France-Lise McGurn ‘What Everyone Wants’

Installation view, 'What Everyone Wants', The Modern Institute, Aird's Lane, 2024
The Modern Institute, 3 Aird's Lane, Glasgow

Lines by John Douglas Millar

Preview: Thursday 14th March 2024, 6 – 8pm

Desire underpins the work of France-Lise McGurn. This desire threads through music, TV and popular culture, emerging in this painting installation via a succession of figures, marks, colours, and words. The exhibition’s title situates her work perfectly within this Dionysian space of abandon and spontaneity. What Everyone Wants: talk, dance, sex, painting.

McGurn’s work often utilises her experiences of the city and this exhibition’s title derives from a place from Glasgow’s near past: legendary, and now defunct, chain store What Everyone Wants (formerly What Every Woman Wants) founded in 1971 by Vera and Gerald Weisfeld in Glasgow. The business was built on marketing London fashion at affordable prices and the company quickly became a landmark of the UK high street in the 80’s. The flagship shop in Glasgow’s city centre is now demolished. The artist jokes, What Everyone Wants is gone.

The installation mixes wall paintings with works on canvas, and the bright, ebullient colours of 80’s and 90’s window displays and shop advertisements filter into both. McGurn has drawn from various mundane sources from recent history to develop a set of motifs which emerge intuitively from her calligraphic brushstrokes: British film Mr Jolly Lives Next Door, 1988; flop American rom-com Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, 1993; advertisements from the Yellow Pages telephone directory; and the immersive video MINUCODE, 1968, by Marta Minujín which documents four New York cocktail parties. Fluid shapes and figures echo and repeat across the installation speaking to a collapse of time and the recurrent movements of quotidian cycles – day to night, sober to drunk, turned-off to turned-on. Phone numbers, titles and other words are also scrawled down the sides of works and across their painted surfaces. These resemble shopping lists, the cursive on a CD or tape, a message noted down while on the phone, or a joke in a toilet cubicle. The necessary but intuitive nature of these writings speak to the everyday, un-precious but romantic atmosphere of the show.

The exhibition is accompanied by a newly commissioned text by John Douglas Millar.

France-Lise McGurn (b. 1983, Glasgow, UK) is based in London, UK. Selected solo exhibitions include: ‘House Of Voltaire Presents France-Lise McGurn’, Studio Voltaire, London, UK (2023); ‘Aloud’, commission for Glasgow International, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow, UK (2021); ‘In Emotia’, Tramway, Glasgow, UK (2020); ‘Bodytronic’, Kunsthaus Pasquart, Biel, Switzerland (2020); ‘Art Now: France-Lise McGurn, Sleepless’, Tate Britain, London, UK (2019); ‘Solo’, Recent Activity Gallery, Birmingham, UK (2017); and 3am, Satellites Programme, Collective Gallery, Edinburgh, UK (2015). Select group exhibitions include: ‘Body en Thrall’, Rugby Art Gallery and Museum, Rugby, UK (2022); ‘Drawing Biennial 2021’, Drawing Room, London, UK (2021); ‘New Arrivals: From Salvador Dali to Jenny Saville, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art’, Edinburgh, UK (2021); ‘My Kid Could’ve Done That’, The Edge, Bath, UK (2021); ‘Mark Making: Perspectives on Drawing’, Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow, UK (2019); ‘A Weakness For Raisins’, CCA, Glasgow, UK (2018); ‘Foundation Painting Show’, Glasgow International, British Heart Foundation, Glasgow, UK (2018); ‘Virginia Woolf: An Exhibition Inspired By Her Writings’, Tate St. Ives, St. Ives, UK (2018, this exhibition travelled to Pallant House Gallery, Chichester, UK and The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, UK); ‘Wall-Sun-Sun’, Une Une Une, Perpignan, France (2017); ‘(X)A Fantasy’, David Roberts Art Foundation, London, UK (2017); ‘Le Nouveau Voyeurisme’, Hotel Contemporary, Milan, Italy (2017); Radical Vulnerability, Caustic Coastal, Manchester, UK (2016); ‘Home Salon’, Marcelle Joseph Projects, Ascot, UK (2016); ‘Only With A Light Touch Will You Write Well, Freely and Fast’, David Dale Gallery, Glasgow, UK (2015).