Tony Swain: Impure Passports

16 February - 20 April 2008. Tues - Sun, 10am - 5.30pm

Tony Swain

Tony Swain: installation view, "Impure Passports", Inverleith House, 2008.

Tony Swain's paintings have an uncanny air of familiarity. Deriving their material from newspapers and magazines they keep just enough of their source visible to maintain a link with the "day-to-day", while at the same time transforming their mundane props into something very quixotic. It's as if a photographically mediated reality - and the substance of newsprint itself (with all its journalistic associations) were morphing under our eyes, releasing an unforeseen magic.

Forms as architectural as they are organic arise from starting points as nuanced as mere shadows and wrinkles on a magazine page, while the paintings' slight and fragile forms are made to incorporate a varied array of interacting elements - from the spliced found images, to the tactile and luminous features of the applied substance itself. Their careful fabrication, evident in qualities of subtle editing leads to works that are transcendent in their affect. Layers of images, colours and textures work their curious magic on the viewer - just as a sophisticated musical composition will insinuate itself through layers of tone, instrument and sound.

The beguiling colour scheme (often suggested by the appropriated media) gives rise to fictitious illusions - such as fragmented landscapes, infernos or depictions of intimate, but obscure still-lives. Sometimes the paint seems to affect a direct transformation of a corporate aesthetic or lifestyle-magazine trope; but honed to an elegant atmospheric composition the works also link to broader histories of painting, touching on surreal, impressionistic and abstract genres.

Tony Swain was born in Lisburn, Northern Ireland in 1967 and studied at Liverpool Art School and Glasgow School Art, graduating in 1990. Recent exhibitions include ‘To Get Her' at Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York in 2007, ‘Not New, Went On' at Millais Gallery, Southampton, 2006, ‘The Flashes That Came to Stand For Us' at The Modern Institute/ Toby Webster Ltd, Glasgow, 2006, and ‘Never Even' at Herald Street, London, 2005. In 2007 Swain was among the artists chosen to represent Scotland at the 52nd Venice Biennale. He lives and works in Glasgow.


Laurence Figgis, Glasgow, February, 2008.

On Saturday 5 April Inverleith House presented a gallery talk on the work of Nick Evans and Tony Swain with Dr. Sarah Lowndes. 

Tony Swain

Tony Swain: "Remembered as one", 2008. Acrylic on pieced newspaper.

Tony Swain

Tony Swain: "This is a false world", 2008. Acrylic on pieced newspaper.

Tony Swain

Tony Swain: Detained in the centre, 2008. Acrylic on pieced newspaper. 

All works are courtesy of the artist and The Modern Institute/Toby Webster Ltd., Glasgow.

Photos: Ruth Clark. 

A new publication: Tony Swain, Paintings (published 2008: DuMont Buchverlag/The Modern Institute) is available at Inverleith House.

Download: Jack Mottram - Has he got news for you - The Herald, March 7, 2008

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