Ruth Barker

The Shores of the Familiar (Permanent Commission)

Cowcaddens Pedestrian Underpass, Glasgow
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Permanent Work 


Commissioning Agent: RMJM Architects on behalf of Glasgow City Council

Site: Pedestrian underpass leading to Cowcaddens underground station, and gateway to the planned Port Dundas Landscape Link footpath, which will link Glasgow’s city centre with the canal at Port Dundas.

Description: Fifteen pen-and-ink drawings screen-printed onto vitreous enamel panelling on both walls of the underpass. The drawings are based on the flora and fauna of Britain’s canal system, and emphasise the strange or alien aesthetic of many of these organisms, while the blue and white colour-scheme echoes traditional blue and white porcelain designs, juxtaposing the contemporary medium of the vitreous enamel panels. The work celebrates the possibility of the fantastic and the incredible, and draws on a latter-day science fiction aesthetic that suggests the fictitious menagerie of writers such as H.P. Lovecraft.

The drawings are arranged in an alternating design, moving between single images and repeated patterns, with each panel featuring a different organism. The panels run from image 1 to image 15 on the North Wall, and reverse to run from image 15 to image 1 on the South Wall. The images on opposing walls therefore do not mirror each other. Each organism on the repeat-pattern panels has been hand-drawn, leading to slight inconsistencies and differences between the versions present.

Materials: Vitreous enamel panelling with screen-printed images.

Duration: permanent work

Digital image by RMJM. Images of the completed work courtesy of Andrew Lee, photographer



Press Coverage:

Evening Times 


A GRAFFITI-RIDDEN underpass has been transformed into a work of art.

The Cowcaddens underground passage on Cambridge Lane was once the target of graffiti artists from all over Britain, and was even featured on a graffiti website.

Now a professional artist has given the underpass a radical makeover. Ruth Barker's installation, The Shores of the Familiar, involved screenprinting the underpass walls with 15 unique pen and ink drawings of plants and waterlife.

Councillor Gordon Matheson and children from Garnetbank Primary School unveiled the new-look lifesize artwork.

It was commissioned by Glasgow City Council and British Waterways Scotland, as part of a scheme to revitalise the city's canal.

Steve Dunlop, Director at British Waterways Scotland said: "The underpass is a key link between the canal and the city centre.

"I'm delighted that the rich environmental aspects of the waterway have been reflected in this impressive artwork."

Over the next 10 years, the Forth & Clyde Canal is due to undergo large-scale regeneration in the area between Port Dundas and Maryhill, as a second waterfront' is created in the city.

Publication date 18/12/07