Elvis and Lulu get the Big Jessie treatment from Donald Urquhart at Glasgow's Brunswick

By Ben Miller | 02 May 2012
An image of a black ink drawing of singer Elvis Presley
Exhibition: Donald Urquhart – Big Jessie, The Brunswick Hotel, Glasgow, until May 27 2012

Former drag queen and self-confessed “big Jessie” Donald Urquhart spent the 1990s running “high camp creative cabaret” night The Beautiful Bend.

His line in cartoonish black ink drawings – first perfected on the flyers and posters made to promote the club – features Scottish Alphabet, a screenprint of 26 reimagined figures running from Lulu and the Krankies to Hen Broon, Elvis and Desperate Dan.

An image of a black ink drawing of a man in a dress next to the words big jessie
“No doubt Lorraine Kelly will be scunnered that she lost out,” he rues. “Billy Connolly didn’t even make it.

“As the alphabet evolved I realised what a low-brow bunch I was assembling. Our cultural identity is often as garish and lurid as bright tartans and blaring bagpipes.”

In the end, he says, the line-up was “no place for Greyfriars Bobby, John Knox and Mary Queen of Scots.”

“In a vague attempt at balance I tried to incorporate equal numbers of men and women, and this is why lovely Molly Weir appears in place of the more predictable W is for whisky.”

David McCracken, of exhibition organisers Peacock Visual Arts, admits showcasing such intricate flamboyance can be tricky. “The richness of his blacks lend themselves naturally to the print medium and pose great challenges to our print team to re-present them with an equal clarity,” he says.

“Donald articulates a personal narrative with a highly distinctive black and white graphic, brilliantly realised with tiny brush and Indian ink.”

The show opened in April with (analyse this) “a shooftie and a wee swally wi some Big Jessies who like it up the Brunswick.” You cannae say fairer than that.

  • The Brunswick Hotel, Brunswick Street, Glasgow. Opem 12pm-12am (12.30pm-12am Sunday). Admission free.
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