ECA Degree Show 2016: Painting

A new setting provides 2016's Painting graduates with an opportunity to deviate from the norm – we look at what's on display in the upcoming show

Feature by Lauren Frost | 17 May 2016

This year promises to be something a little different from past degree shows, as the graduating class of Painting students display their work in what were formerly architecture studios (a consequence of a huge renovation project currently ongoing in the Main Building). Without the security of the impressive space that formerly defined the ECA degree show, and stripped of that heightened sense of grandeur, 2016 promises to be all about the painting.

The exhibition will be characterised by a graphic (that is to say, 'vivid and expressive') style, punctuated by an undercurrent of third-wave feminism which expresses the contemporary concerns that occupy the minds of these artists, both in art and in life. The degree show this year offers an array of confident and individualised styles that will demonstrate the breadth of interest and talent of our 2016 graduates.

Ed Compson’s work is strikingly different to the standard painting of most other students. He presents us with delicate geometric drawings that appear like trails of burnt thread against the raw canvas. The shapes that force their way into his perfect grids are minimal, and as a result his compositions maintain an elegant simplicity that demonstrates a great deal of confidence.

Although Jessica Fagan has been aiming to explore that age-old question of ‘what is painting?’, her work succeeds purely on a visual level, without the need for further analysis. Her pieces are redolent of the modern Chinese ink paintings that have made their way into the mainstream of recent years; bold and calligraphic. We see how Fagan’s brush has danced across the canvas in a swift movement, although the sense of drama is partly mitigated by the small scale of the work.

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More on ECA's 2016 degree shows:



Alexander Haywood-Smith is a landscape painter, but not as we know it. His painting of the Roslin cliffs is a wonderful visual experience; he succeeds in projecting the element of fantasy and myth to which he subscribes without allowing his paintings to become clichéd. Instead, we feel drawn into some kind of reverie of his. Haywood-Smith has a clear identity among this year’s throng of painting students; his work demands a thoughtful contemplation from the viewer that will gently reveal the inner workings of his mind.

Danny Leyland provides an interesting foil to the more conservative pieces of some of his peers. His work is rough and ready, almost primitive; his raw canvas (at the time of writing) stapled to the wall and covered with lashings of thick impasto. Clay and earthen-coloured oil pigment is plastered onto the canvas in a way that seems entirely natural. It may not be to everyone’s taste, but Leyland’s work certainly speaks to the maturity of his process; he maintains a style that is characterful and evocative, easily recognisable and completely authentic.

The ECA degree show will present its audience with a myriad of styles, techniques and agendas that stem from the uniquely human interest to visually express oneself. It will still demonstrate the high standards we have become accustomed to from ECA, and from this fourth-year painting syndicate there will certainly be a few that stand out as particularly successful. As they begin to emancipate themselves from the embryonic phase of their artistic development, these students allow us through their artistic endeavours to partake in that moment in some small way. It is that aspect that we discern from their work which will make the degree show so compelling; a celebration of the progress they have made during the course of their tenure here at ECA.

Go with the Glow – Wanshu Li

Want to know more about this year’s ECA degree shows? Read our guide:

ECA Painting Degree Show 2016, North East Studio Building, Lauriston Campus, 28 May-6 June