FOR Scottish artist Fraser Taylor, the new exhibition celebrating his work was unexpected – to say the least.

While on sabbatical from his teaching position at the Art Institute of Chicago in 2014, he got a call from his storage facility in London.

“They told me that they found three big boxes with my name on them,” the artist tells the Sunday National.

“The boxes were filled with my work from 1977 to 87. I had honestly assumed that after many years of moving studios and moving country, they had just got lost.”

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Across his career, Taylor has been awarded an honorary professorship from the Glasgow School of Art (GSA) and he also co-founded The Cloth – an influential creative studio focused on contemporary textile design and production.

Now, his rediscovered work has helped to shape the new exhibition Instant Whip: The Textiles and Papers of Fraser Taylor, which opened to the public on Saturday and is running until April 20.

Rediscovering the work

Taylor says his “heart stopped beating” the moment he discovered his old work had been saved.

He had to act quickly though as he was preparing to return to Chicago to resume his teaching role in the US.

“Someone from the GSA found out I had all these boxes. They said they’d love to have it and they turned it into an education resource so it seemed like the perfect solution to the problem,” he explains.

The National: Fraser Taylor currently has a studio in Glasgow having worked in Chicago for a number of years

Taylor (above) himself had studied printed textiles at the GSA but later took up a teaching position in Chicago – a place he says is also home to a number of Scots, and he laughs as he recalls meeting somebody who went to his high school while living there. 

“It was this amazing moment of working out why I had saved all these sketchbooks and textile samples from a 10-year period where I was in Glasgow and London," he says.

“I honestly had no memory of putting it all in a box. It was an emotional rollercoaster not just seeing it physically but it brought back so many memories of my student days in London and Glasgow.

“Being in Glasgow in the late 70s and early 80s was a very politically challenging time but also an amazingly creative time.

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“We didn’t have the infrastructure to support visual artists at the time so everybody tended to move down to London.”

What’s on display?

There will be a range of items on display, although Taylor says his sketchbooks form a key part of the exhibition.  

“I was working with [Scottish bands] The Bluebells and Friends Again at the time so there’s some record sleeves in there,” he says.

“Hairdressing culture was big at the time so I designed a range of products, so it’s really a series of works on how ideas stem from drawings or sketches. It might become a painting, a textile, a record sleeve.

The National: The exhibition will feature a number of sketchbooks created by Taylor during his student days.

“The goal is to show how all these visual drawings then inform other collaborations.”

The exhibition also features newly commissioned work which has been inspired by revisiting the items that were found.

The National: The exhibition offered Taylor a chance to look back at his previous work

It will also include photography, garments and personal ephemera and the exhibition will include a film made in collaboration with filmmaker Alex James-Aylin and stylist MV Brown.

Similar styles

Despite revisiting work that he created more than 30 years previous, Taylor was pleased to see that much of it held similarities with what he’s done in his career since.

That being said, he also admits there were items he was less proud of but that were nonetheless still part of the journey.

“A couple of things, or quite a few things, I look at now and think that’s pretty good. I was only 18 when I made them and didn’t really know I had it in me,” he says.

“There were some cringe moments though where I was thinking I wish I had forgotten that. I didn’t edit anything when they first gave it to me because I was leaving so soon but it’s all part of the story.

“Every artist acknowledges that they have good and bad moments and it’s okay to share the bad ones as well.”