CloseUp: Pinkie Maclure

Pinkie Maclure is a contemporary artist working in stained glass. Her debut solo exhibition, Lost Congregation, is currently at CCA in Glasgow.

When did you decide you wanted to be an artist?
It was what I wanted to do from as far back as I can remember. I was the kid who was also drawing. But in my teens I had a really bad art teacher. I lost all my confidence and gave up. I didn’t really start taking it seriously again until I was about 50.

What did you do instead?
I studied performance art at Birmingham University. Everybody said I was a really good singer, so I focused on that. I wrote, recorded and released about 10 albums with my partner John Wills as Pumajaw. We toured all over Europe.

So how did you come to take up stained glass?
John took it up as a hobby. People started asking him to make windows for them and it turned into a business. I started working with him because I was fed up with all the low paid jobs I was doing, but I didn’t view it as creative, it was just better – and better paid – than the jobs I’d been doing before.

Beauty Tricks
Beauty Tricks

What was the turning point? 
I was asked to make a window for the Chalmers Sexual Health Centre in Edinburgh on the theme of ‘the family’. I did what I wanted, and everyone loved it. I discovered I could draw again, and that I could tell stories and put humour into this medium. It was a revelation.

Was it difficult to break into the art world?
Galleries were resistant to displaying stained glass because no one else was doing that kind of work then. The first chance I had to exhibit was in 2013 with Outside In. They support artists who struggle to access the art world. That led to my work being shown at the Outsider Art Fair in New York, and then in the National Museum of Scotland and the Kilmorack Gallery. The thing about what I do is that it doesn’t fit in anywhere, but that means it can fit in everywhere!

What inspires you?
I began to get interested in pictorial medieval glass and found it really exciting – weird and wonderful, funny and dark. There’s a messy, anarchic craziness in ancient windows which have been repaired dozens of times. I feel like stained glass was designed to make people think about stories from the Bible and morality, so I use it to make people think about things I’m concerned about: addiction, insomnia, climate change, feminism. I enjoy confounding people’s expectations.

Describe a typical day…
Because I started out doing stained glass as a job, I was used to going to the studio at 10, having an hour for lunch and working until six. I still have that mentality – I’m quite methodical. Most of the techniques I use are pretty traditional, it’s the content that isn’t.

The Soil
The Soil

How was lockdown for you?
It was brilliant! I’ve never had so much work – I think a lot of people were buying art because they were spending more time at home. I was commissioned to make a stained-glass window for An Tobar on Mull about the pandemic, so I made one about missing my mum, who I wasn’t allowed to visit.

Has a work of ever art changed your life?
I saw Ghost Story, the film by [Northern Irish artist] Willie Doherty at the Fruitmarket Gallery in 2009. I was staying in a small village where I didn’t know any other artists or musicians and was feeling isolated and lonely. I went to the gallery on a whim – I didn’t know what was on. It had an incredible effect on me – it was magical, despite being dark and frightening. It reminded me that we all experience dark, difficult feelings, and that contemporary art can be a magical, transforming thing.

If you could own any work of art, by any artist, what would it be?
There is a painter called Geraldine Swayne who I really love. She has recently started painting on glass and does magical, slightly naughty, mysterious paintings. I was also very excited by the sculptures of Simone Leigh work at the Venice Biennale, but I would need a bigger house!

Detail of 'Two Witches - Knowledge is Power'
Detail of ‘Two Witches – Knowledge is Power’

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
If there’s something you think you’re not allowed to do, then you should do it! Also, someone recently advised me to “go big”. I had got into the habit of making small, dense, complex pieces, and I wanted to break out of that. Then the CCA got in touch about this show, and I knew this was the chance to make something really big and bold. It gave me a sense of freedom again.

How did you go about it?
I knew I wanted to make an installation with a sound piece because it brings together the two worlds of being a stained-glass artist and a musician. Stained glass is inextricably linked with churches, so I decided it would be a church without the religion. It’s partly inspired by an abandoned chapel I found on Mull. The stained-glass window is called The Soil, with the figure of a woman gardener in wellies and gardening gloves peeing into the compost to activate it. I wanted people to think about soil degradation, how the world’s topsoil is being threatened by intensive farming.

What are you excited about?
The rest of my solo exhibition at CCA! Also, the big installation will tour to Two Temple Place in London in January. And I’m looking forward to seeing my work in the National Museum of Scotland – they acquired a piece in lockdown. It’s my favourite museum!

Pinkie Maclure: Lost Congregation is at the CCA, Glasgow, until 12 August

Share this page

Sign up for Artmag’s free weekly newsletter!

Join us every Friday morning for the latest art news, art openings, exhibitions, live performances, interviews and stories + top UK and international art destinations.