Glasgow School of Art Fire

Glasgow School of Art Fire - Mackintosh Eye

Glasgow School of Art Fire

On the morning of Saturday 16th June 2018, I awoke to the shocking news there had been another Glasgow School of Art Fire. The Glasgow School of Art Mackintosh Building, was once again ablaze. 

The first blaze, in 2014, happened while I was on holiday in the USA. I was in a bizarre Air BnB in San Diego, a garden hut called the studio. I sat in that tiny wooden space, trying to take in the news from over 1000 miles away. So many mixed emotions about a place that had helped shape my future as the artist I am today.

This time, I was in my home in Garnethill, just a few blocks away from the Mackintosh building. The air was full of the smell of smoke as we left our apartment and went out to see the scene. Police cordons were firmly in place and we could only see the smouldering mass of stone and gnarled steel from a distance along Renfrew Street. Excess water poured down the other end of Hill Street as the fire fighters continued to pump countless gallons of it into the building. Two days later and this is still the case.

As I walked through the park, in shock of how such a thing could happen again, memories of my time there began to surface. Whilst at the Glasgow School of Art my dissertation was on the typography of Mackintosh and as part of that study, I looked closely at the designs of ‘the four’ where emblems of nature frequently punctuated the designs of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, the great architect. Glasgow used this typography and the natural form designs as city emblems as part of the branding for the city of culture in 1990. The rose has since become synonymous with Mackintosh and  ‘Glasgow Style’ (even though it was from the work of the MacDonald sisters). I have also been studying tattoo design, with a hope to becoming Scotland’s oldest apprentice, so the traditional symbol of the crying eye came to mind as I thought of all the tears being shed by past students, staff, benefactors, visitors, the craftsmen and designers that had worked over the last 4 years on the school’s reconstruction.

I decided, for once, to just sit down and do something, a drawing, to express my own grief and dismay at this tragedy so close to home. I used charcoal to draw the eye to represent the cinders (even though there was plenty of actual ash in our car park) and incorporated the rose into the iris. It was done quickly in a heartfelt way, so a little rough and ready compared to my usual design work.

My Art Lover’s eye cries for a great loss to the city in terms of culture and history, as well as identity. No one knows yet if the building is salvageable. I hope it will be rebuilt as it was perfect in it’s design for painters with it’s north facing windows. If it cannot rise, perhaps a garden, as the Mackintosh four would have relished, could be planted. A place to reflect on the rise and fall of great things, leaving space for great things to rise once more.

Glasgow Live have been kind enough to write a little piece about my drawing too

4 replies
  1. Helen Aiken
    Helen Aiken says:

    Good morning Fiona – a very quick “thank you” for the amazing charcoal image – It sums it all up for me and everyone else as to the tragedy of it all. Your art work is amazing. Wishing you all the best. Helen Aiken

  2. Sharon Gray
    Sharon Gray says:

    Hi Fiona – Don’t apologise for the roughness of the drawing to me it gives off the intensity of emotion you were feeling at the time and most likely still are. And to be honest i think anyone who has ever stepped foot into The Mack or ever had the honour of being a student/teacher there would understand the sentiment behind it. The charcoal is a perfect fit to the drawing and it’s a beautiful piece. All the best. Sharon Gray.


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