Fresh and untainted, these works are individual, true to their maker and bursting with originality. Each unique from the other, the works on display compliment each other and whilst some evoke feeling, others provoke thought and are all a visual delight.
Saturday 29th June saw the opening of our annual Best of Scottish Art School Graduates 2019 Show and featured some of Scotland’s finest and freshest on the art scene. With a broad range of bold new works that explore issues ranging from the personal to the political, the environmental to the cultural and the local to the global, these artists share the commonality of all receiving their artistic education from one of Scotland’s established art schools. With forms ranging from the figurative to the abstract, there truly is something for everyone.
Time, change and memory are explored in a variety of ways by many of the artists. Coco Blue Kay-Main does so by using nature and the elements to create her “subtly anthropomorphic sculptures.” Observing that impermanence and destruction are the process of change guaranteed in our elemental surroundings, she uses fire to communicate its ecological effects. With its ability to change the natural state of a material, fire, she says, does “not just destroy but shifts and transforms something into a new being” and it is this process that she is particularly interested in. Using clay, charcoal and paint she poetically shows us that “out of the heated chaos of change something beautiful can be made.”
Through an entirely different medium, Lynsey Mackenzie’s abstracted oil paintings are produced from both memory and observation of her surroundings, and she intuitively balances her energetic marks with block colours. Stating that “the passage of time brings about flux – order tends towards disorder,” she aims to establish a sense of space and capture the fleeting nature of moments wherein nothing is quite pinned down. Her paintings are a vivid flurry of colour and volatile brushwork that serve to celebrate the astonishing beauty that can be found in the brevity of things.
Also interested in transience is Paul McParland, who creates mixed media portraits, inspired by antique photographs, that are indicative of decaying memory and presence. By peeling back the “mask of pleasantness and congeniality” he invites the viewer to “take a peek inside the depths of the human psyche.” These ephemeral faces are created by using embossed line and delicately applied charcoal underneath layers of silicone. The physical process of reworking the layers is almost a metaphor for the erosivity of time that he evokes through the fading visages of forgotten people, and reminds us of our own mortality.
Like Key-Main, Audrey Yeo takes inspiration from nature. Her practice is largely driven by ecological values, sustainability and issues surrounding climate change. Bridging the gap between art and science, she gives us a botanical glimpse into the often overlooked ecological entities that surround our daily lives. By immortalising a collection of plant samples in resin casts, she reminds us of the anthropocentric ways in which we often subconsciously isolate ourselves from nature. Appearing like ice cubes it is almost as though she has frozen the plant samples, suspending them in time (and also space as they hang on wire).
Mimicking the unpredictability of nature in her creative process, Esme MacIntyre enjoys the thinking behind designing and simplifying her plant pot prints in order to “condense their meanings.” Relying on a steady hand to draw, paint and print her works, there is a natural element of risk involved in these humorous works. Lighthearted and pleasing to look at, with fun titles such as ‘Wiggle Pot Plant,’ bright colours and simplified geometric shapes.
Also working with screen printing, Christie Thomson combines her two interdisciplinary degrees to use “Art as a tool to engage with Philosophy.” These prints, which featured in her degree installation, serve to harmonise philosophical concepts, such as space and suspension as well as the contemporary theatre set, in a re-imagined playground that encourages exploration and embodied experience. And by using one to compliment the other she shows just how outdated the assumption that Art and Philosophy repel one another truly is.
Equally concerned with the inextricable links between Art and the written word, Harriet Abbott takes familiar objects, such as an urn, and transforms their purpose from function to aesthetic. Considering herself a victim of language and writing, “caught up in its stickiness, unwilling to pull away,” her work relies on both word and image which she says have a “mutually dependent relationship; where one falls short in translation, the other pulls through.” With explicit reference to Yves Klein’s patented ‘International Klein Blue,’ she explores the metaphysical potential of the deeply rich colour. The subliminality of the sculptures’ tone might remind the viewer of Anish Kapoor’s Blue works.
Through an unrepeatable investigation into colour and material flow, Sarah Kendall likes to work experimentally on horizontal canvases and pour materials such as gloss, latex, ink and enamel. This unrestricted manner that takes no direct influences and so renders each work utterly unique. Although she says she has “little control over what will happen” during her creative process, she does make her expressive arrangements intentionally textural. Verging on the sculptural, her enigmatic surfaces seem simultaneously alien and familiar, and the colours are equally difficult to quite pinpoint.
Whilst Kendall lets “the material direct its own evolution” to create abstract forms, Zuzana Ullmannova does something similar but to create more figurative forms. Her delicate polyester paintings appear hazy, like dreams we struggle to remember clearly once we wake up. By pouring thin paint onto fabric, she gives the paint agency to flow freely and with gentle direction creates images that tiptoe lightly between the abstract and the figurative. As if capturing faded memories, these paintings verge upon the surreal.
Rachel Sved’s work share surrealist elements with the intriguingly uncanny and brilliantly bizarre figures. Inspired by her fascination with artificial life forms, creation myths and obsolete reproductive theories, Sved draws from an array of sources including popular culture, social media, anime and historical illustrations. Her depictions of the “artificial origin story for a group of hairless humanoids” are imaginative and lead the viewer to wonder about the narratives belonging to these curious characters.
The narrative behind Thai artist, Pimpawan Wangomonmit’s, work is clearer cut. Drawing on her cultural roots her painting, ‘Som Nuk,’ celebrates and reminds us of the artisanal beauty in hand crafted objects that are becoming memories of the nation’s old traditions and people. Fighting against industrialisation and the consequential loss of individuality, she raises awareness of the decline in demand for women to hand-weave fabrics due to the mass production of textile factories in Thailand by visually preserving and empowering these forgotten womens’ craft.
Charlotte Hicks empowers women and a craft of a different kind. Flirty, feisty and fun her ‘Legs’ series of screen prints and collage kick back at the ubiquitous sexualisation of women’s bodies in contemporary media. Inspired by feminist Marcia Belsky’s website, headlesswomenofhollywood.com, Hicks has taken images from Hollywood posters that feature ‘headless’ women and subverted their objectification them by using “historical connotations to dignify and empower the body, manipulating and reproducing the images through my own female gaze.” Her works exist as important visual voices, and are particularly relevant in the post #MeToo age.
Whilst Hicks uses a contemporary subject, Chloe Alexander uses contemporary tools to explore her interest in compelling shapes, repetitive forms and lists. Through a carefully considered process she relies on a steady hand to apply brightly coloured acrylic paint onto stretched canvas. Her work is a contradiction of painterly traditions as she uses a digital element in the preliminary planning and aims to construct by hand a near digital finish. Ensuring the colours are harmonious, Alexander paints with precision and patience.
This carefully curated show touches upon themes of time, change and memory, from the personal to the environmental to the political; these contemporary artists are undeniably in tune with the global currents of this unpredictable era. With their imagination, observation and intuition these works offer glimpses into the minds of the millennial generation’s most creative.
The show runs until the 8th of August, so make sure to put time in your diary and pop by to see it all!