John Calcutt

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John Calcutt (4 March 1951 - 11 August 2018).[1] was a British writer, curator and teacher, who mostly lived and worked in Glasgow. He was the co-founder and then Programme Leader of the Master of Fine Art (MFA)[2] at the Glasgow School of Art (GSA).

Calcutt was born in Chipping Norton, and initially studied Fine Art at the University of Edinburgh and Edinburgh College of Art, but after two years transferred to the History of Art department, gaining an MA (Hons) in 1973, specialising in European Art c.1750-1850. He continued his formal education at the Courtauld Institute of Art in 1974, gaining an MA specialising in Realism in European Art, c.1830-1860. His career in academia began as Lecturer in History and Theory of Art and Design at the University of Central Lancashire (formerly Lancashire Polytechnic), where he worked for twelve years before returning to Scotland in 1987 to take up a position of Lecturer in the Historical and Critical Studies Department at GSA. In 1989 he co-founded the MFA Programme with Sam Ainsley, and in 2005, he became MFA Senior Lecturer. He succeeded Sam Ainsley as MFA programme leader in 2007[3] and retired from this role in December 2016. He continued to work at the school after leaving the MFA when he became Director of Bureau de Change, an experimental discussion forum for both undergraduate and post graduate students. John Calcutt has been widely acknowledged as a key figure in the Scottish art world and influenced several generations of artists and writers. His life was profiled on the BBC Radio 4 programme Last Word shortly after his death[4]

In other roles at GSA he helped design the MLitt in Fine Art Practice Course[5], and was also its programme leader from 2012-16.

Calcutt also taught on the Open University summer school on a range of topics including Modern Art and Modernism and Modern Art: Practices and Debates. He also lectured on the Department of Adult and Continuing Education introductory courses on Modern Art at the University of Glasgow. A respected member of the wider higher education community, he acted as an external examiner at higher education establishments throughout the UK. He was closely involved with various arts organisations, including Glasgow Print Studio as a board member and the exhibitions committee at GSA, which selected and programmed shows in the Mackintosh Gallery.

He also worked at the CCA, Glasgow as a curator from 2004 - 2006[6]. The first exhibition he curated for the CCA was 'Ouroboros: The Music of the Spheres'[7] [8] with Jim Lambie, Christian Marclay and Robert Smithson amongst others. As Jack Mottram wrote in his review "Ouroboros sets the bar high thanks to it's peculiar internal logic and free interplay of ideas. Curator John Calcutt took an unusual tack in assembling the work seen here, beginning with broad ideas about music and art, allowing the selection process to reveal themes, rather than matching work to an initial concept." [9] A second CCA group show 'Like It Matters' (2005) brought together the "sculptural works of three young artists (Karla Black, Mick Peter and Michael Stumpf) alongside projected films by artists of another generation (Bas Jan Ader, Robert Rauschenberg and Carolee Schneeman). The intention was to suggest that our understanding of the earlier artists’ work might be modified in light of the work of the younger artists: in other words, that ‘influence’ could operate retroactively, in a kind of reversal of its commonly understood power".[10]

Calcutt was also a researcher and nominator for the Beck’s Futures Prize and also spend a period as art critic of Scotland on Sunday newspaper writing reviews of numerous exhibitions.

He wrote essays on the work of a number of artists and former students including; Sam Ainsley, Kenny Hunter, Nicolas Party,[11] Beagles & Ramsay, Jenny Saville, Graham Fagen, Christine Borland[12] and Douglas Gordon. In his writing Calcutt deployed many different approaches, styles and forms that were intended to explore the role of writing in relation to art and open up complex dialogues with the artists' work. For example the catalogue essay for 'Alison Watt: Fold. New Paintings 1996-97' had "a montage structure. The essay is typographically varied, employing a range of typefaces, font sizes and colours. The thematic currents flowing through the essay are addressed to questions of folding, cutting and sexuality. The contents and appearance of the essay were determined by an interpretation of the artist’s work in which imagery of folded fabric and pictorial techniques of ‘slicing’ were foregrounded. The essay employed ideas from a range of thinkers, including Derrida, Deleuze, Barthes and Lacan, whilst its typographic format is indebted to the example of Derrida’s 'Glas' (1974)."[10] Another example is the essay he wrote for the Michael Fullerton[13] monograph 'Pleasure In Nonsense, which claimed "that The Honourable Mrs Graham, the sitter in Gainsborough’s 1775-77 portrait, may have been an industrial spy, murdered in France after an unsuccessful attempt to acquire secret information concerning French porcelain manufacturing techniques. The essay’s footnotes provide a fragmented commentary on the work of contemporary Scottish artist Michael Fullerton."[10]

He also wrote essays for major survey exhibitions such as 'Here and Now: Scottish art 1990 - 2001'.[14]

Selected publications with essays by John Calcutt[edit]

'Michael Fullerton. Pleasure In Nonsense' published by MER. Ghent in co-publication with Carl Freedman Gallery, London (2012) [15] ISBN 978-9490693633

'Arcade. Artists and Placemaking' edited by Rhona Warwick and published by Black Dog, London (2006) ISBN 978-1904772545

'Interludes. Anne Bjerge Hansen' published by the Film & Video Umbrella, London (2004) ISBN 978-1904270072[16]

Michael Fullerton exhibition catalogue, “Are You Hung Up?”, Transmission Gallery, Glasgow (2003). ISBN 0-9529002-1-1

'Here and Now: Scottish Art 1990-2001' published by Dundee Contemporary Arts (2001) ISBN 095351787X

'Peter Lynch Paintings' published by Glasgow School of Art, Glasgow (2001) ISBN 0901904287

'Annette Heyer. As If For The Future' Published by the Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh (2001) ISBN 10: 0947912924[17]

'Kenny Hunter: Invisible Republic' Published by Glasgow Print Studio (2000) ISBN 0952121964

'Alison Watt: Fold. New Paintings 1996-97' Published by the Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh (1997)

'Alison Watt - Paintings' published by Flowers East, London (1995) ISBN 978-1873362488


  1. "John Calcutt, former head of Glasgow School of Art's MFA, dies aged 67 - a-n The Artists Information Company". Retrieved 2020-05-28.
  2. "Practice Makes Perfect: The MFA at Glasgow School of Art - School Watch - Art & Education". Retrieved 2020-05-28.
  3. "John Calcutt (1951–2018) - News - Art & Education". Retrieved 2020-05-28.
  4. "BBC Radio 4 - Last Word, Lindsay Kemp, John Calder, Hilary Lister, John Calcutt, Neil Simon". BBC. Retrieved 2020-05-28.
  5. "MLitt Fine Art Practice". Retrieved 2020-05-30.
  6. "Sorcha Dallas · Press · John Calcutt, 'Made in Glasgow', The Map, 4, 10/2005". Retrieved 2020-05-28.
  7. "Ouroboros: The Music of the Spheres & Rosengarten". Retrieved 2020-06-02.
  8. "Ouroboros - The Music of the Spheres At CCA In Glasgow | Culture24". Retrieved 2020-06-02.
  9. "The List: 4 Mar 2004". The List Archive. 2004-03-04. Retrieved 2020-06-02.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 GSA, Radar. "Sex, Lies and Turpentine" (PDF). GSA Radar. Retrieved 2020-06-02. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  11. "Emerging: Nicolas Party". MAP Magazine. 2011-07-01. Retrieved 2020-05-28.
  12. "Jacqueline Donachie / Christine Borland: The Doctor will see you now". MAP Magazine. 2006-11-01. Retrieved 2020-05-28.
  13. "Michael Fullerton: Triangulation Theory". MAP Magazine. 2008-11-01. Retrieved 2020-05-28.
  14. "Here and Now: Scottish Art 1990-2001 – My Bookcase". Retrieved 2020-05-28.
  15. "Pleasure In Nonsense - MER". Retrieved 2020-05-30.
  16. "Interludes". Retrieved 2020-05-30.
  17. Calcutt, John (2001). Annette Heyer : As For the Future. John Calcutt, Annette Heyer, Annette Heyer, Franziska Bark. Edinburgh, Scotland: Fruitmarket Gallery. ISBN 978-0-947912-92-5. Search this book on Logo.png

External links[edit]

Category:Alumni of the Courtauld Institute of Art

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