Christie’s stone heads. The Shetlander spent most of his adult life in a psychiatric hospital. These sculptures exude an odd primordial, even humorous, power.

My takeaway is that humans need to create to communicate.

It’s a powerful message.


A visit to House For An Art Lover in Glasgow’s Bellahouston Park always throws up some unexpected pleasures. Not only is the main house a beautiful space, with a fine cafe (and tasty scones), the adjacent Studio Pavilion hosts a programme of exhibitions.

Its latest is Alison Harley’s thoughtful and ethereal Drawing With Colour. The exhibition explores ideas of colour and abstraction through a series of original prints on paper which “talk” to a small group of three-dimensional forms.