GSA Degree Show 2014

Adam Benmakhlouf | 19 Jun 2014

The GSA School of Fine Art Showcase provides a welcome platform for work that may no longer exist or just might not otherwise be exhibited, following the recent devastating fire in the Mackintosh Building. In the exhibit, 102 students are represented, each with one single digital image of identical size.

Matthew Bainbridge’s Rad but Sad opens the show with the same jolt of excessive exuberance as the five large scale paintings from Bainbridge’s planned degree show. In these rich and difficult works, emojis and pictograms radically unbalance one another, competing with harshly graphic grid patterns and abstract expressionist gestures.

An interest in the graphic and pattern continues in Emma Zetterstrom’s photography. Seen from behind, a woman wears a garment laden with graphic floral print, within an almost matching backdrop. Emerging from a direct response to organic materials collected from nature, the work’s sinister allure corresponds to what Zetterstrom observes as the ambivalence of humans at once wishing to distance themselves from and become closer to nature.

While Zetterstrom represents a larger installation work with one of its immersive photographs, a work-in-progress detail shot is given by Reggie MacDonald. His original installation consisted of six three-foot sculptures, inspired by the neo-classical sculpture in the Mackintosh building and made so that every trace left by his hand and tools would remain completely legible in the final work.

Joe Hancock faces the question of using an image to represent three-dimensional work with poeticism, presenting a photograph of a NATO station's masts. Imbuing them with a surprising poignancy, he remains faithful to his ambiguously beautiful degree show work: an ambitious large scale sculpture of entwined stair lifts, programmed to run to rhythm with cicada breeding cycles.

Also from sculpture, Richard Krantz’s print is simply a still from a video he planned to show. The original video shows a closeup of a humidifier (modified by Krantz) blowing cool steam onto a found photograph of a mountain. With a languid suspense, the steam only dusts itself against the paper, yet slowly destroys the more robust physical material. Krantz operates within an impressive economy of means, material and impact.

Near Hancock’s image is Katy Hassall’s intriguing installation shot. The photo shows Hassall resting on clay while a 70kg bag of water rests on her body – suspended from the windowed ceiling, light pours through it. In the corner of the room a saxophonist plays the cosmic octave. Referencing the immediate impact of sound and touch as a means of bringing people together to heal, grow and repair one another, the work feels especially poignant and plaintive.

Printmaker Alex Kuusik also exhibits a straight installation shot. He shows a bold black on raw canvas print facing a shirt made of the same material, all in an orange-walled room. Formal elements are culled variously from his childhood drawings and 16th century Hans Holbein woodcuts. Reduced simply to black on white and treated with the same reverence as a brand – reproduced across sculptural and wearable objects – he pushes printmaking to its intersection with sculpture, installation and painting.

Painter Robert Hodge exhibits a work that is given a new significance in light of the devastating fire in the Mackintosh building. Barred off from a garden paradise, an indistinguishable figure looks forward longingly. Yet, the loss of this year’s degree show is tempered by the announcement of the provision of generous bursaries to fund time for students to remake lost bodies of work, as well as further opportunities for students to present work collectively. The showcase is by no means a morbid show of what might have been. It must be enjoyed as a promising prophecy.