Trackie McLeod is a Glaswegian artist whose work jests with notions of masculinity, ladcore and growing up queer in the Nineties. His art ranges from football jerseys and sew-on patches to paintings and billboards that rightfully take the piss out of the Tories. A big staple of his work and online presence is his relationship with his mum, Cathy, who has inspired and featured in a number of his works, such as Big Light (2021). Here, Trackie’s mum talks to him about his work and political motivations – and comes clean about what she thought of the questionable art he made at school.
Trackie: Right, Mum, say hello to HUNGER!
Cathy: Helllloooooo, HUNGER!
TM: OK, let’s go. How would you describe my work?
CM: Very different from anything I’ve seen before.
TM: How so?
CM: Well, I never really looked at or had many thoughts about art until you. Remember, I was brought up in the Sixties in Castlemilk [Glasgow] – there was no such thing as art there! I think the only art I knew was the Mona Lisa [Laughter]. So, yeah, it’s been an eye-opener for me in so many ways. Do you think you get any of your artistic inspiration from me?
TM: Yeah, more so recently. I’ve been writing down some of that traditional maw patter like, “It’s like fucking Blackpool Illuminations in here” or “You treat this place like a hotel”, which has gone on to inspire works. But I think what I got from you was your work ethic, which is the most inspiring thing. Do you remember me being artistic as a kid?
CM: I wouldn’t say you were artistic [Laughter]. You were creative in your own way. Lots of colouring in, doodling, making a mess really.
TM: What did I make for you?
CM: When you made me something it was always very thoughtful, normally wee cards, letters or drawings of the family. I’ve kept them all. Trackie McLeod originals [Laughter].
TM: Did you ever think I’d be an artist?
CM: No, I actually didn’t. I’m not sure what I thought you’d be. In fact, I remember a wee psychic woman once told me my children would do very well in life and that my son would be very artistic. At the time I laughed [Laughter]. But seriously, son, I would have been happy with whatever you chose to do as long as you were happy. Anyway, tell the readers about your Trainwreck  piece.
TM: Believe it or not, Trainwreck was originally an idea in response to another project I’m working on, but I ran into some red tape around it being too “controversial” to be exhibited in certain constituencies in the UK. I was determined to not let the idea go to waste so took it upon myself to find a way of exhibiting it somewhere I knew the people would appreciate it – Glasgow. Trainspotting, as you know, is also my favourite film, hands down, and I’ve always wanted to do my own take on its poster. I’m not pretending I’ve invented the wheel, because it has been done before, but after the year we had, I couldn’t help taking a dig at our very own “trainwreck”.
CM: What impact did you want the poster to have?
TM: Firstly, I wanted people to laugh. Secondly, I wanted to make people think [about how], in a time of austerity, rising numbers of people using food banks, energy bills, strikes, to name a few [issues], Scotland has always been dictated to by Westminster and it’s time we got to choose our own path. Also, I genuinely thought I’d be met with some backlash and that I’d be arguing with keyboard gangsters online, but I think even the Tories agreed that the past 12 years have been a shit show [Laughter]. Also I’m interested in culture and commentating on what I see/have seen, so naturally, aye, political and social issues have fed into my work. Although we weren’t a particularly political family growing up – would you agree?
CM: We have always voted, but I very much think they are all as bad as each other. Remember, I lived through the Thatcher era – that was enough for anyone to lose faith in politicians. I was also busy running the house and bringing yous up.
TM: It’s also a lot to get your head around – politics is ever changing. I think we became more politically engaged after the Scottish [independence] referendum in 2014. I’d love to see an independent Scotland in my lifetime. So what’s your favourite of work of mine?
CM: Probably the jewellery box you made me – I think you made it at the local community centre. It was made out of lollipop sticks but really looked the part and I still have it to this day. But if we’re talking more recently, your ‘Mummys Boy’ top, because it’s a nod to our relationship and you being a mammy’s boy! I love that you speak your mind in whatever you do.
TM: Be honest, was there any art work I made at school that you felt like you had to put out on show but you didn’t like?
CM: No, I liked everything.
TM: Surely not? [Laughter]. Off the top of my head, what about that wooden tulip I made in high school?
CM: OK, it wasn’t your best work. But a lot of effort went into it, so I put it up in the kitchen anyway [Laughter].
TM: What do you think it was about my upbringing that made me want to make the art I make?
CM: I think from a very young age your head was in the clouds – excuse the pun. I’d always say to your dad, “Look at him, he’s staring out the window again.”
TM: What was I doing?
CM: I think you were curious about the world in general.
TM: What do you think that says about my art?
CM: Maybe that you were a deep thinker? I’m not sure.
TM: I was probably thinking about what’s for dinner [Laughter].
CM: What was it about your family and your upbringing that made you want to create the art you make now?
TM: I think what I do is really just storytelling.
CM: You got that from your mammy!
TM: Exactly! We love a good story – gossip. I come from a long line of chatty Cathys [Laughter]! So naturally that has fed into my work.
CM: How much of your art is an exploration of your own identity?
TM: Because a lot of my work has been so personal, I guess it unintentionally has been a way of me understanding my identity and my experiences better. A cathartic process, though!
CM: And how much do I come into your art?
TM: Nostalgia is a big part of my work and I reference my memories of the Nineties and Noughties a lot and of course you’re a big part of them. You only need to look at my solo show [at The Pipe Factory, Glasgow, last May], MILK LEMONADE CHOCOLATE, to see our family’s story as an influence and how important you are.
CM: What would you say to aspiring artists nowadays? Especially to those based outside London?
TM: I think creatives from other cities are often sold the pipe dream that the only good opportunities are in London. I’m a big believer in if you love where you are from, stay there and make your own magic. Aye, it isn’t an easy road but also London isn’t the be-all and end-all. My best advice would be – be authentic, have something to say. There’s a lot of carbon copies out there, but if you’re coming from a place of truth and making work personal to your own experiences, you can’t go wrong. Also, change it up, reinvent yourself, mix your mediums, have fun – art doesn’t always need to be so serious!
TM: So I’ll let you wrap this up – any final things you want to say?
CM: Wee Cathy from Castlemilk says Hello Rankin! [Laughter]
HUNGER Issue 27: Call to Action is available to buy now.