Credit: Brian Sweeney courtesy of Street Level Photoworks

Review: Brian Sweeney’s G20 @ Trongate 103

By Rothery Sullivan

Brian Sweeney’s photography exhibition succinctly captures life and nature in the G20 area of Glasgow.

I entered the G20 photography exhibition at Trongate 103, first noticing the emptiness of the room; not a single other person came into the exhibition the entire time I was there, which seemingly fit with the theme of the work. Brian Sweeney’s G20 collection includes photos from the Forth & Clyde Canal over the duration of the year, highlighting the themes of life and nature that he observed on his walks. The collection took up one wall and all pieces were the same size, allowing for an unsettlingly ordered layout that contrasted with the pieces themselves. 

As a resident of G20 and a frequent walker along the canal, I found Sweeney’s photographs a beautiful depiction of how life and nature exist in Maryhill. I found that the collection as a whole portrayed how the man-made structures of Glasgow interact with nature, and how the people of Glasgow act as the go-between for the two. Most of the images portrayed the natural aspects of Glasgow as dark, such as the grey cloudy skies or the darkness of the water in the canal; differently, both human and animal life brought light to the images. In contrast, there is a piece that has no living creatures in it; this image lacks colour and light, depicting the stillness of the water in the smog-covered canal. The photo is empty, still, and dark, representing what Glasgow would be without life. By showing images of the canal at all times of day, Sweeney shows how nature and city can form one united ecosystem, the breathing city of Glasgow. His exhibition captures the way nature runs through the veins of Glasgow.

One of my favourite pieces is an image of two swans angrily upright and squawking at a dog under a bridge. The picture is framed so that the water and animals are illuminated in the centre while the edges of the shot are made of the bridge and pavement along the walkway, all of which are in shadows. The image shows how the movement and brightness of life contrast with the stillness of manmade infrastructure; only when life exists within this structure can we see how brilliant life actually is. 

Another mentionable piece depicts a one-person caravan in the parking lot of a housing complex. The colours of the man-made structures are sharp in contrast with the grey, gloomy weather. The grass is green and brown, suggesting the season of autumn, and the brown, orange and grey buildings mimic these autumn colours. The mint caravan sits slightly off centre in the shot, perched on brown and grey pavement that matches the buildings. To me, this image reflects the ways the Glasgow weather affects all aspects of city life through the similar colours and the structure of the frame. 

Overall, the exhibition was an excellent depiction of life in the G20 area and the way people, animals and nature’s elements interact with one another. Sweeney made brilliant use of light and colour, using light to show the difference between nature and the artificial structure of the city while using colour to depict the way the two combine to form Glasgow. I recommend any Glasgow resident to check out this exhibition and urge you to walk along the canal as well to fully understand the meaning behind G20

An in-depth artist talk on the exhibition by Brian Sweeney on the Street Level Photoworks YouTube channel.


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