Galleries: Glasgow School of Art Diploma Show
Every spring, like bluebells in a wood, a multitude of diploma shows pop up in art schools across the country. Each graduate student in each discipline of each art school creates and organizes their own individual exhibition. This show is duly evaluated and diplomas are awarded accordingly. It’s a chance for student friends, family and the general public to see what kind of art is being created by a new generation of artists and designers.
The annual Glasgow School of Art (GSofA) Undergraduate Degree Fair, which opens to the public today, showcases work by graduate students from the School of Design, the School of Fine Art, the ‘Innovation School and the Mackintosh School of Architecture. These take place at two sites; the campus of the Renfrew Street art school and The Tontine Building in the Trongate district of the city. The annual Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) fair also runs concurrently at The Glue Factory in the north of the city.
For this exam, I am focusing on the GSofA School of Fine Arts diploma exhibit. This school has many famous alumni, including Jenny Saville, whose work is currently the subject of a major exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.
Famously, almost all of the works in Saville’s 1992 diploma exhibition were sold to Charles Saatchi, and she later became a member of the Young British Artists group, alongside Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin.
When the doors of La Tontine open to the public today, there will already be a few red dots on the walls, a sign of a wave of sales. I might even try to predict which of the 139 emerging artists will take off. To this end; Check out Georgia Green, Maya Hollis, Angus Fernie, Georgia Grinter, Molly Hankinson, Harry Clitheroe, Lucy Clitheroe, Marina Renee-Cemmick, Flora Lawrence and Rosa Quadrelli for âsalableâ work based on the wall.
If I’m being honest I can’t see a Saatchi-style scoop happening. Saville and her fellow New Glasgow girls (Alison Watt, Rosemary Beaton, Karen Strang, Lesley Banks, Helen Flockhart) and boys (Peter Howson, Steven Campbell, Adrian Wiszniewski, Steven Conroy, Ken Currie) emerged at the end of a rigorous and immersive artistic education in the practical, technical and complex aspects of drawing, painting and marking.
Time and the tide have changed and the definition of fine art has changed like fine sand. Making art in the 21st century is now about creating a visual concept that works on many levels, including – but not exclusively – good old painting, drawing and sculpture.
It’s not that emerging artists in art schools are less creative than talented, it’s rather that the goals of contemporary art have shifted elsewhere and are not coming back anytime soon.
As I walked through the 2018 GSofA School of Fine Arts Graduation Lounge, I was struck by how many graduate students are turning to traditional crafts for their voices.
The much-missed Scottish artist George Wyllie – a multimedia artist before the term was invented – liked the beautifully crude expression to describe the work. By that he meant it was unpolished and functional, but thought provoking with a gallus beauty veneer. This phrase came back to me at La Tontine.
This year’s cohort is full of examples of students keen to get things done. I was particularly won over by Giles Watkins’ tea culture, which is based on the idea of ââtea-making ceremonies. He made beautiful objects in the process, including dishes, teapots, jugs, tables, seats with ceramic shelves on which to park the buttocks, coupled with a nicely raw carpentry work to support the weight.
Megan Truman created a series of simple off-white ceramic pots stacked in rows upon rows of raw wood shelves. Some jars are functional, while others are a bit crooked.
Rosa Quadrelli transformed her undoubted talents as a figurative artist into a mixture of puppets and prints with a touch of Gothic horror.
Elsewhere, Esther Gamsu built a life-size papier-mÃ¢chÃ© horse on wheels (he paraded down nearby Argyle Street without the correct health and safety certificates) alongside a giant pair of purple cowboy boots hand-sewn from felt. On the wall there is an oversized copy of Dolly Parton’s hands and a short film of a Dolly Parton impersonator playing in the background.
Puppets and papier-mÃ¢chÃ© occupy an important place. Gavin Reid has created an animated installation chaired by a life-size doll of himself. His world is filled with a variety of objects; including a “signed” copy of Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, a Fisher Price cassette player playing George Formby, The Stranglers and The Damned, a globe with a tape stuck across the Middle East saying Don’t Destroy My World and an awkward paper -Volcano Mache with a sign coming out of the lava saying: AN EXHIBITION IS JUST A FANTASY DECORATED PIECE FOR YOU AND YOUR FRIENDS TO TALK.
There is something in all of the above …
Humor is at the forefront in the work of many students. Caitlin Higgins created a life-size squishy gym machine. On the wall is an oversized print of four Mortons scrolls. This is the kind of gym I would go to.
There is real physicality in Georgia Thornton’s installation Where I Sat. For this, she made raw prints to take away sitting on a plywood chest. On a plywood back wall, she has a set of small white painted wooden children’s chairs with yellow straps on the back. The idea is to take the chairs for a short walk and drop them.
Jonathan Kirkwood collaborated with his autistic brother to create a strangely touching show consisting of a wall of posters mixing text and rough drawings. Other posters and objects dot the space. One represents a wobbly ball and the words germ of a sneeze. Underneath there are objects that take the germ theme further into a 3D shape. Again, he used old-fashioned carpentry skills to make “baseboards” for his job.
Politics is not at the forefront throughout the series. That being said, there are several references to the #metoo movement dotted around.
The most powerful voice belongs to Lucy Lamort. Outside of her show, she posted a disclaimer, stating that it contains: “â¦ certain scenes / themes that some viewers may find distressing”.
Simple and touching, Lamort created three textual wall hangings, three textual prints, all in bright primary colors. There are also two separate films featuring reports on sexual assault and clips in which women tell their own stories. I’ve seen it several times, but the footage of MP Mhairi Black recounting her story of misogynistic abuse online during a debate in Westminster was deeply shocking, surrounded as I was by the mere “text messages” hanging on the walls. These included; RAPE TAUGHT AS A FORM OF FLATTERY, MEN “EXPRESS CONCERN” WOMEN CRY AND YOUR SYMPATHY IS PERFORMING.
As with any diploma show, I will add my own disclaimer. Everyone sees the world differently. Take a chance and see if there is anything here that makes your boat float. To this end, there is actually a boat on display, made of wood and canvas by Paul Gallagher. Accompanied by a sound piece, it is beautiful and raw at the same time.
Glasgow School of Art School of Fine Arts Diploma Spectacle 2018, Tontine Building, 20 Trongate, Glasgow, G1 5NA, www.gsa.ac.uk/life/gsa-events/events/d/degree-show-2018/. From today until June 8, Sat-Tue, 10 am-7pm, Wed & Thu, 10 am-8pm
CHOICE OF CRITICISM
Having visited CAMPLE LINE outside of Thornhill in Dumfries and Galloway a few months ago, I cannot recommend this new art space highly enough. Its program is carefully curated by Tina Fiske, a former professor of contemporary art at the University of Glasgow. The space currently houses an exhibition of new and existing works by filmmaker and sound artist Mark Lyken.
A new work, New Town New Wave, is presented alongside Lyken’s 2017 film, TÃ¡if? Ng and the Motorway Saint. New Town New Wave was developed by Lyken following the Namwon sound art residency he undertook in November 2017 at the former KBS (Korean Broadcast System) building in Namwon, South Korea.
The work is installed with Namwon Broadcasts, 2017, a new 20-minute sound work recorded during an impromptu performance in KBS’s basement engine room, including sounds and field recordings gathered in and around the building during the residency.
New Town New Wave features a two-channel film installation and related three-part photographic work. The film installation consists of two screens, each showing a 20-minute fixed camera shot. The foreground frames a tall window in the stairs leading from the basement of the KBS building and through which a Korean maple sway in the wind. In the second shot, the afternoon light crosses the hall leading to the empty KBS theater.
Lyken, who lives locally, will give a live performance followed by a Q&A on Sunday June 10 and host a sound workshop for young people the following weekend.
CAMPLE LINE, Cample Mill, Thornhill, DG3 5HD, 01848 331000, https://campleline.org.uk. Until Saturday June 16. Open Thursday to Saturday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. To free
DO NOT MISS
Robin Hume was a quietly imposing figure in arts education in Scotland in the second half of the 20th century. Born and raised in Clydebank, he was a star pupil of the Glasgow School of Art (GSA) in the 1960s and taught at schools around Glasgow before becoming the Resident Director of the Art School at Castle of Culzean in Ayrshire.
He held this position until 1989 and continued to teach first graders at GSA until his retirement in 2003. In these roles he influenced several generations of artists, including Kelpies sculptor Andy Scott , who recently said of him: “Robin was ‘old school’, could really sculpt and draw.”
A longtime member of the Glasgow Art Club, Hume was planning a retrospective exhibition there when he died suddenly last year. His friends, Hazel Nagl, Ronnie Smith and Chris Allan mounted this commemorative exhibition in an effort to solidify Hume’s reputation as a master portrait sculptor and as a painter.
Robin Hume RGI: A Memorial Exhibition, The Glasgow Art Club, 185 Bath Street, Glasgow, G2 4HU, 0141 248 5210, www.glasgowartclub.co.uk. Until Saturday June 9. Open every day from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed on Sunday)