about this work

I developed this series of digital collages from some ideas centred around the Glasgow Subway which was one of my main modes of travel in the eighties and nineties when I lived in the city.

The pictures try to represent some of the different forces that shape our mental health - religion, environment, family and relationships.


The first idea was to use the 15 stops on the Subway to represent the Stations of Cross, or from the Spanish, the Way of Sorrows.

clockwork orange

The second idea came from the fact that the Subway is affectionately known by Glaswegians as the "Clockwork Orange" after the Kubrick film of the Anthony Burgess book.

While this humorous jibe is intended to make fun of its toy-like size and colour it actually reflects a deeper truth about the subway as a metaphor for modern industrial and post-industrial society and the imposition of unnatural mechanical, and more recently, digital modes of thought and operation, on an essentially wild and creative being.

Technology at first appears to offer us freedom but ultimately, when the powers that rule society gain control of it, actually constrains our free will and turns us into Clockwork Oranges.

rd laing

The third thread brings in the short book or extended poem by the Glaswegian psychiatrist R.D. Laing called Knots which I first read as a teenager.

Knots presents a series of monologues/dialogues which describe the knots and tangles of human relationships and the circular mental traps resulting from certain ways of thinking.

Travel on the Glasgow subway is a circular journey, with inner and outer circles; we travel with other people, most of them strangers, who we are at the same time close to and distant from. Along the journey we go through various emotional stations, some them positive and others negative.

The following passage from Knots seemed to describe this circular journey: "One is inside then outside what one has been inside" and I have used this as the main motif.

glasgow subway

The Glasgow Subway is an underground metro line and one of the oldest such systems in the world. The route is circular and extends both west and south of the City centre with 15 stations. There are two lines, the Outer Circle and Inner Circle, which have trains running clockwise and anticlockwise respectively around the same route but in different tunnels. It operates entirely underground. It's unusually narrow gauge makes it seem quite small and the carriages are painted bright orange.

clockwork orange

A Clockwork Orange is a novel, published in 1962 by Anthony Burgess, which was made into a cult film by Stanley Kubrick in 1971. It is set in a dystopian Britain of the near future and explores the pros and cons of the psychological conditioning of a violent young delinquent. As Burgess has put it "..is it better to be bad of one’s own free will than to be good through scientific brainwashing?"

rd laing

R. D. Laing, was a Glaswegian psychiatrist. His controversial views on the causes and treatment of mental illness expressed in a number of key books written in the sixties put him at loggerheads with an establishment that saw mental illness as a medical/physiological problem which could be treated with pharmaceuticals, rather than one that could to be explained by society or patients' relationships.

stations of the cross

The Stations of the Cross are a Catholic devotional practice that commemorates the death of Jesus Christ. There are traditionally 14 stations, typically plaques, each one representing an event that occurred on the way to the cross. They are intended to allow people to stop, meditate and connect emotionally and spiritually with Jesus. Sometimes a 15th Station is added to represent the Resurrection where Christ defeats death and returns to life on Earth.