Gray's School of Art Degree Show 2009
The well ‘oiled’ public was out in supportive mass for the opening night of the Aberdeen Degree Show in the stunning modernity of the Garthdee campus. Gray’s annual support by BP continued, although their presence was notably muted in comparison to last year’s indulgent black-tie affair in the surrounding gardens.
In Sculpture, Tina Hay’s flattened oil barrels and suspended oil-can – adorned with shrub – overtly explores consumerism and the economy. While visually enlivening, its subject matter is a little predictable given the arts and energy crossfire within the city. Coursemate Alice Spicer inserts more playful interactions with Illustration of an Unwritten Book, providing a batch of well-executed doodles and casting the visitor as storyteller, sending them into a dark tunnel, torch in hand.
The Photography and Electronic Media department really captivates this year. Ricky Gibb’s covertly sleazy At The Bottom of the Big List endeavours to expose us to the frailty of our needy existence with booze and sex at the film’s helm. It leaves us to reflect on our own culpability, an experience which is more disturbing for some sinners than others. The accompanying bedside table’s ‘notch list’ publication with stumbling blonde projected opposite creates uncomfortable undercurrents that leave a poignant unease. Elsewhere, Richard Watson’s work successfully explores our ‘insecurities and curiosities with nature’ with some of the most aesthetically striking imagery of the whole show. Jenny Hood follows on from her Project Slogan show of last year, continuing to develop her fascination with all things taxidermy. Bringing it all together, and perhaps with one eye to the future and the students' imminent arrival in the ‘real world’, the PEM department has published a special edition of Northeast roaming art zine Cake – a bright idea.
Across the courtyard in Product Design, Aberdeen’s geological heritage is examined by Lean Barron’s Quarried Table. The contours of the old Rubislaw granite quarry, now a deep, deep pond, are expressed in exquisite carpentry. Round the corner in 3D Design / Jewellery Hilary Duncan showcases provocative Ugandan–influenced pottery, sandwiched between Juraj Vyrostek’s delicate (and playable) aluminum and wood glockenspiel brooches and Jane Petrie’s personal tribute to the disbanding army regiments of Scotland: silver brooches assembled with the troop ribbon colour of your choosing.
In Painting, Steffie Murray proves that her BA Travel Award was justly deserved. Her vivid paint strokes are at once ghostly, bright, feminine, bold, and domineering, creating imagery that is emotionally impacting and oddly soul searching. Michael Stokes’ industrial workings, recounting his Northern English background, are another highlight in an impressive two floors of Painting and Printmaking.
A weak point of the show is the folk-fair/flower-power marquee interior style that Textiles have chosen to dress their space. It detracts from the work on show, overpowering fashion designs by fresh Gray’s Collections member Linzi Sutherland, amongst others. If this course desires to be a contender, and equal with the likes of ECA and GSA, it should perhaps keep it slick, like the oil.