Wednesday is Cobalt blue, Friday is Cadmium red is Glasgow-based artist Sam Ainsley’s first major exhibition in the city for over 30 years. It is the first such show for Ainsley since her 1987 solo exhibition, Why I Choose Red at the Third Eye Centre (now Centre for Contemporary Art, CCA).
An important show for her, it arrives on a wave of interest in her work since her solo show in 2017 at An Tobar, Tobermory. In the last 12 months alone she has had solo presentations at the Royal Scottish Academy, Leeds Arts University, and is included in the major Tate Britain group show Women in Revolt!, open now until 21 April, then at National Galleries Scotland from 25 May.
Featuring acrylic paintings on canvas, framed prints, shaped acrylic canvas works and a wall drawing, this show is a deeply personal culmination of recent work that will make a powerful statement about who Ainsley is, and draws strands together from nearly 50 years of art practice.
It continues the artist’s ongoing interest in the human body (especially the female body, however abstracted), and her powerful use of colour, particularly her reds, something her work is recognisable for. Her first solo show was named after Hugh McDiarmid's intensely political poem 'Why I Choose Red'. Where the final line reads "....But, best reason of all, a man in a red shirt can neither hide nor retreat." - to Ainsley’s mind the man in this poem is also equally woman.
Red for her is passion, joy and love but it is also fire, blood and the colour of revolution. Her work is joyous and bold, and celebrates passion and imagination. It is at the same time deeply politically and socially conscious in meaning, which resonates through the titles of, and research present in, each painting.
Wednesday is Cobalt blue, Friday is Cadmium red has been supported by the National Lottery through Creative Scotland.
About the artist
Sam Ainsley was born in North Shields, England in 1950 and completed her foundation course at the Jacob Kramer College, Leeds (1973) before studying painting at Newcastle Polytechnic (1974 -77). After graduating from Newcastle, Ainsley spent a year in postgraduate study at Edinburgh College of Art. When she completed her post-graduate diploma there in 1978, an Andrew Grant fellowship award allowed her to teach part-time in the same department for a year.
Sam Ainsley has forged a remarkable career within the visual arts sector, nationally and internationally. She is an artist and teacher, and until 2005 she was Head of the MFA Programme at Glasgow School of Art. From 1985 to 1991 she taught on the Environmental Art programme under David Harding’s leadership, after which she co-founded the Master of Fine Art course. She has since worked collaboratively with David Harding and Sandy Moffat as AHM and continues to work independently in her studio. She is a respected and published spokeswoman for the visual arts, and her work is held in public and private collections nationally and internationally. Ainsley has contributed to a broad range of visual arts initiatives in Scotland and has served as a Board member on many arts organisations.
Recent solo exhibitions include: Out of Redness Comes Kindness (2023), Vernon Street Gallery, Leeds; Sam Ainsley (2023), WINDOW, Perth; Stories Real and Imagined (2022), Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh; Alternating Currents (2019), Islensk Grafik, Reykjavik, Iceland; Sam Ainsley (2017) An Tobar, Tobermory, Mull
Group exhibitions include: Scottish Women Artists: 250 Years of Challenging Perception (2023), Dovecot, Edinburgh; Transforming Tradition; Scottish Women Artists (2022), Sainsbury Centre, Norwich; On John Berger (2022), Zembla Gallery, Hawick; New Scots, RSA Edinburgh, Atlas of Encounters at I Space Gallery, Chicago and Athens, Live your questions now and Studio 58 Mackintosh Museum, GSA and After Growth and Form at Glasgow Print Studio. Ainsley was also represented in two exhibitions in Edinburgh and Glasgow to mark the 30th anniversary of The Vigorous Imagination, a landmark exhibition held at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in 1987. She was elected to the Royal Scottish Academy and was inducted into the “Outstanding Women of Scotland” by the Saltire Society in 2017.
Photo - Sam Ainsley: Wednesday is Cobalt blue, Friday is Cadmium red, GoMA 2022. Installation shot by Alan Harvey /SNS