Against the backdrop of Edinburgh in high summer (think festival, tourists, doubled population, general fringey-ness) Edinburgh College of Art is once again going through the Degree Show motions, this time in the form of its Masters show. The School of Art offers 11 students graduating from the ‘Contemporary Art Practice’ course. There is less of the sprawling, chaotic, ‘run of the building’ feeling that the earlier summer degree show offers. Instead, a smaller more concise offering allows this year’s Contemporary Art Practice class to present a thoughtful show. Spread across 5 rooms, there is a sense that the Masters students have approached the show with sensitivity to the curatorial process.
Upon entering the first room on the ground floor there is an immediate sense of refinement and a call and response between the spaces of the artists involved. In particular the work of Kirsty Macleod and Phoebe Mitchell sit well alongside each other. Mitchell’s paintings appear to be exercises in erasure that seem to question the very nature of painting itself. Thirty-one paintings in total, it is an impressive effort from the artist, upon reading about Mitchell’s ‘ritualistic routine’ the amount of work, alongside the intuitive mark-making (and more specifically ‘un-mark making’ if there is such a word), call to mind the obsessive nature of what it means to paint, or to be someone who makes things in already over-saturated circumstances.
This pre-occupation with making sits well alongside the work of Macleod, this time it is the medium of sculpture that questions the processes of making. Parts of instruction manuals are laser cut into perspex and lie strewn around an array of plinth type structures. In a nod to traditional materials the back wall of the space is clad entirely in wood, a striking relationship to the 3D printed elements that sit in front of it. There is a playful humour in this work, Macleod doesn’t give the audience this on a plate, but on further inspection there is an absurdity to the foam plinths, and the placement of individual elements is done with a wry eye for detail.
Alongside this, there are two other offerings in this room, Tom Rodgers and Abigail Smith, both working in Black and White, but with distinct differences. One working firmly with the camera (Rodgers), and the other adamantly without (Smith). Rodgers presents a quiet body of work, surrounding themes of home through traditional means of black and white photography. Whilst Smith rounds off the room’s pre-occupation with making. The processes of traditional film come to the fore in her room of slide projectors, complete with nostalgic mechanical clunking.
Moving upstairs, the first room encountered is an airy one, with the work of Malcolm O’Connell and Danny Lamb. O’Connell’s work is striking upon entry, filling the floor space with large framework structures of wood and glass. There is a sense of the work bringing the outside in, from the echoed reflections through ECA’s vast windows, to the green behind his work ‘Storholmen’ which I am told echoes the green of the doors in the building seen through said windows (a nice geographical touch). There is an honesty to materials within the work, and the effect against Lamb’s garish perspex and spray paint offering is jarring. Old meets new in this room. The quiet material strengths of O’Connell’s sculptures are offset by the frenetic Photoshop style brushstrokes of Lamb’s paintings. The room brings the mind back to the processes of making that were so apparent downstairs. There is a preoccupation with the precariousness of traditional processes, and this room serves to highlight the juxtaposition of traditional art and design values versus digital processes.
Next door there is an immersive environment by Fu-Le Chao which is at first confusing with a large woven hammock or platform hanging heavily in the middle of the room. The look is that of a stage set, rendered out of materials such as paper and card. It is only the addition of a small unassuming screen behind the door that points you to the subject matter, a panda clambers languorously from a bamboo strewn platform, it is a live feed of the webcam footage from Edinburgh Zoo. It is hard not to be sucked into this viewing material, and after a few minutes in the mirroring environment I leave with thoughts of voyeurism and otherness swirling uncomfortably through my mind.
This feeling is soon quashed by the in-your-face messages of Cat Meighan’s sculpture, her giant dazzle painted ‘£7K’ (roughly the amount the students have paid for this particular course) alongside a large set of scales shout at you. Cynical yet playful, it is a bold piece that commands the space well, balancing a large room. The large scale paintings of Gezi Yao take up an entire wall, my first impression is that they are hung strangely high, perhaps demanding to be revered. The high hang is echoed by Yin Xuerong’s photographic work, but on this occasion it has the opposite effect, the images seeming to try and remain out of sight of the viewer.
The final room on my travels reveals one last surprise: Martian Law. Emma Potterill’s offering to the show comes in the form of a live performance, and if caught during the act, rounds the show off in a cacophonic way. Complete with darkened space, live band and hand-made boiler suits, Potterill’s performance is buzzing with crude intensity, and serves well as the final piece in an eclectic but overall well-polished show.
Edinburgh College of Art Masters show continues until Monday 24 August, 11am-5pm daily.
See more about 2|1|4|1 Collective on Central Station here.
See more Degree Show reviews on Central Station here.