Interview with the RGI’s new convenor Hazel Nagl

The RGI’s new convenor, Hazel Nagl RSW RGI PAI took time out from working on preparations for the RGI Annual Exhibition, to talk about her new role.

How long have you been involved with the RGI?

I was appointed an RGI Artist in 2000 and as well as it being a great honour, I was delighted to be in such as illustrious company as Sandy Murphy and Simon Laurie, who became RGIs that same year.  It was quite a surprise, as at that time, new RGIs were simply announced; you didn’t know it was going to happen.

However, my involvement with the RGI stretches back 30 years as I’ve been submitting work to the Annual Exhibition ever since leaving Glasgow School of Art. There was and still is great prestige in being connected with the RGI, and having your work exhibited at the McLellan Galleries alongside established contemporary artists.

After art school, I worked as ‘house mother’ at the GSA’s workshop at Culzean Castle, although I wasn’t much older than the students! As the students were mostly studio based at that time, Culzean was about providing them with a different way of looking at things. I lived and worked there for 18 years under the wardenship of Robert Hume RGI.

Your reaction to being appointed RGI Convenor?

It’s just such an honour, particular as I’m following in the footsteps of artists such as Simon Laurie, Norman Kirkham, Norman Edgar, George Devlin, and Christine McArthur.  I am only the second woman to be appointed convener in the RGI’s 151-year history.

What does your role as RGI Convenor involve?

As this is my first year as convenor, I’m learning new things as I go along, but essentially, it is my job is to oversee the actual procedure of the Annual Show, and all this kicks off at the beginning of the year.

First comes the selection process, and I have an excellent 14-strong selection team who will choose from all the work that is submitted. Once the selection has been made, the hanging team steps in, and this year we have Neil MacPherson RGI in the role of Chief Hanger.

I’m also delighted to have the expertise of my predecessor Simon Laurie on the team, as The Mitchell is not really a gallery per se which makes the hanging process quite challenging. The McLellan was more straightforward as it was made up of traditional galleries, and because it is a larger space we could hang a greater number of paintings.

Once something is selected it has to go up, be it a gigantic canvas or the smallest painting. Incidentally, the small paintings are always well received by the public and sell well.

What are your expectations for this year’s Annual Show?

The RGI has an all embracing attitude to young artists and as part of its commitment to supporting new talent, we hope to have a substantial number of submissions from new graduates, and that the prizes will be enough to tempt them.

Thanks to the generosity of our sponsors, the RGI offers the best prizes of any open exhibition of this kind. This year, we are delighted to have a new prize of £1000 courtesy of auctioneers Lyon & Turnbull.

What else are you involved with at the moment?

Prior to the Annual, I’m particularly pleased to be curating the first ever exhibition of works by artists who hold the title of RGI at Glasgow Art Club which runs from 4 to 21 August, as it augments our already close relationship with the art club which of course is just round the corner from the RGI Kelly Gallery.

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