April 17, 2012 - The Fruitmarket Gallery - Tony Swain’s Drowned Dust, Sudden Word
April 17, 2012

Tony Swain’s Drowned Dust, Sudden Word

Tony Swain, “Idle as totems,” 2012.
Acrylic on newspaper.
Courtesy of The Modern Institute/Toby Webster Ltd, Glasgow.

Tony Swain
Drowned Dust, Sudden Word
19 April–8 July 2012

The Fruitmarket Gallery
45 Market Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1DF
Open seven days. Always free. 
Hours: Mon–Sat 11am–6pm
Sun 12–5pm


Tony Swain was born in Ireland in 1967, trained at Liverpool School of Art and Glasgow School of Art, and lives and works in Glasgow. He is known for paintings depicting complex private worlds painted over newspaper pages, the newspaper providing both the physical ground and the conceptual starting point of each painting.

Swain paints landscapes, cityscapes, seascapes, and interiors. His paintings are frequented and constructed by mountains, sand dunes, meadows, trees, rocks, lighthouses, power stations, landmarks both natural and man-made, boats, bridges, buildings, houses, furniture, and domestic objects. His imagery is often on a vast scale, encompassing huge vistas, but also collapses into intimacy. The marks he makes most usually organise themselves into representation, but sometimes remain as passages of painterly abstraction.

Swain’s work speaks to a number of different traditions, and newspaper has an important place in the history of art, most notably in early-twentieth-century collage. For Swain, using newspaper as a support is both a practical and conceptual choice—he is aware of its history, but reaches for newspaper partly because it is readily at hand, and partly because he is interested to see if he can make lasting and meaningful imagery on something so commonly associated with the throwaway detritus of everyday life. Tony Swain’s preferred method in making solo exhibitions is to show only work made in the period since his previous exhibition, so this exhibition presents entirely new work, made with The Fruitmarket Gallery in mind.

Tony Swain is represented by The Modern Institute, Glasgow and Herald St, London.

New publication Narrative Deficiencies Throughout
Published to accompany the exhibition, this book brings together over 65 works ranging from 2006 to new work produced for this exhibition in 2012. Lavishly illustrated, the book includes essays by Director of The Fruitmarket Gallery Fiona Bradley and writer and curator Isla Leaver-Yap, and a conversation between Swain and the artist Karla Black.

New edition
On the occasion of the exhibition Tony Swain has created a limited edition screenprint. Other limited editions are available including screenprints by Claire Barclay, Christine Borland, and Ingrid Calame, as well as a new lithograph print by Callum Innes.


Collage and Painting: A Modern Partnership
Wednesday 2 May, 6.30pm. Free.
Professor Brandon Taylor (University of Southampton) examines relations between collage and painting at key moments in modern art, as well as the possibilities still open today.

Dreamtime Painting
Wednesday 16 May, 6.30pm. Free.
Katharine Stout (Curator, Contemporary Art, Tate Britain) explores the way in which Tony Swain creates paintings that have their roots in a world we recognise, but also possess an unreal quality.

Art Session: Human Photoshop
Sunday 6 May, 5–7pm. Free. 20 places.
Take part in a surreal painting session led by artist Juliana Capes, working with photography, painting and the printed image to explore Tony Swain’s work. This is the first in a series of four artist led workshops as part of Art Session, the Gallery’s programme for 13–25 year olds.

Tony Swain's Drowned Dust, Sudden Word at The Fruitmarket Gallery
The Fruitmarket Gallery
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