ECA Degree Show 2016: Sculpture

Following changes to the school building, ECA's newly shaken-up Sculpture department is all set for a display of fresh ideas and pushed boundaries

Feature by Giulia Gentili | 18 May 2016

That time of the year is soon approaching again: Edinburgh College of Art will soon transform into a cave of wonders to host and display the work of 2016’s graduating students. Innovation and boundary-pushing are the annual watchwords, and as it bubbles and brews, this year's crop appears to be no exception. Following the refurbishment of the school building one of the college’s most highly anticipated contributions – the Sculpture department – sees quite the shake-up.

The exhibiting space has been considerably reduced yet, as programme director Kenny Hunter explains, "sculpture teaches you to be adaptable." From the corridors to the windows and the toilets, every possible space will be invaded.

Due to the small nature of the class and the open plan set-up of the studios, the students have influenced each other from concept to materials. Though approaching different subjects in very different ways, there seem to be underlying intellectual and theoretical threads that come with working in such proximity, that will manifest in the art. This year, one of the stronger trends appears to be self-reflection – perhaps not in the more obviously autobiographical sense but in a way that is more reflective of its place in the world. Many of the students are looking inward in order to look outward, not only to issues of our contemporary post-internet society, but also to consider the more mundane habits of everyday life.

Unlike 2015’s large sculptural installations, this year’s focus seems to be more on the creation of environments which visitors will be able to walk around and interact with. The artists are responding to the art school backdrop in different ways: some will play off it and use the large distinct windows, finding a way to bring the studio environment into the exhibiting space, whereas some will opt for a more white-cube setting.

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More on ECA's 2016 degree shows:



Will Carey will not only be taking over ECA’s famous plaster cast collection, but also the men’s toilets in order to question the anonymity of dating apps such as Grindr. Troy Holmes, on the other hand, tackles the world of online dating, as she plans a stripper hologram designed to make the visitor feel uncomfortable yet compelled.

As these two artists almost anthropologically study our post-internet love lives, at the other end of the spectrum, Connie Hurley will be looking at our relationship to dirt and bodily oozes that may make us feel equally uneasy. Calling it a "performance of materials," Hurley looks to the properties of materials such as wax and latex, and their resemblance to the grotesque body in order to question why we find these particular textures and fluids repulsive.

Look out also for Natalie Howlett’s compelling videos on corporate pharmaceutical companies and our obsession with healthcare, and Douglas Stevens’ installation that looks to the documentation process of archiving activist events.

For a true preview, some work can be seen before the degree show opens. Jack McCallum has been exploring the city and our reclamation of it in order to make our mark. He has made his by replacing some of Edinburgh’s manhole covers with his own laboriously crafted covers made of veining pink and sparkling white marble, glass, oak, iron, bronze and granite. These barely noticeable alterations to our streets become unmissable when discovered and can be hunted down in the Tollcross area.

All in all, we await the unveiling of this year’s talent with much anticipation. Be prepared to immerse yourself, to question and confront current issues and, more importantly, to keep your eyes peeled. The Sculpture department’s degree show contribution has never been so filled to the brim.

Go with the Glow – Wanshu Li

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

ECA Sculpture Degree Show 2016, Lauriston Place Building, 28 May-5 Jun