Glasgow Street Art

Today is our last full day in Glasgow. We walked across George Square to Brown’s, where we’d eaten last night, for breakfast. On our way back to the hotel, we called in to Glasgow City Chambers. The exterior of the building, which is no more than a 100 m walk from our front door, looks quite unremarkable. But when you step inside, it is quite stunning. Marg and I had discovered it four years ago when we were looking for a toilet stop on our bus tour. Today we wanted to show Janie and Neil. During the height of its shipbuilding industry, Glasgow must have been a fairly prosperous city, and this is definitely on show in its council chambers.

While Marg went off with Janie and Neil for a day of shopping and looking around, I went off in a different direction. I’d booked myself in for a hair cut later in the day, so I thought I’d use the four hours before that to check out some of Glasgow’s famous street murals. I got hold of a map from the hotel foyer and circled all of the locations listed on the Glasgow city council’s website, where it promotes the street art as a feature of the city. I figured out a route which would take me to the furthermost one first and then head back in the direction of the barber’s.

Along the way I was surprised by how familiar I was with all the streets I was walking and the places I was seeing. So much of today’s walk took me past the same places I’d seen and heard about on the hop on, hop off bus tour two days previously. Glasgow is a really easy city to find your way around. The streets are well signposted and it’s easy to use a few landmarks such as George Square, Buchanan St, High St and the Clyde River to get your bearings. I found every single art work I was looking for quite easily, with the exception of one which was recently removed. It got me wondering how long a work of street art should remain in place before it was able to be painted over with something else. And in between the art works, I just enjoyed becoming familiar with the city.

The first art work I visited was The Lost Giant by Australian artist Stormie Mills. It’s right at the end of Sauchiehall Lane, where I found some other unlisted artworks just a few doors down. I passed a few more on my way to Renfield Lane.

Renfield Lane features a work called Bubbles, which is in two parts on facing walls. I liked the No Parking sign by the dog, which some wag has now changed to No Barking.

On Mitchell St were three of my favourites. Wind Power features a girl blowing the petals off a dandelion. As they float off in the breeze, they become the blades of wind turbines, reflecting Scotland’s keen interest in renewable energy. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, by Australian artist Smug (Sam Bates) shows a woman appearing to pick a tiny object up from the street. And if you look closely at The World’s Most Economical Taxi, you’ll see that the artist has painted a brick wall to look like a brick wall.

In the Ingram St car park, the artist has painted many of the small animals that inhabit Glasgow. The mural, Fellow Glasgow Residents, is another work by Smug. It stretches the entire length of the car park.

The University of Strathclyde promotes itself as a place for ‘useful learning’. Its subjects include the sciences and engineering. Its murals celebrate some of its famous alumni and their achievements. There are also some fun art works that blend in with the structure, such as a girl entering a door and a pedestrian hanging onto a railing.

My two favourite works, both by Smug, depict St Enoch and Child, and St Mungo. Mungo is the patron saint of Glasgow. One of his miracles was to pray over the dead body of a robin and return it to life. The bird now appears on the city’s coat of arms. St Enoch was the mother of Mungo. The two works are on High St, just a short distance apart.

Here are a few other murals and works of art that I saw towards the end of my tour. I particularly like the two studies of a ‘Woman in Black’.

And I couldn’t visit Glasgow without paying homage to one of my all-time favourite entertainers. Billy Connolly was born and bred in Partick, a working class suburb of the city. He is universally loved, and Glaswegians honoured his 75th birthday with a number of portraits around the city. Here are two that I visited. They can be found in Gallowgate and Osborne St respectively.

By 2 pm I’d covered a good deal of the city and found everything I’d wanted to see. I’d planned my walk well, as my barber appointment was right around the corner from the second Billy Connolly mural I visited. I found an outdoor table at a tapas bar nearby for a late lunch. As I got up to leave, a huge sea gull swooped down on my leftover chicken bones and flew off with my scraps in its beak. It gave the little kid at the next table a bit of a fright. I quickly deposited my empty plates on the bar inside before the gull returned for more.

The hair cut was just what I needed. Four Glaswegian barbers kept up the banter between themselves and the other clients throughout. There was much laughter as they joked and carried on. I tried listening in but the accents were too broad for me and I only picked up the occasional word. Nevertheless, their good humour was genuine and it was fun to be in the midst of whatever was amusing them. We got talking about whisky and I left with a list of the best distilleries to visit and the address of ‘the best Guinness pub in Glasgow’. Halfway back to the hotel, I accidentally almost bumped straight into Marg, Janie and Neil. After all, Glasgow’s really not such a big place when you get the hang of it.

Here’s the map of my street art tour and the barber’s recommendations for ‘brilliant’ distilleries to visit.

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