August 16, 2018

John Calcutt (1951–2018)

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND—John Calcutt, critic, writer, teacher, and former leader of the Master of Fine Art and MLitt Fine Art Practice programs at the Glasgow School of Art, has passed away at age sixty-seven. Calcutt first joined the Glasgow School of Art in 1987 as an instructor in the Department of Historical and Critical Studies and MFA dissertation supervisor. In 2005, he was named program leader of the MFA, a position he would hold for a decade. In 2011, he created the MLitt in Fine Art Practice program, now a key component of the school’s graduate portfolio.

In addition to his work as an educator, Calcutt was an art critic for Scotland on Sunday and the Guardian and regularly contributed to exhibition catalogs, magazines, journals, and books on art. He also served as associate curator at the Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow.

“I knew John first when he taught me at GSA, then through his work as a curator and writer, and finally as a colleague when I joined the MFA teaching team some years later,” said artist and current MFA tutor Graham Ramsay. “We became firm friends, and it was a genuine pleasure to work with him. It’s true to say that he was a man of many hidden talents and catholic tastes. He also had a great sense of humor and a keen critical intelligence; often the two went hand in hand, but he was always a sensitive and generous critic.”

“Personally, John’s wit and intelligence are what I will remember most,” said CCA director and GSA tutor Francis McKee. “As a colleague, he was always a source of inspiration—I was constantly learning how to teach from watching him at work. A few weeks ago, a student described her tutorial with him as vital—he offered searching questions and unique insights. He was incredibly modest about his achievements but I was always struck by the way in which he applied the critical tools of the MFA to his own thinking, constantly renewing his energy and enthusiasm for teaching. His calmness and tolerance sustained a playful and creative ambiance on the course that was appreciated by both staff and students.”

In November 2016, Calcutt spoke with writer Chris Sharratt for a School Watch profile of the Glasgow School of Art, remarking of the MFA program, “Over two years you can fail, you can fuck up still have time to recuperate. More risks can be taken.”

Artist and GSA tutor Ross Sinclair said, “I found someone in the depths of our dialogues and discussions who became my mentor and friend, an incisive and inspiring teacher who showed me that thinking and writing and talking about art could and should be open and accessible to anyone. John encouraged me to push at the limits of what was acceptable for dissertation, for writing, for thinking and for making art.”

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