This is the opening blog of a few exclusive ‘previews’ of the Glasgow School of Art Degree Shows 2011 – a bit of a taster and a guide to interesting works you might find there. It’s at a glance, first impressions, snapshots rather than a comprehensive review. If you want to see more of these images and in more in detail please view the GSA Degree Show 2011 website.

2011 marks a special year for the Glasgow School of Art Degree Show.  It’s the last time there will be a show in the Foulis Building and the Newbery Tower, the twin design obelisks that have faced the Mackintosh building for the past 35 years and are now to be replaced with a fine Steven Holl designed structure.

In this years Fine Art show in the ‘Mac’, there’s evidence of the fluctuating relationship between ‘art’ and ‘design’ – if not a ‘cross-disciplinary practice’ then at least the presence of parellel design languages, and design methods being interpreted. For example, Tim Savage references Buckminster Fuller geodesic domes and QR codes, and Kate Lampitt Adey and Theresa Malanay take textile craft as a starting point to explore feminist issues. Adey’s work references embroidery hoops installed as crafted collaged patchwork canvases, however it’s Malaney’s work which really engages with the internal architecture, semi-opaque monochrome hangings which drape the full double-height of the Mackintosh studios, creating a distinct ‘veil’.

Approaching both the design/fine art and gender politics paradigms in an equally refreshing way is Hells Gibson, whose beautifully understated letterpress posters pepper the vertical slats of the Mac with hard hitting sloganeering. Great graphic design, let alone art.

Hannah Brackston’s “Nomadic Workshop” – featuring a bike pulling a trolley with a tent and tools looks like it’s bumped into graduating visual communication student Alec Farmer’s Nomadic Shelter.   (maybe they could go on a tour together).

There’s plenty of enjoyable spectacle where the artists – perhaps in reaction to the nature of the degree show itself and the pressure to be ‘discovered’ or ‘make it’ – explore a self-exploitative side. The basement of the Mac this year at times resembles a tongue in cheek fetishistic dungeon. Alicia Mathews leads us, via a concealed door and Leonard Cohen, into a sort of onanist’s screening chamber complete with sticky cinema seats and red-lit flock wallpaper, whilst she writhes fully frontal and awkwardly humps a mattress. 

Max Prus manages to combine a vertically challenged scottish actor playing ‘Mark Chapman’ (“you might know me, ahm famous fur killin John Lennon”) in a time travelling fridge, and some rather explicit ‘love’ scenes with himself a friend in a Yoko Ono mask, whilst Ono’s “Mrs Lennon” plays in the background. He’s also aiming to catch Modern Institute curator Toby Webster’s attention by implicating him in Amazon shopping reviews of used pantyhose. “I’m disappointed, these are woolen, not opaque as advertised, this is not the first time…”.

In another darkened cove Claudia Nova invites 
us to “Applause” [in neon] for her absent self, and signs-off with a Warner Bros. cartoon style “That’s all folks”.

Meanwhile Beth Dynowski simply has a sign-up promising us that she will essentially be installing herself in her space all next week as a performance work. Insert art jokes about ‘absence and the self’ and ‘escaping the confines of the gallery space’ here.

Escaping the basement, there’s still much to seduce you in the large open Mackintosh gallery up the main staircase. You won’t really fail to spot the Alice Metila Steffen’s Essex inspired light installations, made up of white stilettos and a crude sunbed tube table. A must-see for all you TOWIE fans.

For the sheer aesthetic pleasures of good old paint on canvas, there’s Gillian Anderson’s marbled glories, tastefully tonal yet rooted in the process of alchemy and Rorsach ink blot tests.

Meanwhile, one to watch might be Silja Strom, who has a prolific output of intense collaged works

featuring strange distorted mystical creatures. Always great to see development of this type of work too (pictured).

In the same balcony space, Thomas Hatton provides possibly the most assured of the Fine Art Photography bunch, with a ‘barely there’ sort of a show, bleached out desert topographies with painstakingly dodged elements, a nod to a pre-digital craft yet stunningly contemporary.

If, after all this, you feel your senses have been barraged to the point where you can no longer think for yourself, Romany Dear’s installation will happily wrench the balance of control from the viewer back to artist. ”For the next eight minutes I would like to encourage you to fully embrace absolutely everything” a text on the wall instructs.  Dear’s retro cassette tape and headphone audio tour guide then proceeeds, in a Miranda July style deadpan naivety, to gently poke fun at the whole experience of viewing art as it implores the listener/viewer to stroke his chin or ‘become part of an art piece’.

Glasgow School of Art Degree Show 2011 |  for further details.

Open: 11-18 June 2011.
Sat/Sun: 10am – 5pm
Mon – Thu: 10am – 9pm
Fri 17th June: 10am – 7pm