My mother wrote a diary when she worked in Moscow in 1944 – 45. The gaps in her writing form the basis of my work for the Maclaurin Gallery in 2017. I aimed to understand why did such an approachable young woman find it impossible to make friends at a time when the Russians were allies with Britain.
Russian brutalist domestic architecture hints at the answer. Sharp edges, tall magnificence, references to classical proportions, standardised apartments, and identical furniture were all planned to house Russian communities who lived according to Stalin’s ideals. Any expressions of individuality or meeting foreign friends had to remain secret for fear of arrest and death in the icy gulags. Understanding this has filled some gaps.
We are fortunate to have escaped such cruel political regimes. The Scottish version of Brutalist architecture is softer. The focus of my art making is now Scotland. This is where the art work has become collaborative; Marion Baron and I worked together drawing brutalist buildings in Edinburgh, wondering about the current and previous inhabitants, admiring the concrete shapes and textured surfaces which I had previously thought so ugly. We studied the ‘banana flats’ of the film Trainspotting 2 and British Homes Stores in Edinburgh. The simple line, shiny surface and pattern on buildings of the mid twentieth century point to space age optimism.
We enjoy our different styles of drawing, the elegant and the messy and assembling them with each other. We hope our collaboration will continue beyond the end of this exhibition though where it will go we do not know.
Susie Reade’s work will be on show in our forthcoming exhibition at The Maclaurin Gallery in Ayr, open daily from 2 July to 6 August.