Kirsty Walker: Haunting of a Lost Future

Reflecting on the exhibition, Unearthed, which emerged from a Negotiated Project with Sculpture and Environmental Art (SEA), Kirsty Walker explains how her research in GSA Archives & Collections has informed her practice.

When I began researching in GSA Archives and Collections, I selected the photographic work of George Oliver and Cordelia Oliver and architectural drawings by Rory More. The Archive holds Oliver’s artworks in a series of folders, each containing themes explored throughout his life. These photographs focused on images of Glasgow in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Specifically, buildings and people. Oliver captures Glasgow during its peak employment and consumerist nature. We see people from the past walking to work and cars lining the streets. I was interested in the photographs of empty streets and residential areas. Shouldn’t these areas be busy and lively? If so, why are they desolate? The black and white quality of the photographs emphasise the futuristic imagery of a time from the past.

I started my process by taking photographs of Glasgow city centre and wandering around similar areas to those where George Oliver took photographs. I then illustrated these through mapping and drawing, then making miniature prototypes for a bigger sculptural design. My interests lay in the design of buildings and the variety of shapes they inhabit, representing the brutalist buildings that make up Glasgow. My prototype takes on the appearance of a city with many jagged angles, and a sculpture that the audience can walk around and interact with.

Over the 8 weeks of working with the Archives, I spent one day a week looking through various source material. After analysing the many photographs of George Oliver and the writings of Cordelia Oliver, I moved on to architectural drawings. I compared Oliver’s older works to more recent graduates of GSA: Rory More, Ren Yu P’ng and Calum Harris.

During my studio time, I planned and designed the next stages of my project, spending 4 weeks creating the front faces of the sculpture in the printmaking studios. Most of my time during weeks 7 and 8 was spent building my final sculpture for the exhibition in Window on Heritage in the Reid building.

I looked at the different models I made, to compare which ones best illustrated my theme of hauntology (the theory that social and cultural elements persistently return like ghosts throughout present and future culture). I combined aspects of the models, changing certain parts of the layout and deciding how the shapes would slot in together. I increased the size to over 1ft giving the sculpture breathing space for the varying shapes.

The lights of blocks of flat form straight rows of rectangular lights in blues, reds and yellows, vibrant against a very black night sky.
Kirsty Walker, Haunting of a Lost Future, 2023

Unearthed is open to the public at the Window on Heritage exhibition centre in GSA’s Reid Building until 4:30pm on Friday 31st March, 2023.

Images courtesy of Kirsty Walker.