RSA New Contemporaries 2016: Meet the Artists
A mainstay of the Scottish contemporary art gallery, the Royal Scottish Academy will be filled with their pick of the most exciting graduates of 2015. Almost a year on from degree show, it's time to see what they've been to.
Almost a year on from their degree show, it’s time to see what’s become of the Royal Scottish Academy’s pick of the best and brightest of Scotland's art school grads. Even for the keen degree show visitors, with plenty of new works being made for the show, there’s loads of new material to see. Over 60 artists will be sharing the RSA exhibition space – that’s to say, there’s not much space to spare in this showcase of the most recent emerging artists from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, Aberdeen and the Highlands art schools.
The future is multidisciplinary, at least for Edinburgh graduate Scott Baxter, whose practice also includes film, sculpture, performance, zines and digital images. Representing his experimental filmmaking in the RSA presentation, he brings together non-conventional script sources and formation with puppetry and social engagement.
Baxter is generous with his video work on his website. For example, you can see Sade_Gimp_69, where he performs a monologue as a character who gives an inventory of his wardrobe, and describes his look as “a mix of agoraphobic gimp with a sprinkling of desperate housewife.” There's also JockyOiOi2014, starring Baxter alongside a puppet that voices concern about the dominance of dating apps, and the supplanting of bars where a pint or two can lower inhibitions and standards.
Representing the painters from Edinburgh College of Art is Emma Price. Of her most recent work, the theme of Home and Work is carefully rendered in small scale. Set in pairs, domestic interiors are paired with work spaces: a conventional, elegant sitting room is juxtaposed with a clean boardroom in Catriona I and II. Then there's a small bedroom (complete with TV on the floor), set against the open rear end of a white transit van. In Mike I and II, what appear to be paintings of the two ends of a living room communicate self-employment. Previous projects include Sinks and Seats, with Price again taking a defined theme which is repeated across oil painting on board.
From Laura Porteous' Skinny Showcase
From the same department, and making sure to complicate any easy reading of what’s going on in painting, is former Skinny Showcaser Laura Porteous. In grids and patterned work, sheconsiders space, as well as suggesting time in visible signs of decay. Though working primarily on canvas, Porteous allows for elements to be peeling from the surface, or stuck on and dropping out into the floorspace.
While parts of the work are experimental, colour is strictly the primaries, black and white. Allowing colour to be preselected in this way shifts Porteous’ focus to thinking dimensionally, whether spatially or temporally. At the same time, there’s recognition of her great influence Mondrian.
Allan Trashmouth Records
There's more painting in the work of Allan Trashmouth Records, who gained some tabloid coverage following his name change by deed poll, with The Daily Mirror calling him the “skint student” that “sold his surname for £200.” Also, just to be clear, ‘paintings’ in this context is to refer to portraits printed onto toilet seats and hung on the wall.
Since that brief spot of tabloid notoriety, he’s graduated from sculpture and continued his search for funding by setting up donation boxes within different presentations: 'I GOT A FIRST' is all that was printed over one of these boxes in Glasgow’s Plinth. While there’s an overt reference to the dearth of arts funding, it’s also important that they’re not surrounded by any sort of barrier, and direct interaction with the art object is encouraged. Trashmouth Records might extend this accessibility/irreverence (of sorts) to the entire Royal Academy, with a special pizza order on the opening night.
Trashmouth Records is also featured on the blog of fellow RSA exhibitor and former ECA Sculpture classmate Lydia McGinley. In her practice, McGinley teaches traditional pottery throwing techniques. As well as the works they make together, McGinley thinks of these works as 'conversations in clay', and includes the exchanges she has with her students during the process.
For the RSA presentation, McGinley furthers the work in her degree show. She plans to present the outcomes of the lessons she has given since graduating. Her place as maker is mediated by her role as teacher, and subsequently as curator and collector of these objects produced under her supervision.
Also bringing to bear ideas of applied arts in her practice, Euphrosyne Andrews works in printmaking, giving consideration to the place of the decorative within fine art. Andrews’ work might appear exceptional at first, with its interest in exquisite production and technique; however, any kind of relationship with the beautiful art object is intended as a critical one. It’s not a critique on more slapdash-looking work, but on the history of ornament within art, as well as domestic space.
Allyson Jane Fraser
Sharp print work continues with Allyson Jane Fraser, a graduate of Duncan of Jordanstone. Having won the DCA’s Dundee Print Collective award for printmaking, she has enjoyed the use of a print studio in the DCA for a year, as well as a materials prize.
For RSA, Fraser presents an alphabet she has made from the handwriting of her 21-year-old autistic brother, then rearranged into quotations from Adolf Hitler. While these associations provide one reading, she intends the text to come across as written by a child. Similarly, when abstracted, the content can be read without strict reference to its origin.
There's a common strategy of reaching complicated concepts via the personal, as Amy Bertram’s work illustrates. It begins with reference to her grandfather’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s – experiencing the impact of the illness on her family, Bertram became aware of the importance of written and spoken communications, and used this specific context as a way of considering language as “the primary source for human connection.”
Also working with penmanship, Bertram converted her grandfather’s handwriting into a series of laser cut stamps, from which she makes text-based works. These are combined with images of domestic interiors, displayed in small scale with their own magnifying glasses.
From Alice Chandler's Skinny Showcase
Another Skinny-featured artist, Alice Chandler also quotes from the domestic via recognisable household materials. A humble J-cloth might be scaled up, or in other cases Chandler might edit the colour or material of otherwise too-familiar objects.
Coming from her study of material culture theory, there’s an attempt to reveal the potential hidden lives of inanimate objects, changing the background environment that helps to shape and define who we are as people. All with good humour. It’s a giant J-cloth, after all.
This is only a little fraction of what’s on show in the Royal Academy this month from 5-30 March. From looking at the exhibitors’ list alone, there’s a good spread of drawing, painting, sculpture and photographic practices, combined with works that aren’t so easily categorised. As always the RSA is well worth a visit, even if only to be able to say (in the decades to come), casually but knowledgeably, "Remember seeing [artist] years ago. Good stuff, aye?"