This time last year we were on the eve of commemorating Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s 150th anniversary on June 7th. A little more than a week after this milestone date, his architectural masterpiece, the Glasgow School of Art was a smoldering ruin.
One year down the line, I am returning to Charles Rennie Mackintosh with a new perspective and some new Gillian Kyle products. What a difference a year makes!
CRM at 150
Personally for me as a graduate of the Glasgow School of Art and having attended classes in his iconic and truly inspiring Mack building, CRM at 150 was a GK topic I was excited to explore and illustrate many years before Mackintosh’s 150th anniversary in 2018.
As a Glasgow artist I was profoundly impressed by his unique aesthetic and also the sheer diversity of his output; this being the invisible hand guiding my 2018 contemporary reinterpretation of some of his main design themes. But more on that later.
Taking a leaf from Mackintosh’s own book, my CRM at 150 project was the first time that, as an artist and small business owner, I launched a truly integrated and multi-faceted programme on a particular subject. This was a new challenge and level of discipline for us here at GK. It was therefore highly gratifying to see our audience’s reaction measured across a number metrics: blog views, product demand and the numerous comments and feedback that we received both publicly and privately. It also just felt really good to do.
Thank you Mack.
Last year’s project was an exciting exploration of CRM’s wonderfully multi-dimensional talents: architect, designer, artist. It was also an homage to how contemporary and prevalent his influence still is today. One year on and in more somber mood following the events of the Glasgow School of Art fire, I felt there was much left to say about our Glaswegian cultural icon…
The Magic of Mackintosh
Last year I explored the breadth and enduring relevance of CRM’s tangible accomplishments. This year I’m reflecting on the depth of CRM’s vision. This I’m calling the Magic of Mackintosh.
As an artist he had many recurring themes: the Mackintosh rose motif rose; his uniform black and white chequerboard grid; his nod to the Scottish baronial architectural style; the tree of life; his love of type designs (5+ fonts having been posthumously accredited to CRM); and his general love of the ‘Japanese aesthetic’.
Over his life he refined and adapted his expression of these themes depending on the project or chosen material.
The Magic of Mackintosh, as I see it, is the effortless way that he was able to incorporate these themes into everyday utilitarian applications and across all materials. He was, by the way, equally fluent in stone, glass, metal, wood, type and water colours. It seems that the more latitude he was granted, the more integrated and enduring his final results.
Here are 2 indicative examples of the depth of his end-to-end vision and artistry after having already established the overall building aesthetics:
• the imposing baronial-styled stairwell towers
• the carved masonry above windows incorporating his tree of life motif
• the green painted iron school gates built around his thistle seed designs (symbolising the growth and development of children)
• Japanese inspired leaded windows
• signage incorporating his own lettering style (later appropriately called Willow) and his much-loved black and white chequerboard
• leaded glass windows featuring his rose motif
• ladder-back chairs
• final flourishes including Mackintosh designed cutlery, menus and waitress uniforms
He sprinkled this magic liberally on all of his designs, from the big statements down to the minuscule details. And it is his design-first ethos that compelled me to revisit my Gillian Kyle CRM inspired product range again this year and add to my original 2018 product range.
One year on from the emotional highs and lows of Mackintosh’s 150th anniversary year, I feel I have gained a new and deeper understanding of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s legacy. An understanding that has encouraged me to expand my CRM-inspired product range – also supported by the strong positive reaction from the GK customer base.
Putting the boot on the other foot: after Mackintosh has left us so much what are we doing to preserve his legacy?
Answering my own rhetorical question, I feel it is beholden upon as all to push for definitive commitments for the authentic and speedy rebuilding of the Glasgow School of Art after the 2018 fire. This BBC webpage is a useful reference to most of the big stories relating to the GSA fire.
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments.
Till next time,