THE PUBLIC IMAGE – Scottish Lady Tiger – Michael Curran an intimate study of the life and work of Dame Muriel Spark

Generator Projects, 25-26 Mid Wynd Industrial Estate, Dundee, DD1 4JG 15th – 30th September 2018 Thurs – Sun 12-5pm

opening party ‘Verssinage’ on Saturday 15/09/18 from 7-9pm

closing party ‘Finissage’ on Sunday 30/09/18 from 3-5pm


“Write privately, not publicly, without fear or timidity, right to the end of the letter, as if it was never going to be published… Don’t rehearse too much, the story will develop as you go along… Remember not to think of the reading public. It will put you off.” Dame Muriel Spark

Video and performance artist Michael Curran has created an environment in which a series of actions and performances inspired by the life and work of Muriel Spark can take place.

Michael Curran

Generator Projects has become a laboratory, a press office, a casting room, a mail room and a film set for Curran and his collaborators to dissect the author’s fascination with appearances and what lies beneath. The exhibition explores some of the ambiguities concerning Spark, the muse, the enigma and the émigré.

As part of this project, we are producing an LP with sound artists chosen by the artist Michael Curran and curator Hari MacMillan. This is being manufactured during the show and released at the Finissage accompanied by performances of some of the artists on the LP.

Through the artist’s actions, photography, drawn images and video works, Spark will appear as a figure under investigation. As Curran re-negotiate Spark’s public image he simultaneously references and interprets her fiction.

Live readings from her novels in the space give the feel of a party gone awry and encourages the involvement of the audience. Attempts to (de)construct Spark are interrupted by the drama of her own works. Curran aims to investigate the mystery Spark saw at the heart of all things.

The show will finish with the performative Lecture: ‘Scottish Lady Tiger’ on Sunday 30th September (3-5pm) inviting local artists, performers and our audience to join us in celebration of Spark and Curran’s work.

‘The Public Image’ takes its title from Spark’s ninth novel (1968) which showed a shift in style, more overtly experimental, than her earlier works. Spark had recently moved from London to Rome and was exposed to the excesses of the film industry there. It is a highly prescient examination of celebrity, and the power of an image-saturated culture, where spectacle reigns, and the world of the media has transformed the subject’s real life into a replica without an original image.


Drawing by Michael Curran

In Spark’s novel actress, Annabel, becomes subsumed by her own representation in the public eye as the ‘English Lady Tiger’. Like much of Spark’s work, its themes have a visionary aspect that has grown richer and more relevant over time in relation to contemporary culture and the present crisis of spectacle. Spark continues to prove herself as a writer and visionary acutely aware of the conditions of image making and image reception with a powerful understanding of the destructive properties of media.


The exploration of the public and private persona, the question of multiple identities and its stripping away are recurrent themes in Spark’s work. She was an innovator not just in her ideas but also in her writing style, joie de vivre and formidable fashion sense. The project’s use of images, text, fashion and film will celebrate these traits while alluding to techniques of disruption and alienation in her writing.

The idea of the public mask and the cultivation of image remains ever more relevant in the assault of digital culture in which the boundary between the real and the unreal, the private and the public becomes increasingly impossible to decipher. In critiquing the production of images, Spark was extremely guarded concerning her own public image,  controlling it stringently, minimizing her exposure to the glare of camera lights and press intrusion. It is due to this that she was often seen as aloof and indeed difficult.

Spark, she was sometimes perceived as ‘not a true Scot’ because of her domicile elsewhere. Curran, also an errant Scot, lives and works in Camberwell, London, a stone’s throw from where Spark resided while writing her early novels. Curran is passionately interested in Spark as an innovator and in the centrality of mystery and inexplicability of her imagination. She understood that our sense of reality and our human attempts at exploration are laughable and that all ‘truths’ all ‘images’ are malleable.


This work hopes to address the notion that Spark and her legacy cannot be ‘explained’ in straightforward terms. Curran wishes to acknowledge her importance in popular culture and how she permeates our lives, even today. In 1978, after reading her book, a disenchanted John Lydon wrote the song ‘Public Image’ around the media furore on his leaving the Sex Pistols. He even named his new band after it. Serendipitously John Lydon appeared in Dundee with The Public Image the night before Curran arrived to install his show.


This work is a fitting and daring tribute to Scotland’s foremost woman writer, encouraging a further appreciation of her work and its continuing relevance in the 21st century.

Michael Curran is an alumnus of the Electronic Imaging Postgraduate from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design and BA in Fine Art from Goldsmiths College. He is known for his early performance to videotapes and later his installation work.

Some further reading…
https://londonsartistquarter.org/artist-hub/users/mcurran/profile https://www.mattsgallery.org/artists/curran/exhibition-1.php http://www.luxonline.org.uk/artists/michael_curran/index.html