Gaining internet fame for his tracksuit-donning van Gogh posters, emerging Scottish contemporary artist Ross Muir recreates iconic historical artworks with a modern-day, Glaswegian twist.Read More
Born in 1981, Ross Muir spent most of his life in the Vale of Levan, Scotland. Although Muir moved to Glasgow in 2009, he never attended the widely reputed Glasgow School of Art.
A self-taught artist, Muir came to art as a career later in life and almost by chance, at the age of 30. Having received a small set of paints as a gift, he began painting as a hobby. This developed into a form of escape from his struggle with drug addiction. Speaking about his art, Muir has stated, 'this has been my redemption. I've cleaned my act up, I am in recovery and painting has given me a way of indirectly making amends for all the carry-on in my past.'
Since he began painting in 2011, Muir had largely been creating female portraits. In 2018, what began as a momentary escape from the seriousness of his main works culminated in a new direction in the artist's career.
Ross Muir's Square Gogh (2018), a humorous reimagining of one of the Dutch Post-impressionist's late self-portraits, propelled the artist to internet fame when it was posted on social media. In this reimagining, van Gogh wears an Adidas tracksuit—something the artist himself wears as he paints. This work, which launched Muir into a full-time career as an artist, set the tone of his oeuvre moving forward.
Ross Muir's art today draws from a wide range of art historical references. His seminal paintings and prints pay homage to a varied selection of artists, including Rembrandt, van Gogh, Edvard Munch, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Salvador Dalí, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Andy Warhol, among others.
These reworkings and references vary in subtlety. In one print, Muir quietly adds to Dali's famous The Persistence of Memory (1931) a pair of trainers dangling over a tree branch. This is a relatively small tweak in comparison to the artist's rendition of Vladimir Tretchikoff's painting Chinese Girl (1952). Ross Muir's Green Lady with Red Top (2020) is clad in Muir's familiar tracksuit with a saintly Renaissance halo. Riffing off Lichtenstein's Oh, Jeff... I Love You Too... But... (1964), the artist's special edition print fundraiser for LGTBQ rights charity Stonewall presents a rainbow-haired, tracksuited woman professing those same feelings for 'Jessica'.
When it comes to titles and text within paintings, Muir regularly employs word play and the Glaswegian vernacular. Whistler's Mother becomes Whistler's Maw, and a portrait of famed Glaswegian poet Robbie Burns is affectionately titled Rabbie (2021). The title of Ross Muir's Amazing Grace (2020) also plays on dual meanings, relating the art historical format of Christian Madonna paintings to the pop culture icon Grace Jones.
During the nationwide lockdown, Muir repurposed his earlier Square Gogh to create a series of posters which were displayed around Glasgow. With the addition of the words 'Jist Gogh Hame', they presented a strong message encouraging viewers to stay home in Glaswegian English. Yet again becoming a viral sensation, the image's popularity resulted in the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, sharing the image on their Instagram account.
Ross Muir held his first solo exhibition in Glasgow's City Centre in 2019, with a later exhibition in 2020 cancelled due to Covid-19. Ross Muir's Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter followers have been regularly presented with new work over the course of the pandemic.
Michael Irwin | Ocula | 2021