Ross Sinclair is an artist, musician and writer who also teaches. In 1994 he had the words Real Life tattooed on his back which has become a ‘brand’ for his work. Following suggestions from the public and an online vote, Sinclair has compiled a poetic Real Life Top Ten Songs of Wales. Situated on White Rock Mound opposite the former Copperworks, Sinclair’s list becomes a giant monument commemorating the land of song. We caught up with Ross ahead of his work being installed in Swansea.
Who are you?
I am Ross Sinclair. I live in a village in the west of Scotland called Kilcreggan, beside the sea, in-between the Nuclear Armaments base at Coulport on Loch Long and the Nuclear Submarine depot at Faslane on the Gareloch. You get a great view of the action from here, right in front of you, sometimes very close up.
Hello, how are you?
I’m pretty good, considering.
What do you do?
I make art, think about how to show it to people, how to make a conversation with them. I play guitar sometimes, sometimes in public – I teach at Glasgow School of Art some of the other time, and do some writing as well about art when I fancy it. I have a tattoo on my back that reads Real Life that I had put on 20 years ago. Some of the works I’ve made have reflected on this notion in a number of different ways in outside and inside, in public and in galleries here, there and everywhere.
What have you been doing recently?
Last year I made an exhibition in Glasgow where I released a new CD of songs I’d written and recorded. It was called “I Tried to Give Up Drinking With Guitars Instead of God”. The accompanying exhibition animated the idea of the songs around the walls of the gallery using words and pictures and neon and old dreadlocks and musical instruments and videos and t-shirts amongst other things. Some of the songs were about my children and some were about how to get to places like Orkney and friends getting married and others were about all those pesky Nuclear Submarines. I did another project in Edinburgh where I made a project called Real Life and How to Live it in Auld Reekie (the old name for Edinburgh) where we flooded the city with over 45,000 artworks – Billboards, posters, signs on buildings, beermats, badges, postcards, records etc. I wanted to try to explore lots of different places where someone could encounter art, perhaps where they weren’t expecting it. The toilets of a football bar – in Harvey Nichols – on the street, in a record shop etc etc. At the moment I’m sending some works off to a show in Copenhagen that’s all about art and music…mmm…I think I see a theme emerging.
My project is a big mural featuring the top ten of the greatest ever songs of Wales, which we found out by doing a big survey on the Art across the city website where we asked people to vote for their favourites.
What are your ideas behind the work?
I like the idea that things that are genuinely popular can become recognized and official and part of the timeline in a homespun kind of way. History is so often co-opted by Kings and Queens and dates and wars and Government and killing and money etc etc. What a drag. How about things that people actually love like songs becoming part of history and carve them in stone instead (or do a big temporary mural at least!). Also – the fact is that Wales has so many more than it’s fair share of great songs and singers it felt like a bit of a lost opportunity to ignore it.
What do you think the public will make of it?
I hope they will be ecstatic and enraged and perplexed and thoughtful and hyperbolic and overwhelmed and genuinely sorry they didn’t vote and therefore can’t argue if they don’t agree with the results!