Glasgow’s visual arts ecology is moving east. Or at least that’s how it can seem, with The Telfer Gallery the latest venture to take root in the city’s east end. Based on the third floor of a former call centre in the more central Merchant City area for the last four years, its move is part of the wider relocation of Many Studios, a not-for-profit community interest company.
Joining a growing number of art spaces in the area, including The Pipe Factory, David Dale Gallery & Studios and Market Gallery, Telfer is situated in the former ‘Charlie’s Market’, a one-storey building on Ross Street just round the corner from the famous Barrowland Ballroom and Barras Market. The new gallery occupies a compact 37m² – a small, public-facing part of the still under construction Many Studios complex, set to open later this month.
With its full-height window and entrance onto the street – which at weekends is lined with market traders – for Telfer director Marc Cairns the gallery’s connection to its surroundings was key to his simple, utilitarian design for the space.
“It gives visibility,” he says, speaking with the urgency of someone who knows there’s more to be done before the building can welcome its studio tenants. “But it’s not only about increased visibility for the organisation – it’s also for the artists that we curate and programme annually.”
While Glasgow’s reputation as a hub for international artists is well known – a short walk west will take you to The Modern Institute whose stable of artists includes Martin Boyce, Richard Wright and Cathy Wilkes – Telfer’s focus is squarely on new, emerging artists.
“I think there’s a bit of misunderstanding about Glasgow,” says Cairns. “People think there’s all these galleries and everyone’s on the rota, but it’s still quite restricted in terms of who presents in a lot of those spaces.”
For that reason, the gallery is programmed through open call and, says Cairns, has a “very democratic” approach to selecting artists through a selection panel of 10. With no public funding for the running of the space, exhibitions and an annual off-site residency are supported in kind by Many and rely on funding from individual applications to trusts and other bodies.
“We’ve not had any funding from Creative Scotland,” says Cairns, “but for the past two years every artist who has shown in the gallery has had a fee of £350 plus a materials budget and support to install the show.”
Capital funding, however, has been forthcoming; the relocation of Many Studios and the Telfer Gallery is all down to the snappily-titled Barras Vacant and Underused Floorspace Grant Scheme – a £1.6 million pot of regeneration money that forms part of Glasgow City Council’s wider Calton Barras Action Plan. The council has recently announced that a further £27m is earmarked for the area from the UK government’s £1.2 billion Glasgow and Clyde Valley City Deal.
Many is one of four arts venues that have been funded by the underused floorspace scheme, the others being the studio and gallery space The Pipe Factory (set to reopen in April) music and arts venue Saint Luke’s, and Barras Art and Design Centre. Many’s £432,000 grant has enabled the building to be converted into 40 studio spaces for artists, designers and others in the creative industries. It will also be home to Pidgin Perfect, the creative studio run by Cairns.
The first show in the recently opened new space is from printmaker Abigale Neate Wilson, a 2013 graduate of Glasgow School of Art. “It’s a nice surprise to be first,” she says. “I was meant to be third but because the building took longer I’ve ended up being the inaugural show.”
Neate Wilson was also the 2015 off-site resident artist – part of the residency package is a show at Telfer – and this is her first solo exhibition. Her prints are informed by ongoing research into the psychogeography of cities, and in this case Glasgow in particular.
“I think the work itself kind of makes sense in this area of Glasgow and what the building represents,” she says. “It’s visually speaking to the building.”
While over 200 applications were received for the 2016 programme, April’s show by London-based Australian artist Sam Smith came about by a different route. Part of Glasgow International’s supported programme, the gallery submitted a proposal to the biennial festival and was delighted to be accepted.
It is, believes Cairns, a vindication of all the hard work that has been put into the gallery over the last four years. “It’s important to be part of something,” he says. “It just really confirms for us that people see the space as part of the landscape of the city.”
Back or Again by Abigale Neate Wilson continues at The Telfer Gallery until 13 March 2016; Sam Smith: The Horizontal Window runs 8-25 April 2016 as part of Glasgow International’s supported programme. www.the-telfer.com
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article misspelt artist Abigale Neate Wilson’s first name. This has now been corrected.