Call for Papers

Making Imagined Objects
The 2nd International Alasdair Gray Conference
16th June 2022 University of Strathclyde / 17th June 2022 University of Glasgow

Keynote speakers:
Ali Smith (Author)
Jenny Brownrigg (Exhibitions Director at The Glasgow School of Art)

Hosted by the University of Strathclyde, the University of Glasgow, and the Alasdair Gray Archive, in partnership with the Glasgow School of Art, the University of Western Brittany, Aix-Marseille University, Edge Hill University, the University of Lausanne and the Tannahill Fund for the Furtherance of Scottish Literature

"Both come naturally to me. I found, when drawing and imagining things in words, that each was a complement to the other."
- Alasdair Gray, interview in The Paris Review, 2017

This two-day interdisciplinary conference will examine the nature, value and legacy of Alasdair Gray's artistic output, considering his literary work and his visual practice, and the relationship between the two in Gray's oeuvre. The conference is entitled "Making imagined objects" in tribute to Gray's own repeated and modest claim that he was a "maker of imagined objects". We wish to investigate the objects - or "things", another important word in Gray's vocabulary - that he manufactured, working across artforms, genres and space.

This international conference on the artist who has been hailed as "a necessary genius" (Ali Smith) welcomes critical as well as creative and hybrid, creative-academic responses to Gray's work.

Since the turn of the century, much has changed both in terms of Gray's work and the context for it, not least the increased attention that his visual practice has received. After decades of neglect, with Gray murals being destroyed or forgotten, and his paintings often ignored, recent years have seen a radical transformation of his reputation as a visual artist. Meanwhile he completed his life-long aim of publishing a series of his collected literary work: his short stories (Every Short Story, 2012), his non-fiction (Of Me & Others, 2018), his "auto-pictography" (A Life in Pictures, 2010), his poetry (Collected Verse, 2010), and his drama (A Gray Play Book, 2009). He also produced another book arguing for Scottish home rule, published in 2014, the year of the Scottish Referendum (Independence). There is now a vast archive of works ripe for fresh analysis. Gray's most recent publications were Hell (2018), Purgatory (2019), and Paradise (2020), a trilogy of poetic responses to Dante's Divine Comedy - and until his death in December 2019 he continued to work on multiple projects, both literary and artistic. Meanwhile, every day Glaswegians and visitors to Glasgow experience his work as part of the landscape he has made in his life's work to document.

We welcome proposals that address the conference theme "Across Space and Form" from different perspectives, including but not limited to:

  • Gray the polymath: The Art of Blurring Genre & Form
  • Conjuring Glasgow: Making a City
  • Gray's Major Works, Across Space & Form
  • Making God: Gray & Religion
  • Portraits & Self Portraits: Making Scotland
  • Gray & Narrative
  • Green Gray - Recycling, Across Space & Form
  • Gray & the Art of Independence
  • Vision and Language: Connections in Gray's practice
  • Gray, Gender & Sexuality
  • Texts and Paratexts: from Word to Image & Image to Word
  • Adapting Gray: Creative, Hybrid & Performative Responses
  • Spheres of Influence: National & Transnational Contexts

Please send abstracts of no more than 300 words together with a bio-bibliography of no more than 200 words by October 31, 2021 to jan.bissett@strath.ac.uk.

Successful applicants will be notified by January 15, 2022. 

Scientific committee: Camille Manfredi, Marie-Odile Pittin-Hedon, Kirsten Stirling.

Please note that we may be able to award postgraduate travel bursaries. If you would like to be considered for a bursary, please include a 200-word explanation about how the conference relates to your research, along with a breakdown of your expenses. 

Register here.

Download the Alasdair Gray - Call for Papers here >>