Professor Alan Riach of Glasgow University gave a talk on the relationship between the arts and nationhood at last week’s North Bute Lit meeting.
He explained how since 2014 he has written many essays for the National newspaper on literature, poetry and politics. He then went on to describe his recent book Arts and the Nation which arose from his conviction that “Scotland can never be really democratic until it gives the arts the priority of place they demand”.
This year Alan has used his own poetic talents in a travelling exhibition entitled Landmarks : Poets, Portraits and Landscapes of Modern Scotland. Using illustrations from the exhibition catalogue he described the collaborative work between himself and the two artists Sandy Moffat and Ruth Nicol.
Sandy Moffat’s striking 1980 group portrait Poet’s Pub, set in 1960s Edinburgh, and his individual portraits of poets such as Norman McCaig, Hugh MacDiarmid and Sorley MacLean were the starting point for Ruth Nicol. She painted large landscapes of the areas of Scotland which had influenced and inspired each of the poets.
Alan’s contribution to the exhibition was to select excerpts from the great writers’ works to display alongside Ruth’s and Sandy’s paintings. Also included was some of his own poetry linking together the visual arts, the written word and the political climate.