Written by by CNN Staff
Jimmie Durham, the British artist who specialized in studies on the indigenous populations of Scotland and Europe, has died. He was 81.
Durham died of a suspected heart attack on Monday at his home in Kilmarnock, near Glasgow, according to Scotland’s SSAFA National Defence Medical Service, a military force that provides civilian medical care to injured soldiers.
“I am deeply saddened by the loss of Jimmie Durham, the creation of which was essential to the relationship between art and reality for many,” Brian Orr, the chairman of the Glasgow Contemporary Arts Council, said in a statement.
“Jimmie’s talent to construct their minds and create art that bore witness to the past and future relationship between us will remain with us forever.”
The figure of Jimmie Durham in 2013. Credit: Handout via Reuters
Durham was the founder of McClean’s Galleries and McClean’s Photomontages, a Cambridge-based company that prints artworks in its studio.
He studied at Queens University in Belfast and Glasgow School of Art, and briefly studied sculpture at the Glasgow School of Art. He first exhibited his work at the Guildhall Gallery in Glasgow in 1972, before moving to London in 1972 and establishing McClean’s with Charles McClean, another Scottish artist.
Durham, who was adopted and grew up on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland, was known for creating works that addressed social and political issues. In addition to learning art from his adoptive parents, Durham also learned about the islanders’ language, explaining: “I had a small vocabulary and could put together these words that sound like things and make them look like art.”
“I have no idea how and why the car is called the car,” said the artist of his first visit to the car’s producers, the Braes of Glen Stewart, in Scotland.
“It’s been theorized that they do not regard the car as an autonomous social entity.”
The “Car,” a 19th-century horse painted on a 1961 Ford Cortina, made its first Scottish visit at McClean’s Gallery in 2014. The piece was restored in 2012. Credit: Liz Pierson/REX/Shutterstock
In 2014, Durham’s “Car” — an old horse painted on a 1961 Ford Cortina — was the vehicle featured in an exhibition at McClean’s Gallery.
The artist painted the vehicle’s white body on before its owners spoke to him about its use, and in the New York Times in 2014, he said the car can “look like a car, or look like a dinosaur, or look like a lamb. What is it — a locomotive? A giant child? Maybe a horse?”
Over the years, Durham created thousands of pieces. In 1968, he recast “Faiths in the Execution of Charles Taylor,” a piece that featured black and white biblical images set on an elaborate set, and restored it with black and white text — in order to demonstrate how “another culture has an awareness of a different culture.”
In 2015, his 2009 piece “Les Cloudes” — a work in which 13,000 feathers and thousands of pounds ($15,000) were suspended in the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall — won the Chelsea Award for Independent Visual Art, which provided significant prizes.
His work is included in the collections of the Tate, Victoria and Albert Museum and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.