Standing in the light filled clubroom of Partickhill Bowling and Community Club, the sandstone tenements of Crown Mansions on North Gardner Street overlooking the pristinely cut grass, I think of a bygone age – when the dress code for lawn activities such as tennis was white ‘slacks’ for the gentlemen and ankle length skirts for the ladies. Indeed the clubhouse and grounds developed in 1905 were also originally home to a couple of tennis courts, now the row of windows along the length of the building offers pristine viewing of the deep green lawn that proudly facilitates bowling as its primary sporting pursuit.
While admiring the open space beyond the glass a bride and groom sweep past the gates towards the top of Gardner Street for photographs. ‘That happens quite a lot,’ I am informed by Margaret Renwick, a member of the club and it serves to remind me not only of how iconic this particular street is but also that this part of Glasgow with its grid patterned arrangement of roads and rising tenements, against the autumn colours displayed in the trees and light of that moment makes for a pretty and romantic scene.
The purpose of my visit is to meet with painter Pascale Steenkiste who has taken up the position of artist-in-residence – something that is perhaps very unique in the wider workings of a bowling club but according to community convener Michael Hough, a natural progression from previous activities and relevant in their wider ambition to encourage the community to use and engage with the club facilities. ‘The idea of involving the club in art started with a collaboration with Hyndland Secondary School Art Department, which resulted in the display of over 20 drawings and painting by S2 pupils all depicting various aspects of bowling in a local setting. Soon after that we had the idea that others might also like to display their work,’ he tells me.
Steenkiste was born in Ostend, Belgium but moved to Glasgow in 1986 to work as an au pair for two young children before marrying and raising her own family in the city’s West End. She attended art classes at The Glasgow School of Art and became fascinated with texture, colour and through the workings of imagination uses both elements to create energetic pictures – not only through her physical working of the paint on the canvas and the layers of thick impasto often evident but there is a dynamism in the colours applied.
‘It is always tortuous covering the blank canvas, so I begin with a colour. That first covering never reveals the work, it is all about making space to allow the emerging feelings and emotion that will not arrive until the second, third or even fourth layering of that original work. It seems that first work always is about removing the ‘noises’ inside me, of finding a way to quieten the voice – the critic, the judgement, the superficial. The work itself only emerges to me through layers of complexity in colour, and texture, seeking a space to reveal the authentic “voice” within,’ she explains.
Art that is abstract in form is by its very nature a journey between the artist and the medium in which they are working – only reaching a point of completion by the artists own determination – the process in between and the resulting piece generally independent from any visual references to the world beyond. Steenkiste knows the point of completion to be when she has ‘an overwhelming sense of peace,’ although admits to questioning that final brushstroke in the light of a new day.
The titles of the work also reveal some of those initial ‘noises’ – An Energetic Day At The Studio expresses the vigour of the finished piece – a mixture of warm, earthy colours merging and rising with cooler tones of blue, purple and ice white. Interestingly there is a definite progression and movement within the picture towards a settling – lightness moves up the canvas, which I see again in Maelstrom and this parallel between a whirling unease and turbulent energy of uncertainty and disruption eases off through a purer white tone, in ascendance from the chaos below. Steenkiste’s latest work including, Summer 2018 moves away from one of sharpness to a softening, both in colour and texture – still remaining abstract but slightly looser in its effect. It’s this, together with more of this new body of work that was exhibited in the clubhouse in October of last year – a two person show alongside fellow artist, Jackie Henderson.
Traditionally it would be that the artist-in-residence is taken away from their ‘normal’ working environment to experience a different space for reflection and engagement. It seems that with further exhibitions planned and a series of continuing art classes facilitated by Steenkiste within the clubhouse, the role of the resident artist is playing out very well in this setting. A positive move in attempting to engage the wider community in the practice of artistic endeavor while also introducing them to an environment that may spark an interest in the pursuit of playing the sport to which the club was intended.