Dundee student’s unique tartan artworks on display at V&A Dundee
Published on 20 December 2023
A barman turned artist’s unique tartan artworks made up of everyday people’s signatures are on display at V&A Dundee
Ian Coleman is a postgraduate student at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design (DJCAD), part of the University of Dundee.
The 54-year-old MFA Art & Humanities student, who grew up in the Kirkton area of Dundee, is delighted to have two of his creations displayed in the auditorium area of the museum.
Ian, who lives in the West End of the city, makes his art by stopping people passing by and asking them to sign a piece of paper, which after thousands of signatures, evolves into an artwork.
The two pieces currently exhibited at V&A Dundee for the final month of the Tartan exhibition, were also taken to Dundee and Angus College, Harris Academy and Morgan Academy to be signed by students and pupils.
Ian said, “It means a lot to me personally to have these artworks displayed at V&A Dundee and it also means that the individuals who took part in it are able to come and see it.
“It’s the people who make these artworks and they’re very excited to see the end result on display – especially the school pupils.”
Next creation will start from within V&A Dundee
Ian will also work from the exhibition hall for a whole day, on 6 January 2024, when he will be on hand to talk to members of the public about his process and practice.
And he will collect signatures for his next art piece, before taking the project to America to involve a global network in his socially engaged participatory artwork.
Ian added, “It’s about inclusivity. When I was collecting signatures outside V&A Dundee for this artwork, I bumped into the world-famous Japanese architect Kengo Kuma.
“He asked about the project and gave it his seal of approval and signed the work. Then the next day a homeless man signed it outside the Wine Press [Dundee pub].
“His signature will forever be next to Kengo Kuma’s on a piece of art.”
Ian estimates he has spoken to around 4,000 people as part of his creations, most of which left a permanent mark of their engagement in the form of a signature.
Ian took an alternative path into art
The father of two teenagers, who also works as a barman at Speedwell Bar on Perth Road, is well known within Dundee, having formally worked at the Ascot Bar in the 90s.
He later went on to complete a degree in physical activity and health at Abertay University, before working in the NHS, but a burning desire to create art using an idea he had as a teenager encouraged him to give up his full-time job and pursue his dreams.
“The idea came to me when I was 18 and I created a piece of the Law [hill] through signatures,” he said. “Then in 1993 I did it again when I was working in Valencia in Spain.
“I did have dreams I could become an artist through this concept but I didn’t believe in myself then. I settled into a secure job but I always felt like I should be doing something else.
“I felt trapped and didn’t want to become the person in a care home sitting watching someone else with my idea on TV.”
Studying art in Dundee has been 'life-changing'
Ian describes the past two years he’s spent at DJCAD as life-changing as his knowledge and confidence in himself as an artist has soared.
He said, “I didn’t know that my artwork was ‘socially engaged’ until I started at DJCAD – I’ve learned so much theory, how to explain my work and refine my practice.
“I’m a different person to who I was when I started the course, and through the help of my lecturers I do believe in myself and that I can do it.”
Ian’s work will be on display at V&A Dundee until 12 January 2024, alongside the museum’s Tartan exhibition, which closes on 14 January 2024.
James Wylie, co-curator of Tartan at V&A Dundee, said, “We are really happy to have these striking new Tartan artworks composed of people’s signatures on display for the final month of the Tartan exhibition.
“Ian’s process to co-produce a real manifestation of a People's Tartan with people coming to V&A Dundee is a wonderful snapshot of a moment in time and we are thrilled visitors will have a chance to see Ian’s work here at V&A Dundee.”
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