Simon McAuley: Belonging

Project Ability artist Simon McAuley has had a busy year. Here, he talks us through solo shows in Scotland and Wales and a presentation in Paris.

Chapter 1: Solo Show at Project Ability Gallery, Glasgow, Scotland
November 2013

solo show glasgow 1

Simon’s work on show at Project Ability in Glasgow

A fellow artist,  once – or twice or many times – expressed his scepticism about the importance placed on solo shows as markers of success or necessary milestones, or something like that. Truth is I don’t remember his exact words but it was along those lines. Truth is I recall remembering more clearly prior to November 2013. Now that it has been a reality, I am a little foggy on the subject. Truth is I am a sceptic myself. Though I am a happier one, and with a feeling of liberation, I save my scepticism for other stuff.

The work I made for the solo show and catalogue were paintings and photographs. Abstract paintings revealing an interest in light. Ranging from the light of landscape to the luminous mists of deep space. The subject of the photographs was the strange, unusual or unexpected. In a prosaic kind of way.

As a result of this uncertain marker I came to acknowledge some of my personal qualities and, with more confidence, I stand by them.

Plenty of other things to be sceptical about.

Chapter 2: Presentation at the European Outsider Art Association annual conference, Paris, France
May 2014

Simon talking in Paris

Simon talking in Paris

The subject: Curating Outsider Art.

Truth is I am all for curators curating. Especially if they work in and around milestones. There are many good organisations supporting and working with artists. The conference was an opportunity for some of these to meet and exchange both with presentations and more informally. A variety of approaches to the notion of artists accessing the mainstream curatorial world were on offer. In fact, access seemed to be the main theme. In terms of the contemporary art world things have moved on recently. The mainstream art world is stirring a little with the notion of the outsider artist. Opportunities are there.

The contemporary art world has been thriving for quite a while on the image of the artist as outsider. Is this a different type of outsider?

Stigma shouldn’t get in the way. The artist should be regarded as an artist. If there is a sudden fizzing within the mainstream and artists are sought out for their authentic outsiderness it is possible that stigma may be cultivated. This is why organisations supporting the marginalised are important. Question is, should there be something or someone to act as a way to connect these areas. Sounds good to me. Especially if they can go that extra mile.

Which reminds me of the basic question my fellow artist was asking. Why is there only one model of success? Even: Is it a successful model?

As a result of this uncertain marker I came to acknowledge some of my personal qualities and, with more confidence, I stand by them.

Plenty of things to be optimistic about.

Chapter 3: Solo show at Celf Gallery, Llandrindod Wells, Wales 
May 2014

Image from the catalogue that accompanied Simon's exhibitions

Image from the catalogue that accompanied Simon’s exhibitions

Prior to my first solo show in 2013, I completed an artist residency with the organisation Celf. The confidence this gave me along with the support I received as part of the Reconnect programme at Project Ability was vital to the solo show and the publication of photographs in the accompanying catalogue. The show, titled ‘Light Space’ then travelled to Wales with new work. Paintings and photographs: my first solo show with photographs.

During my week in Wales I got the chance to catch up with friends and present a talk, which was less formal than Paris and, well, a chance to catch up with friends. Twice now I have been to Celf and on both occasions made to feel very welcome. I would recommend a visit; especially if like me you are a bit of an outsider. I am sure you too will feel very welcome.

As a result of these uncertain markers I became more sceptical of not acknowledging some of my personal qualities, and, came to be more optimistic about standing by them with confidence.

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