It looms over the Clutha bar – the 60 x 40 feet giant mural by Rogue One and Art Pistol portraying a photo-realistic monochrome likeness of Charles Rennie Mackintosh through a stylised stained glass window reminiscent of CRM’s own ornamental motifs.
It’s been a while since my last visit to the Clutha when it was painful to observe the sorry state of disrepair the earlier piece of street art by Rogue One came to suffer from only in a few years since its installation.
That mural looks even more wrecked now, the whole sections of paint peeled and naked plywood exposed. Yet it’s place on the Glasgow Mural Trail map was secured in June 2018 by the new Mackintosh mural that was commissioned and donated to the city of Glasgow by Radisson RED, in the PR stunt promise to “paint the town red.”
Rogue One’s design, indeed featuring prominently three ubiquitous red “Mackintosh” or “Glasgow” roses in a nod to the commissioner’s stipulation, commemorates CRM’s 150th anniversary and the opening of UK’s first Radisson RED hotel in Finniestone.
To me, the mural seems to be a tribute to Glasgow civic optimism. The Mackintosh it presents to the public is a young 25-old man at the height of his creative powers. Faithfully modelled after the 1893 James Craig Annan’s romantic photo, this is the face of one of the “Four” at the spring of the Glasgow style, the grand “Immortal” with an intelligent assertive gaze and a louche moustache.
Framed by the sweeping lines of the imaginary stained glass, Mackintosh is an epitome of the Glasgow brand, the pioneer of the intrinsically Scottish Modernist architecture and design made famous worldwide. His 150th birth anniversary was enlisted in re-framing the city as a convincing tourist art and design Mecca. Rogue One’s mural plays up to the brand.
Rogue One’s monochromatic portrait of Mackintosh, towering over the back garden of the Clutha, has a distinct visual unity with his previous mural at the neighbouring location where he also used black and white oversized faces of the celebrities who frequented the bar in the past.
I would like to hope that the stained glass colours and sinuous ornamental lines hint at the creative involvement of the other members of the “Four” informal group of Glasgow School of Art students and, in particular, its female artists.
After all, although mythologised in the public psyche as the father of Scottish style, CRM did not invent its trademark cabbage rose motif single-handedly and single-mindedly. As he wrote in the letter to his wife Margaret Macdonald, ” Remember, you are half if not three-quarters in all my architectural work … “.