Melting Pot: GSA Degree Show

This year's GSA degree show offers an astonishing variety of young talent. The Skinny gets stuck in

Feature by Nefertali Deeb | 28 Jun 2010

As ever, this year’s Glasgow School of Art degree show presents an impressive range of talented young artists. Complete with dinosaurs, penguins, clay floors, and awash with bright colours, 2010 is all about making yourself heard; it’s a return to romantic childhood idealism and a sense of playful abandon.

Pia Männikkö’s huge sponge-like sculpture, delicately crafted from tiny masking tape funnels, and her ambitious installation that sees her cover an entire studio floor with clay, textured by the tread of her own feet, are breathtaking successes heightened by their popularity with the general public. Our relationship to space and volume are key elements to Männikkö’s projects and her work should definitely not be missed. The clay floor is particularly striking and original, maintaining the fun, childlike quality prevalent throughout the degree show.

Tilde Lerche Engstrom’s prints and mixed media focus on abstract, existential human figures and are admittedly quite unsettling. Giant babies and conceptual families juxtaposed with images of nature, Engstrom’s work is delightfully strange. In Fraudulent Miracles, Kirstin Norma Beaton portrays fascinating images of pain where modern life is everywhere overshadowed by psychosis. Perhaps a reference to The Shining, a typewriter with the phrase “did you believe me when I said this would only hurt for a second?” written a thousand times over on a long ream of paper is totally deranged – in a Jack Torrance kind of way – but entertaining nonetheless.

In Barras Sunset, Judith Browning overlays 1980s cuttings from National Geographic and Reader's Digest against a printed background of a beach. A bright, kitschy collage of colours, Browning describes it as “a new narrative and juxtaposition for images.” Colonialism, its ill and lasting effects on the natives and nature are key elements to the work. Inspired by her childhood memories of Venezuela and Mexico, Browning uses “elements from Polynesian-Pop and the story of Robinson Crusoe to examine the relations within the images and objects and explore their pervasive attributes.”

A darkly humorous, political and social diatribe, David Jack’s paintings are structured on nepotism, cronyism, and the absence of a grand narrative in society. I Used Alcohol as a Crutch, one of the artist’s personal favourites, is a painting of a beautiful red rose in a half empty pint of beer. The piece reflects Jack’s disillusionment with the Labour party and former Labour Councillor Steven Purcell’s drug and alcohol abuse scandal. Disenfranchised by politics, religion and the erosion of class identity, Jack makes a strong statement about our current political climate. Of particular note is Mother and Child, an acerbic portrait of a modern day Madonna and Child, here played by Karen and Shannon Matthews of 2008's kidnapping scandal.

Ida Arentoft’s staged photographs have an eerie Nordic feel to them, evoking a dark and cold isolation. The images are powerful, compelling and suggest a kind of messed up Hansel and Gretel, lost and unable to find their way home. Or perhaps just a bunch of displaced partygoers out of their minds and stranded on a beach.

Vibrant, rich and almost tropical in their setting, Martin Bach-Ravn’s huge colourful paintings in the main gallery showcase an incredible emerging talent – a highlight of this year’s degree show. Meanwhile, Lisa McNairn’s abstract paintings portray repetition, distortion, colours and patterns with each piece equally emotive.

Ever difficult to sum up, this year’s GSA degree show is a vibrant collection of youthful experimentation. Less a celebration of individual talent, the degree show rejoices in the community spirit of the art school and its collective effort to pull together a decent show. The highlight, in many ways is the degree show itself. 

Glasgow School of Art Degree Show 2010, 12-19 Jun