Mongrels that never bark or bite
SHONA KINLOCH, a 26-year-old Scottish sculptor, finds it amusing that people come up to her and say that their pedigreed dogs do all the things her sculptured dogs do - chase their own tails, march off with noses in the air, sit on their haunches as if frozen. Her dogs are mongrels; they're not likely to go within whining distance of a dog show. But it is her observation and visual wit, as well as her ingenuity in the making of these works, that have grasped characteristics of stance and behavior which cut clean across ``class barriers'' of the dog world. Her dogs represent Everydog.
John Ruskin said of the dogs in Veronese's paintings: ``The essence of dog is there, the entire, magnificent, generic animal type, muscular and living. ''
Kinloch has come up with some dogs - ``Seven Glasgow Dogs'' - that also contain something of the ``essence of dog.'' Kinloch's dogs are not exactly ``magnificent,'' however.
Muscular and lifelike they certainly are: toughs of the street rather than elegant creatures of sport or competition. Nor are they cuddly pets. They're independent urban dogs of indeterminate origin and doubtful ownership. They are also striking pieces of sculpture. Made in clay, they are then cast in cement fondu.
Kinloch develops her ideas for sculpture with drawings. Sometimes actual dogs she knows are at the back of her ideas. But mostly her dogs seem to have emerged from her well-stocked memory. They are not modeled after specific creatures. They are ``types,'' and though some of them elicit laughter, it is the laughter of recognition more than mere comedy; they remain on the right side of caricature. They work as sculptures as well as dogs.
The sculptor says she is not particularly a dog lover. Perhaps it is this fact that gives her Glasgow dogs a certain objectivity, and makes for the suggestion that there is something slightly absurd, rather than sentimental, about canine antics.
Her interest in drawing, and later sculpting, dogs, began when she was on the beach a few years ago in Gaza. There were hundreds of dogs there. At home in East Kilbride, near Glasgow, they would probably have run at her and jumped up. But there they ``just sat there and looked at us.''
Kinloch was in the Middle East on three months of travel sponsored by the Glasgow School of Art, but she has long been familiar with that part of the world. Her exposure to ancient Egyptian sculpture at an early age doubtless has a bearing on her present sense of what sculpture can be. Her dogs are not very distant cousins to the silently sitting cats, the lionesses and ibises, and even the sphinxes of Egyptian art.
Kinloch's 1988 dogs were created specifically for the Glasgow Garden Festival. Of all the sculpture ranged about this site in an extensive art program, Kinloch's dogs seem to make the most sense. Real dogs are (for obvious reasons) forbidden on the festival site, and yet some parts of Glasgow itself are rife with ``dugs''; they are a distinct part of the city's life. Kinloch's canines have thus taken over the area with a certain right of possession.
These sculptures also have a fantasy side to them: One dog balances a tiny fish on its nose, another has a little dog leaping upward from the top of its impassive head. This way it is possible for Kinloch to make a sculpture of a leaping dog (if she tried to do so directly on the ground, the sculpture would not stand up - unless she made a base, which she feels would spoil her sculpture). The big dog's head becomes, in effect, the ``base'' for the little leaping one. Symbolically, the small dog might be the large dog's elated dream or his almost forgotten memory of himself as a puppy.
Yet another dog - a thug of a dog if ever there was one - has tattoos inscribed on its foreleg. This sturdy animal has been given the phonetic name of Acumfraegovan, which translates as ``I-come-from-Govan.'' Govan is the part of Glasgow in which the festival is situated. Thus this dog-character, smiling not altogether benevolently and licking its chops, symbolizes the old rough reputation of Govan and its inhabitants, canine and human. The aggressive presence of this dog comically suggests that no amount of renewal and festivaling can quite obliterate the good old, bad old days.