GSA Degree Show: Fine Art

Glasgow's 2015 Fine Art graduates continue to challenge and excite with works that refuse to conform to practical boundaries

Feature by Adam Benmakhlouf | 04 Jun 2015
  • GSA Degree Show Joanne Dawson

It’s with a loose disciplinary loyalty that final year GSA students finish their subject-specific degrees, across Painting, Printmaking, Sculpture, Environmental Art and Photography. Jenny Lindholm, who will soon graduate from Photography, describes a complicated process that leads her from the darkroom to concrete sculpture, via polystyrene carving. She arrives at elegant multimedia installations, that set themselves at the crossing point of environment and mood.

There’s a similar multidisciplinarity to the work of Joanne Dawson who in her display turns a critical and lyrically historical eye to the new degree show venue and new Painting departmental base, the Tontine Building. As part of a site specific installation, Dawson will tile the floor in the same white glazed tiles of the nearby courtyard. There will also be 20 tiles of her own, screenprinted with the 'Tontine Heads.' These were different keystone heads inlaid into the arches of the façade, which were dispersed after the building burned down in 1911. On these tiles, a soft ladder sculpture mimics the immediate internal structure of columns, and all the while a video of a pointing finger is an overbearing instruction as to what constitutes the artwork to be looked at. With this last video work, Dawson reflects on the recent departmental instructions that have negotiated the department’s use of this building.

In contrast to Joanne Dawson’s white tiles (and soon perhaps all over them) and historical sense, Lauren Davis will be turfing her exhibition space on which a marble work will be carved to read, 'Nothing has happened here yet'. On a knife’s twist of ambiguity, Davis’ text-based practice exploits the variety of alternative interpretations that come with text work. Also in the space, there will be a video in which water from the Kishwaukee River in Illinois is dribbled over her head, after being posted to Glasgow. It’s a wry response to the tagline of her hometown Dekalb, where 'If you touch the water, you’ll never leave'. Davis proves the earthy proverb wrong again, as she will progress directly and confidently into the MFA programme at GSA.

Sculpture student Chitra Sangtani will be part of a three-person collaboration with Painting and Printmaking students Lewis Prosser and Martha Simms. With Simms on construction, Prosser as performer and Sangatani on lights and visuals, together they are building a game show experience. Sangatani speaks about the interest of the work in the levelling of the game show, whereby what it is to win becomes clear. At the centre of a Fine Art degree show and before the exhibiting art students are suddenly out of school, this sharp and ironic take on the hemming in of definitions of success and failure feels like a necessary release of otherwise only implied tensions surrounding the event.

Unspoken frictions come to a head again in the work of Environmental Art student Emily Penn’s take on Abigail’s Party. After this year’s BBC documentary Art School Smart School and its lamenting of the closing-off of art school to the privileged elite (not to mention the slippery slope of coalition to outright Conservative government), Penn adopts the persona of Abigail Cocque, leader of the Middle Class Party. Canvassing on the street earlier this year, Penn’s signs and pamphlets encourage a middle class pride in privilege. Intent on satire, Penn sites herself on risky territory, looking forward to setting up Cocque’s office in the middle of the degree show and reciprocally challenging exchanges with the audience.

Navigating through the hazards of irony comes the work of painter, ceramicist and writer Jude Hagan. There is a complicated pictorial depth to a lot of the painted work, which experiments with space, composition and means of depicting form. With references to religious works of art, the figures are often ceremonially crouched and dressed. She traces the influence of these small scale ceramic works of little heads to a visit to Bode Museum in Berlin, where she was left alone to explore objects and experienced the auratic quality of these objects. Across the painting, writing and sculpture, Hagan returns to a slowing down of making and an indirect response to the all-too-easy reduction of progress to the advancement of high technology.

There’s a similar clear and resolute (if not showy) commitment to personal principles in the work of Elinor Stanley. First and foremost, Stanley holds herself to a rigorous authenticity. Across painting, sculpture and performance, Stanley is interested in a range of movements and attitudes, from “struggling things” to swift gestures. Knee high plaster works record quickly moving hand strokes, as well as symbolising the swooping of gestural painting. Complementing the work, Stanely plans a singing performance. Not a professional singer by any means, Stanley knows she “will be embarrassed and probably get a rash, but the shame of it is important. To do something as well as you can and show people. Is that not what a degree show is meant to be?”

The Fine Art degree show runs from 13-20 Jun, Tontine Building, 20 Trongate G1 5NA http://www.gsa.ac.uk/m/degree-show-2015/school-of-fine-art/