Edwin Morgan exhibition identity

Edwin Morgan: An Eardley On My Wall

This new online exhibition features artworks from the personal collection of Scottish poet Edwin Morgan (1920-2010) and marks the Edwin Morgan Centenary which launches on 27 April 2020 - Morgan's 100th birthday. #EdwinMorgan100

Edwin Morgan: An Eardley On My Wall

As the first named Scottish National Poet, or Scots Makar, Edwin Morgan was a national figure beloved by many. This year marks the centenary of Morgan’s birth, which makes cause for celebration and remembrance. While Morgan was known for his writings and poetry, this exhibition chose to delve deeper into who he was as a person, beyond the best known aspects of his life - to let the people get to know him in a more personal level.

Morgan had a lifelong interest in art - as both a maker and a collector. In this selection of paintings from his collection, three main themes important to his life are highlighted: creativity, national identity and sexuality. While this does not encompass all aspects of his life, as people are complex and multifaceted, this exhibit strives to bring these passions to the forefront to foster a sense of relatability. By being able to see which paintings he himself had hung in his living space, viewers are able to explore avenues of his interests that have not been widely seen.

One painting in particular, Sweet Shop, Rotten Row by Joan Eardley, highlights his affection for both Glasgow as well as his fondness for the painter. His poem To Joan Eardley was inspired by the same painting that once decorated his wall.

The exhibition, developed for installation at the Hunterian Art Gallery in April 2020, has been devised and selected by Eleanor Capaldi, LGBTQ+ Project Assistant at The Hunterian, and Morgan Henderson, a Masters student in the College of Arts at the University of Glasgow.

In the face of the significant challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic, their determination to see through to completion the online delivery of their ambitious project, and to devise an accompanying programme of activities, has been remarkable. Overcoming the technical challenges of delivering this online exhibition in these extraordinary circumstances, colleagues at The Hunterian have broken new ground. In due course, The Hunterian looks forward to welcoming visitors once more - coming face to face with Edwin Morgan’s collection in person.

Virtual Events

Be Part of a Poem
April and May 2020

Submit your own written responses to the artworks featured in the Edwin Morgan: An Eardley On My Wall online exhibition and help to create a crowdsourced poem. Once we’ve gathered your contributions, our resident poet Calum Rodger will craft this crowdsourced poem in celebration of Morgan’s unique collection.

Find out more, including how to submit your responses on The Hunterian Blog site.

Entries open on 27 April and close on 29 May 2020. Visit the exhibition for inspiration! 

Edwin Morgan: Poetry and Art Event
Wednesday 15 July 2020

A fun online event hosted by GULGBTQ+ and the University of Glasgow LGBT+ Staff Network. Poetry readings and discussion about the works of the first Glaswegian Poet Laureate! Hosted on Zoom. Sign up via Facebook

Crowdsourced Poem

To celebrate #EdwinMorgan100 we invited our digital visitors to contribute to a new crowdsourced poem inspired by the artworks featured in our online exhibition, Edwin Morgan: An Eardley On My Wall. A selection of the responses have been brought together and feature in this new poem created by Calum Rodger.

A Thousand Bubbles Rise

It is 1937. The poet’s pencil draws a fishtank.
Where hollow eyes see the world as a bleak
Small curly loop, his tentative pencil charts
The dance of longing and denial, as a line
grows bold around the bodies of two angelfish.
Facing towards each other, mouths open
The angelfish make bubbles like syllables
Rising up for air. The felt pen writes
EDWIN G. MORGAN 1937 in the bottom-right corner –
Intimations of a monogram in ink, in water.
The poet is yet to choose between Art School or University
Yet to live with Byrne, and Kidd, and Eardley
Yet to paint poster-poems, make scrapbook diaries
Welcome beatniks to the kailyard, share strawberries
Or begin to decipher the sweet frenzied whistling
Of the starlings in George Square. Is yet to tell
A city of some of the ways to speak and love well.
It is 1937. The poet’s pencil draws a fishtank.
Bubbles are ascending to the margin.

It is 2020. We are bubbling in our fishtanks
Across an age with Eddie and his angelfish.
The orange rolled away on the beach and was stolen by the wind
So petrified to step into a little cornea, we make
Our lazy walls warmer with the poet’s ardent eye.
A thousand bristles on a canvas.
A thousand voices in one poem.
Birds twitter, stabs of sweetness pierce like chalk on a pavement
Like a flag in a window, in the wind. The shape
redbreasted orangeordered yellowhammered greentreed bluefished indigoing violentadjust
Of secrets. Nothing not giving messages.
Do you frame yourself in colour? Do you choose to cross the line?
A thousand fishtanks. No Glasgow without you, Makar.
redeye orangefin yellowgill greenmouth bluescale indigosh violettail
Two angelfish thinking: colour us in, we’ll swim

Picture him thus: eighteen, gay, Glaswegian.
Yet for the poem, yet for the city
Yet for the love in the frame of the drawing
All the longing the locked window brings
Evokes emotions, arts.
Every stroke, every word shows a piece of his heart.
Picture-perfect smudges of life dropped on the floor
Stepped on, salvaged, built on bruised lands
Opening to receive such sweetness.
redsmudge orangewindow yellowlight greenland bluebruise indigossamer violetime
Perhaps he wondered who would believe this signal
Of so much love.
Perhaps we wonder now how one could not believe it.
Scraps of Then and Now –
His pencil
              an outstretched hand pulling us in
                                                                 a gift
Too precious to ruin. Now, our bodies
Bowed, his cellist’s limbs embrace us.
redlife orangeheart yellowsun greenearth blueart indigorgeous violetsoul
Oh what a day to await! Morgan on our screens
A close warm beautiful thing, flickering –
It is 2020. The poet’s is our fishtank.
As you remind us of the togetherness we swim
So our love for you has flourished and will flourish.

Picture them thus: the poet and his angelfish
Lookouts, dignified but apprehensive
Sketching the essential facts of life.
Bubbles rise as currents calmly flow
Safety, company, food and a clean home.
Isn’t that all a creature needs to ‘thrive’?
Or do angelfish wonder where the bubbles rise?
Wandering aimlessly in the dream-napped city
Modernity in the hype of brights and blues
Or sublime countryside stretching out at one’s feet
Oblivion crackling with the preternatural.
redsky orangedusk yellowlamp greenstreets bluebubbles indigodlike violententative
Is the ‘artificial’ or ‘the wild’ best?
Ask a drawing of two angelfish. Ask eighteen-year-old Eddie,
The metropolis stirs in his blood, igniting feelings of familiarity
From childhood dreams, as he imagines a city into being.
redlove orangejoy yellowpromise greenshoots bluedreaming indigolden violetouch
Standing before the shop’s encaustic door, does he push, go in?
Scotland’s always welcomed, so – or so-so welcomed a so-and-so – why no?
Scraps of Then and Now –
From fishtank to hive of wax, honey, sting –
All the longing the locked window brings
Evokes all the love he has bequeathed us.

No Glasgow without you, Makar.
No Scotland, no Mercury, no Polaroid, no Parliament
No starling, no angelfish, no cigarette, no strawberry
No Christmas card, no Monster’s song, no Hungarian snake
No archive, no second life, no life.
Where Art is sprung we have seasons from the past.
Our questions decorate a poet’s wall. Angelfish inhabit our screens.
A thousand voices in one poem. A thousand bubbles rise.
No Glasgow without you, Makar.
We remember to thank the angelfish.
We remember to thank the sky.

Contributors: Zarah A, Poet Adamus, Keiron Baird, Sarah Barr, Linda Burnett, A C Clarke, Kella Coulton, Craig, Robin Davis, Gareth Draper, Mike Ferguson, Christopher Fidelis, MsBarneyHarper, Rob Lieper, Abbie Logan, Valdis Moore, Charis Morlotti, Soma Moulik, Andy O’Malley, Vivian O’Shaughnessy, Neil James Rhind, SoOccasionNow, Deborah Tyler-Bennett, Ida Thomasdotter, Shelley Tracey, Fiona Walker.