This week we travelled to Glasgow to see the culmination of all the work and effort put in by the undergraduates of the Glasgow School of Art, held in the beautiful Mackintosh Building. We have brought you some of our reactions and thoughts, and photographs, from our time spent there.
Omercan Cirit’s lament for future-imaging in “techno-utopian” ink drawings referencing and formed by sci-fi and comics, are nostalgic celebrations of a time when we imagined the future with unembarrassed freedom and fervour, pursuing visions in eccentric and persistent detail. Cirit cites the “excited dreamers” of the mid 20th century “who saw the skies filled with airships” in his statement charmingly titled ‘Where’s Our Jetpacks?’, contrasting this with the lack of specificity inherent in our increasingly apocalyptic visions of the future. Cirit’s machine-filled futures retain human presence, reminding us of the human agency behind technology. The drawings crackle with a disappointed sense of entitlement, of inheritance unfulfilled.
This retro-futuristic territory is also explored by Georgia Jean McDowall, who manages to be manifestly reminiscent of Robert Rauschenberg, among other Pop artists, while escaping staleness.
Jude V. Browning showed a vibrant series of collages, displaying a strong sense of colour and form – particularly apparent in the fact that the works at first do not appear to be collages, set boldly against white. Browning draws out the virtues of assemblage, the home-made, scrapbook quality of collage, her work is reminiscent of retro seascapes and colours, while also being very finished, polished pieces. The works are very much part of a series, difficult to separate, a cohesion which emerges particularly well in the context of a form that makes sense out of collecting together fragments of existing wholes.
A backward-forwardness was also apparent in the work of Jacob Keary, with his curiously updated ‘Old Masters’, mixing reminders of the Medieval and the mythological while dragging in remnants of modern life with trainers and tracksuits, and all presented in reproduced form to take away as pseudo-top-trumps cards. Opinion at Newbloodart is divided, particularly around Keary’s presentation of his work. We would love to know what you think? Mhairi Sharp colourful wax models of Adidas shoes have enjoyed more unanimous praise here.
Showing the influence of Futurism, and exploring a dialogue between spontaneity and pre-meditation, freedom and structure are the energetic mindscapes of Alex Thornton. While extremely painterly, and referencing Kitaj, they also display skilled draughtsmanship.
The paintings manage to be expressive and constrained, while depicting forms about to emerge, transform and break free – they also invite and question the viewer’s need for the figurative; we are pulled in by the possibility of recognition. Also particularly immersive, and interrogating the concept, was Linda Kutti’s Dog and Hare. The piece was part disorientating, bare lights on a simple spinning, wooden structure, with a hare, and partly a large, curved white canvas with simple but technically sophisticated, layered line drawings of dogs in motion. This was perhaps nodding towards the sequential photographs by Muybridge that so influenced Francis Bacon. It is certainly a work which raises questions about the breakdown into elements, the parts of the whole.
Definitely referencing Bacon, but with his own and consistent thematic: drinking and drunkenness, were the paintings of Alistair Quietsch. The ubiquitous reddened noses of the subjects depicted might just be a both playful and sad alternative to Bacon’s way of ‘signing’ a portrait with a red arrow. Quietsch’s paintings are sometimes solemn and sometimes simply grotesque, cruelly assembled out of increasingly ugly parts, decaying teeth, bulging fat and yellowing underwear.
We are not sure if the paintings are too successful in their repulsiveness and would like to know what you think? Perhaps even more difficult to look at are Shaun O Donnell’s paintings made up of jarring juxtapositions of the digital and the fleshy – the fragments of flesh are all the more horrifying for being depicted with an extreme concern for the spatial – have a look to see what we mean.
Diane Dawson also showed a consistent thematic and vocabulary, a short hand of bunting, animals and architecture. Her endearing work proved particularly successful, with Dawson selling out not only all her original work but also all her reproductions.
Deservedly receiving a great deal of attention, it graces the degree show’s press, is Pia Mannikko’s visually astounding and tactile sculpture of indistinct weight which invites analogies of everything from coral, to rock formations, to honeycomb, to stomach lining. In an interesting decision it is curiously supported and elevated by metal rods that themselves seem to be weighing it down. The ambiguous title ‘Some People Knit’ is, like the sculpture, beautifully poised: between soft self-congratulation and rueful apology – either at dedication rewarded or compulsiveness uncontrolled – the sculpture is made out of masking tape. A diligence we can’t help but be awed by. Mannikko’s other piece, a floor installation made of clay, and scarred by the movements of her own bare feet, also hint at the process of making over time. There is some defiance in her choice of material, humble in origin but elegant in outcome, that speaks of an ability to reside in any contemporary art space, with the grace of an Eva Hesse or Cornelia Parker.
A similarly delicate if less confident installation is Matthew Donnelly’s work, a curious wiry, tree-form dominating the centre of the room with antlers both growing like leaves and hanging like debris, approached by model horses in a striking use of scale. Despite the fact that the installation could have befitted from more careful curation, we found the fragile bones, and bones depicted on hides, which were intercepted and punctuated by light sources, intriguing and shamanistic.
We very much enjoyed the dynamic and charged paintings of Gabrielle Lockwood Estrin. It seems fitting that she writes in a literally enquiring and inquisitive way (her artist statement is constituted largely of questions) as her paintings also share this investigative nature, with their tentative ways of delimiting different forms. Estrin is concerned with the relationships between people, and between people and objects: she writes compactly in her statement about a curious but common human situation: “We do not live in isolation, yet one can be left out. We all affect each other.”
We also loved Solveig Settemsdal’s paintings which seemed to simultaneously reference Manga, Munch and Henry Moore. One painting in particular showed an unruly (mixing in geometry, art deco, and fashion references in striking colour) but confident response to Moore’s dark series of underground drawings.
We had a great time at the Glasgow Degree Show, and hope you enjoyed this round-up of what we saw there. We would love to get your opinions and reactions.