Art Review: Glasgow School of Art Degree Show 2020


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Kitchen overhang, by Dylan Esposito

I love to drink tea from a mug I bought at the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design 2018 graduation exhibition by an artist called Ciara Neufeldt. This mug seems to sum up what we all lack in the season of graduation shows in this pandemic year: the tangible contact with the work, the workshop of each artist bringing new revelations.

Art schools are doing what they can, with most online showcases of student work. The GSA Graduate Showcase – a massive platform showcasing the work of over 600 fine and applied arts students – will be online for one year and can be completed throughout that time.

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But feelings are mixed, with a significant number of fine arts students supporting the “Pause or Pay” campaign, launched by art students in London, which has called on art schools to suspend classes. until it’s safe to return to studio practice and create a diploma physique after confinement, or be reimbursed for some of their fees. Some undergraduates and all but one enrolled in the Master of Fine Arts program refused to show their work online.

Detail of Unravel by Morven Douglas

The point is that confinement will hurt some more than others, depending on their work practice and their need to access studios and equipment. All will suffer from the lack of a physical degree and the role it plays as a suitable culmination for years of study. Some works are better suited to the digital platform than others, and some students had to be inventive, using sketches, models and virtual tours to convey what they hoped to do.

However, what is clear is that the promotion of the fine arts is more colorful and diverse than ever. Multidisciplinary practice is in vogue, with work ranging (to give an example) “from drawing, writing, painting, bookmaking, sculpture, music and fashion”. But, on the other hand, there are other students who are resolutely engaged in painting, engraving, sewing or ceramics (the artisan atmosphere is still very present).

A number blur the lines between analog and digital media, questioning what is gained or lost when switching from one to the other. In Painting and Printmaking, Angus MacDonald combines painting and animation with engaging results, creating a film that appears to be painted as we watch. Jackie Hoefnagels projects JavaScript code structures onto oil paintings: three-dimensional bodies placed in two-dimensional landscapes. Luca Guarino also plays with dimensions, integrating paintings into digital video collages to create highly effective footage.

Painting – especially figurative painting – is in good health, with artists like Antonina Kulmasova and Emma Clark doing accomplished work and Morven Douglas, who taps into a wide range of stories and symbols, creating images with more than ‘a hint of surrealism. Jiyoung Kim’s brightly colored multi-panel abstracts sit between painting and sculpture, while Rosa Park performs paintings and animations that skillfully balance dark themes with a children’s book aesthetic.

Sun from Maria Soroniati

There are some beautiful figurative designs by Christian Kerr, while Megan Swire works with water soluble oil paint to create subtle depictions of anthropomorphic vases and jugs. Maxine Keenan’s pencil drawings, presented without statement or explanation, are alluring and understated.

Printmaker Alistair Bamforth produced a series of disturbing works based on sketches made during the Scottish Ballet’s production of The Crucible, drawing on his own study of transcripts from the McCarthy trials. Flora Robson combines printmaking with tree planting, planting 45 native Scottish saplings on the GSA’s Forres campus in a ‘natural performance piece’ and making a series of prints showing their intended growth.

While many painting students paint, a good proportion of the sculpture and environmental art cohort fabricates and constructs, displaying a sensitivity to materials, how they work, where they come from and how they will continue to interact. with the world once they were turned into works of art.

Several artists have reused materials found in dumpsters: Cameron Bridgeman used materials found to make objects that look like strange new machines for unknown purposes. Dylan Esposito takes an interest in architectural and design failures and uses discarded materials to create intriguing new structures. Annie Graham tracks down discarded wood which she then carves.

Another group is interested in clay and ceramics, notably Saskia Robinson, who creates life-size classical sculptures and draws inspiration from both Greek and Celtic mythology to represent the seasons. Cara Kennedy is committed to ceramics, both as a sculptural material and in the making of attractive pots and vases, and Sarah Vallance uses slip casting to make ceramic seashells, echoes of the seaside town where she grew up.

In fine art photography, the camera is always central (roughly) in a wide range of disciplines. Annie Boothroyd has a keen eye for the absurd (and sometimes absurdly beautiful) in everyday life: a half-melted wheelie bin, the sun patting a building. Joe O’Brien makes evocative pictures, words and films about our need for human connection, and one wonders what impact the lockdown experience might have on the development of this work. Niamh Lynch explores what happens when material from the virtual world (from relationship advice on Reddit to 3D printing models) is brought back into the physical world.

In a relatively non-filmmaking show, This is the trick by Lana Hughes stands out, using footage found from YouTube to create a dialogue about fabricated beauty versus authentic experience, and the artful, tongue-in-cheek documentaries. by Clem Routledge celebrate and question the world of cinema and television in which they operate.

Some of the most engaging works across all three disciplines are those with a story to tell: Ramona Lindsay’s paintings inspired by the move of a family member from Italy to Scotland in the 1960s; Elianor Oudjedi’s film Mother Algeria, mixing dreamlike theatrical images with her own investigations into her family roots, and Maria Soroniati, born in Greece, exploring in a body of black and white photographs the “three pillars” at the heart of the Modern Greece – “nation, family, religion” – and how these have now been co-opted by far-right groups.

I could go on. Everyone who browses the online storefront will have their own choices, and it will be time well spent. In this particularly hard year for those with a bachelor’s degree in art, let us support them, even if we cannot yet see their work in person. â– 

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Kayleen C. Rice

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