Galleries: A mother and her daughter create an “Airbnb” place for the artists of the city

As students a few years apart of the Glasgow School of Art’s Revolutionary Environmental Art course, mother and daughter,

Hilary Nicoll and Zoe Buchanan have been told “context is everything”.

David Harding, whose own renowned public artist career followed this mantra, started the course in 1985 and taught at the art school until his retirement in 2001. He joked that the couple were the first mother and daughter he had ever taught.

Today, Nicoll, who graduated as a mature student in 1995, and Buchanan, who followed eight years later, have embraced the idea that a practice of the fine arts should be guided by ideas, context, and the outside world and work with it.

As partners in a new pop-up venue and art gallery, called Nicolls, in west Glasgow, they’ve had a slightly bumpy ride – like many businesses in 2020.

Mother and daughter first repossessed the former locksmiths

on Partick’s Dumbarton Road a year ago and, excited by the possibilities of the original Victorian elements that were loosely imprinted inside, got to work.

Their restoration of the exterior of the unit, which dates from 1899, was completed at Christmas but in the process, the two women discovered a host of treasures, including a rare Bournville cocoa enamel plaque from 1906. This rare “ghost sign” came out from under layers of plastic and vinyl as they stripped the store features.

They also came across a small Bovril sign with “closed Tuesday at 1:00 am” above the front door.

The sleek little space, with its black fireplace and immaculate walls, was slated to officially open in March as a pop-up gallery and space for workshops, discussions, meetings, reading groups, pop-up shops and launches of products.

An unofficial opening of the venue took place just before Christmas last year, with a retrospective of artwork by Nicoll’s late partner,

Robert Stewart. With locals and friends embracing the idea, Nicolls’ journal has started to fill up.

“The store was almost finished, but not quite,” says Nicoll, “but we wanted to make people aware of it. Our first official exhibition in space, of Glasgow-based artist and musician Peter Kelly, was scheduled to open the weekend of March 13 but, due to Covid-19, that did not happen.

“There was a bit of a delay, but we were very happy when Pete’s exhibit, featuring his signature paintings, drawings and t-shirts, finally opened last weekend.”

Current restrictions on social gatherings have ended the couple’s plans to hold designs, talks and events in the small space, but there is a busy schedule of exhibitions.

and pop-ups in the calendar until the end of the year.

Artists who have exhibitions planned in the space in the coming months include; Anne Goldrick, Susan Fair and Fraser Taylor of The Cloth fame.

“The space lends itself to a few people at the same time,” Buchanan explains. “Our queues are becoming quite sociable. When the Glasgow PlantMama took it over in August, when we reopened and the queue got longer all the way down the street to the Thornwood roundabout!

“She has an amazing following and is having another houseplant sale on the weekend of December 15-17.”

Although Covid has pulled six full months of Nicolls planned in the first year, there is an air of well-being to the space, with its turn-of-the-century perjink aesthetic and community vibe. Hilary Nicoll gets in shape by creating spaces that foster a creative community.

She previously worked as an art teacher at the HMP Shotts Educational Unit, Addiction Unit and Special Unit and Our Lady and St Patrick High School in Dumbarton before establishing Albert Drive Studios in southern Glasgow.

Housed in a Victorian villa, Albert Drive Studios operated from 2010 to 2013 and became an independent studio for creative small businesses; running a dynamic program of arts events, exhibitions and recreational classes, including Dining at Albert Drive, a dinner club that Nicoll ran with his friend Eta.

The raffle for The Retreat, an old cottage with a large overgrown garden, cultivated by a botanist, saw Nicoll move to Argyll before returning to live in Glasgow’s West End.

Nicoll tries to emphasize that the important thing about the place is that while it is not a social enterprise, there is a social element to the way it is run. “Unlike galleries, we

do not take a commission. What we do is actually the store’s “Airbnb” as a space where the artist and maker can organize and set up the place for a while.

the period in which they hired him. Each reservation is different.

Mother and daughter continue to work on their own respective art practices and a few weekends ago they collaborated on a beautiful piece by Glasgow Victoriana in the form of an exhibition called Total Strangers: Studio Portraits of Glasgow’s Victorians.

As part of an open house weekend, the family collection of ‘cabinet cards’, a thematic style of photography widely used for portrait photography after 1870, introduced the world to a multitude of unknown Glasgows.

The current Glasgow take note; there is much to see and savor in Nicolls.

Nicolls. 656 Dumbarton Road, Thornwood, Partick, Glasgow G11 6RA, 0141 334 2728, This weekend, Glasgow-based designer and designer Olive Pearson is in residence. See website for opening hours and schedule of pop-up events / exhibitions

Critic’s Choice

Sophie Mackay Knight, who graduated from Edinburgh College of Art in 1997, embarked on a lifelong journey to create a new body of work called The Fool’s Journey. The exhibition, currently on display at the UNIONgallery in Edinburgh, features several large-scale paintings of a fully completed 78-card tarot deck that Mackay Knight has made over the past two years. In addition to the tarot charts, there are works from a zodiac mini series, an interpretation of the legend of the Seven Sisters, and other works on the themes of Fate and Fate.

Mackay Knight grew up with a grandmother who took her to psychics and taught her to read normal playing cards as a child and a mother who taught her all about astrology. As she says, “I grew up seeing how all of these channels are part of the same quest that people have to seek for meaning and connection.”

The show is called the Madman’s Journey because the madman in the tarot is the first major arcana (i.e. story) card, and he / she represents each person on their journey through life. Each card, with names such as Hermit, Alchemist, and Death, represents a stage or situation in life.

Mackay Knight works in a bright and luminous palette. His characters – even Death – have a hint of brightness around the bangs. Hummingbirds flit from one canvas to another like a kind of touchstone. Her paintings, though mature, retain a scribble maiden touch in her bedroom; look to the future and dream of a life to come.

Sophie McKay Knight – The Fool’s Journey, UNIONgallery, 4 Drumsheugh Place, Edinburgh, EH3 7PT, 0131 225 8779,, Monday to Friday 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 pm. Until October 31

Do not miss

Gregor Smith has exhibited with the Compass Gallery in Glasgow since the 1970s and Four Points, A Geographical Journey, demonstrates his rare ability to capture the atmosphere, drama and beauty of the landscapes he visits. Drawing inspiration from trips to the north of Scotland, the Norwegian fjords, the Italian mountains and lakes and the Yangtze Gorge, this exhibition has evolved slowly over the seasons and over its long walk bringing together inspiration and images in his sketchbooks, working outdoors using pastels, thick graphite sticks, India ink and watercolors.

Gregor Smith RSW, Four Points: A Geographical Journey, Compass Gallery, 178 West Regent Street, Glasgow G2 4RL, 0141 221 6370,, Tuesday to Saturday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Until November 28.

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