"When I look at the New Jersey skyline, I find the shapes are similar to rocks on the shoreline," says celebrated Scottish painter Ethel Walker-Murray. "Once you make sense of the complexity, you realise painting cityscapes in New York and London aren't a million miles from the beaches back home."
This April, Ethel is exhibiting 12 of her West Coast of Scotland landscapes at the GCNYC campus as part of the city's Tartan Week celebration of all things Scottish. "New York is a fairly frenetic place," says Ethel, "and I hope my paintings will bring a breath of fresh Argyll air to the students and staff and everyone else who comes to enjoy them."
The University's Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Pamela Gillies CBE FRSE, said: "Glasgow Caledonian University is delighted to combine an exhibition of Ethel's wonderful paintings with two prestigious academic events highlighting our areas of research excellence – bringing together our combined strengths of GCU and Glasgow Caledonian New York College. What a tremendous way to celebrate Tartan week in New York, with two of Scotland's greatest assets – higher education and the arts. We are also pleased that this will be something of a family affair as Ethel will be 'in conversation' with her son John Walker, who is also a trustee of GCNYC."
The academic seminars are being led by Professor Cam Donaldson on sustainable finance and Professor Tahseen Jafry on Climate Justice. They include participation from US-based academics working in these areas as well as civic institutions. During the trip, Professor Jafry is spending two days with New York City officials to find out more about how they are already facing serious issues caused by climate change.
Like the University, Ethel Walker-Murray shares the connection between Glasgow, London and New York. She regularly moves between them from her home of the last 45 years in Dunadd, south of Oban. She says: "I feel an affinity with the entrepreneurial mindset in the States. And I admire what the University is doing at Wooster Street with GCNYC. A lot of people have put a lot in to this venture, it's going well and I'm glad to support it. Artists are entrepreneurs, and I'd like to see more of that spirit in Scotland."
Organising the exhibition has been a steep learning curve for Ethel, who has been coordinating the packing and transport of her works across the Atlantic. "Usually the gallery does everything, but this time I've done it myself from the end of a phone up an Argyll Glen – even the export licenses. Wooster Street has good natural light which I hope will work well. I'm looking forward to seeing the work when it is hung, and enjoying people's reactions."
From November, Ethel is exhibiting in London but she hopes an exhibition on campus in Glasgow could happen next year. "The Saltire Centre is a super space. I'd love to bring some of my larger scale works there in 2020 and continue this connection with the University."
To see the full programme of events at GCNYC during Tartan Week, visit here.