RSA New Contemporaries (4 stars)

RSA New Contemporaries

Jamie Steedman and Marcus Murison / Credit: Julie Howden

Colourful and kaleidoscopic showcase for emerging artists in Scotland

The RSA's New Contemporaries exhibition, now in its tenth year, has established itself as the premier showcase for emerging artists in Scotland. Featuring 63 artists who graduated last year from Scotland's five art schools, it's a big, colourful kaleidoscopic show with work in all disciplines jostling, cheek by jowl, for attention.

Electronic work is relatively sparse this year, while painting appears to be in robust health. Michael Doherty, for example, paints boldly in a traditional style seeking 'to revive traditional representational painting and ground it in contemporary art', while Emily Herring's large-scale portraits of attack victims mirror their subject matter with distressed surfaces.

Pavel Isupov paints moody, evocative scenes of wintry parks and tyre tracks in the snow. Shipei Wang, painting in acrylic on silk, explores myths and folklore in a contemporary graphic style, while Samantha Cheevers' small mixed media pieces move from urban exploration towards the surreal.

It's always interesting to see how an artist's work expands from the limited space of a degree show into the grand neo-classical rooms of the RSA. While the install doesn't get it right every time – a few artists are in danger of being swamped by their near-neighbours – most have been able to respond with increased scale and ambition.

Daniel Craddock occupies a wall almost to its full height with an installation of his quietly assertive minimalist painting. Natalie Morgan-Klein's white organic-shaped sculptures take on a kind of quiet monumentalism in the RSA's marble courts, while Alice O'Connor's immaculately crafted wooden sculptures have a delicate clarity.

RSA New Contemporaries

Object Paintings 25 to 37 / Courtesy of the RSA and Daniel Craddock

Some artists have an ambitiously broad focus: Mat Dugard's long collage-style paintings aim to capture something of the breakneck pace of contemporary culture. Others focus in on small things, such as Ilya Uvarov's contemplation of a single snail shell. Maya Holliss' images made using a pinhole camera submerged in water seem to suggest both vast celestial worlds and microscopic ones.

A number of artists have clearly extended their practice since graduating. Daniel Twist continues his series of 'reading rooms' by bringing together material relating to the Edinburgh weaver-poet James Thomson of Kenleith, presented on wooden tables alongside found and hand-made objects. Emma Dunlop, whose Protesting Plants captured attention at her degree show, has now added a film showing the surgical dissection of pieces of fruit.

While some of the larger bodies of work could benefit from a clearer sense of focus, there is no shortage of big ideas. Jamie Steedman addresses the issue of monumental statuary and its place in society with his cartload of plastercast arms; Caitie O'Hara's installation of metal spikes and text engraved on glass addresses themes of growing up in a land of disputed borders; while David Whitelaw's prints and photographs address the old chestnut of identity, concealed or otherwise.

In photography, Alex Hall finds a kind of rough beauty in the details of written-off cars, while Natalia Poniatowska contemplates dying palm trees and Flannery O'Kakfa continues her investigation of the darker side of the family album.

Overall, it's a show which demonstrates talent and tenacity, both of which these artists will need as they take on the world in these challenging times.

RSA Building, until Wed 3 Apr.

RSA New Contemporaries

A selection of the finest up-and-coming artists and architects in Scotland.

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