Magazine article Art Monthly

Roderick Buchanan

Magazine article Art Monthly

Roderick Buchanan

Article excerpt

Roderick Buchanan Gallery of Modern Art Glasgow April 5 to October 28

Presenting portraits of Celtic and Rangers players in response to Glasgow Gallery of Modern Art's project to deal with sectarianism and division within Glasgow seems almost provocative on Buchanan's part because it is such a very obvious thing to do. Revolver, 2007, one of the new pieces in this exhibition--so titled to evoke the 'revolving door' of contemporary football clubs--could be said to work, like much of Buchanan's previous photographic portraiture, to emphasise the individuals behind a particular uniform or team identity. It is apparent from the images that some of the Celtic and Rangers players are neither Glaswegian nor likely to be acquainted with the Catholic or Protestant backgrounds with which the teams have previously been synonymous. Names, printed on the shirts, such as Du Weir, Naramura, Kyrgiakos and Sebo, stand out as being phonetically and culturally foreign; they are, indeed, difficult to pronounce, as if their 'otherness' were branded upon our flaccid, domesticated palettes. The central message--as put forward in the exhibition--is that one of the effects of the growing international football market has been to make arbitrary the relationship between the provenance of the players and the team for which they play. It is a statement which, like many previous statements about Buchanan, sees his exploration of games, such as football, as a metaphor for broader issues at work in society. Here we are presented with a picture of globalisation at work.

Buchanan's insistence upon the same simple formal techniques, used in his early work, might have allowed subtle changes to emerge in his practice, but it hasn't really encouraged diverse readings of his work. My reading of Revolver is, in fact, typical of the language Buchanan's portraits have consistently engendered. The terms 'identity' and 'otherness', for example, seem to dog Buchanan, as if by using them critics can remind us of some connection his work might have with that of an artist like Cindy Sherman and thereby impart value to it by recourse to some vague notion of the politics of identity. 'Identity', in fact, seems so tied to that particular period that it appears like an anachronism--how do we define identity clearly when referring to Buchanan's contemporary work? Revolver demonstrates that the identity of Celtic and Rangers no longer supports further cultural or ethical assumptions regarding their players' backgrounds. …

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