Scott Myles ‘No Words’

Installation view, 'No Words', The Modern Institute, Bricks Space, 2024
The Modern Institute, Aird's Lane Bricks Space

The title of Scott Myles’ exhibition provides a prompt for engaging with the works and can be understood in at least three different ways. Firstly, as an imperative, secondly as a statement of fact (it is a presentation dominated by images, not text), and lastly as a tongue in cheek reference to the phrase, ‘I have no words’ which often stems from feelings of shock, despair or boredom at a particular situation.

Myles’ painting Big Car (2022) occupies one wall in the space. It is a depiction of a Dodge Challenger and was produced and first exhibited in Dallas, Texas. Myles utilises a well-known model of muscle car synonymous with American petroleum culture to make clear the saturation of oil in contemporary society. Additionally, the scale and handling of the paint recall the heroic style of post-war American abstract art, pointing to the machismo of these vehicles. They are no longer neutral objects in a time of climate emergency.

This work sits alongside a series of apparently abstract, print-based paintings which derive from a set of images of packaging split into CMYK. To make these works, Myles poured Coca-Cola in between each separation and over the course of several months the sugary liquid dried and stuck the acetates together. The artist then pulled these apart and made screenprints from the split and cracked films. This form of experimentation in printmaking and use of materials follows in the lineage of Ed Ruscha and Dieter Roth, both of whom utilised a variety of household products to produce artworks in the late 1960s. The images of the pristine boxes have decayed, and Myles has also redacted all the branding with deft strokes of acrylic. These empty sections of white paint recall the speech bubbles of a comic strip, but meaning remains fugitive.

Another sequence of works comprise locks captured in Perspex screenprinted on stained sections of canvas. They were photographed by Myles in a locksmith window. Blown-up in scale, the plastic sections come to resemble buildings, and their machined, industrial quality also chimes with that of Big Car. They speak to the pursuit of ownership and protection of property. Their dialectic of inside and outside is perhaps also a critical nod to ongoing debates around borders and boundaries – these locks are known as ‘Euro Barrel locks’ or ‘Euro Cylinders’.

Together, the exhibition mixes a set of conceptual coordinates with a focus on abstraction and painting. The pieces show a set of isolated moments – disintegrated packaging, a stationary automobile, a set of locks, and a military barrier. These speak to various critical concerns around consumption – from food to fuel – as well as the desire to hide ourselves away from the wider world, or shield ourselves from things we find uncomfortable.

Scott Myles (b. 1975, Dundee) lives and works in Glasgow. Selected solo exhibitions include: ‘Potential for a Wish (as yet unmade)’, Quartz Studio, Turin (2023); ‘Painting for Breakfast’, Penthouse, Margate (2021); ‘Amber Room’, Meyer Riegger (2019); ‘This Way Out’, The Modern Institute, Aird’s Lane (2017); Rat Hole Gallery, Tokyo (2016); ‘Potlatch’, Maison Lafayette, Paris (2014, in collaboration with Foundation Lafayette); ‘The Meaning of Return’, Mumbai Art Room, Mumbai (2014); ‘Excess Energy’, David Kordansky, Los Angeles, (2013); ‘YOU’, Meyer Riegger, Berlin, (2012); ‘This Production’, DCA, Dundee (2012); ‘ELBABLE’, The Breeder, Athens, (2011); ‘ELBA’, Glasgow Print Studio, Glasgow, (2010); ‘MISSING WORDS’, The Modern Institute at Sadie Coles HQ, London, (2007); Kunsthalle Zürich, Zurich, (2005). Myles’ works are held in many private and public collections, including: British Council Collection, London; Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow; Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh; TATE, London; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Harvard University, Cambridge; Letterform Archive, San Francisco. The artist will present a solo exhibition at the Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow, later this year.