Art school degree shows

Knitwear designed around motorbikes, little books of atheism, Jo Brand in a hole, ethical jewellery and mystical paintings inspired by William Blake. Kirstin Innes jumps feet first into the range of art and design on display and for sale at this year’s art school degree shows

Knitwear designed around motorbikes, little books of atheism, Jo Brand in a hole, ethical jewellery and mystical paintings inspired by William Blake. Kirstin Innes jumps feet first into the range of art and design on display and for sale at this year’s art school degree shows

Jim Lambie, Douglas Gordon, Simon Starling, David Shrigley, half of Travis, a quarter of Franz Ferdinand and all of Found. Go further back: Peter Capaldi, Robbie Coltrane, Callum Innes, Sir Eduardo Palozzi, Liz Lochhead, Alistair Gray, John Byrne. Further still: Elizabeth Blackadder, Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Over the years, graduates from Scotland’s four art schools have shaped our art, literature, music and theatre, the ways in which we live and think, and, arguably, our national identity, and the almost continual flow of new Scottish talent suggests that they’ll continue to do so.

The institutions themselves have proven to be fertile breeding grounds for much more than punky guitar bands and asymmetric haircuts, too: Duncan of Jordanstone is frequently ranked as one of the top art schools in the UK, Glasgow’s MFA course does a fine line in Turner Prize winners, Edinburgh College of Art has been churning out some of the most exciting young fashion and textile designers in the country recently, and the emphasis on cross-disciplinary new media work at Gray’s School of Art has fostered a pioneering sense of innovation and experimentation among Aberdonian art graduates.

With such a wealth of talent to display, the end of term degree shows can be a little overwhelming for the uninitiated, so The List asked staff at the three schools with shows this month to identify some of the most interesting students amongst their current crop.

Glasgow School of Art


‘There’s just such a brilliant atmosphere about the place,’ enthuses Claire McLachlan, 22, who is graduating from GSA this year with a BA in Textiles. ‘Everybody might be working in completely different creative disciplines, but they all bounce off each other - you can get a lot of inspiration from watching the way that someone in a completely different field to you is working. There’s this sense that you’re not closed off, too - the art school is part of a bigger Glasgow, an art community. It’s great.’

McLachlan is a bundle of nervous enthusiasm in the run up to her degree show. Her delicate, 1960s-ish dresses, which have already picked up a great deal of acclaim, started off, incongruously, with the heavy, masculine, greasy lines of the motorbike, which she translates into knitted textiles.

Almost in testament to the diversity of work being created, her classmate, Edinburgh-born Ivor Williams, describes his work as ‘a small atheist book series’ - which at first sounds more like the eventual outcome of a publishing course than an art degree. However, Williams, graduating in Visual Communication, is interested in digital and analogue developments in print and book-making. His hand-bound books, with quotes from the works of Darwin, Bertrand Russell and Richard Dawkins, are intended as ‘set text’ equivalents to the Bibles and Korans of organised religion, but are also art works in their own right, experimenting with contemporary typography and forcing their reader to appreciate the art of the words before the sense.

Painter Jack Frame produces landscapes across huge canvasses, but his creative process is as unconventional as Williams and McLachlan’s. Frame’s stripped down, often eerily stark, works draw inspiration from the mystical landscapes of William Blake and Samuel Palmer. ‘The staff at GSA were so instrumental in shaping my painting - really teaching me to strip away all the unnecessary elements in there. Without them, I wouldn’t have got to the level I work at now for another ten years!’

Edinburgh College of Art


ECA are very keen to draw attention to their latest hot property, 26-year-old Hayley Mardon. The Zimbabwean jewellery designer has already been snapped up by fair trade accessories company Made, who have hired her as their in-house designer for a new Topshop range of ethical jewellery. Mardon, who creates huge, complicated, amorphous necklaces out of laminated wood and gold leaf, claims that her bold colours and forms are inspired by visual memories of her Zimbawean childhood. ‘I use repeated, simple forms, which come to life when they’re worn on the body,’ she says. ‘My interest in Fair Trade issues and link with Africa has been crucial to my development as a designer. Working for Made is an amazing opportunity, because it allows me to combine my design skills with something I’m really passionate about.’

Graduating alongside Mardon, but in photography, is Chloe Philip. Her degree project, titled You’re Asking For It, is a series of photographic portraits of well-known comedians like Phil Kay, Jo Brand and Russell Howard emerging from holes in the ground, and will be exhibited during the Fringe this year (the venue is to be confirmed). ‘There’s this fine line between hilarity and sadness. I wanted to couple the bravado of the performer with the insecurities of the off-duty stand up,’ says Philip.

Like Ivor Williams at the GSA, 22-year-old Emily Hogarth, who plans to work as a freelance fashion designer when she graduates, is fascinated by the art of words. Her beautiful textile designs, which start from paper cutouts of foliage, eagles and moths have something of the fragility of stained-glass windows about them, but her main source of inspiration is much more textual. ‘My work is inspired by the sort of romantic, sinister words you often find in poetry,’ she says. ‘There are stylised florals in there, but often with this slightly dark imagery - I’ve made quite rich, dark, feminine fashion fabrics.’

Gray’s School of Art, Aberdeen


Mark Duguid, who already has an RSA award and a Peacock Visual Arts Award under his vest, has been described as ‘the Mike Leigh of the sculpture world’ because of the way his work celebrates the ordinary. ‘I just took that old theme “never work with animals and children” and said “why not?’’’ he says. ‘I work with children. Also rabbits, iguanas, pythons, horses and scorpions.’ As part of his degree show, Duguid spent time workshopping with a group of local school children, who created narratives that he captured in stop motion and fed back into his sculpture.

Stephanie Forrest’s textile designs are the ultimate in recycled fabrics. She starts with cast-off, laddered tights, bonding them with fuseable fabrics to create contoured, ‘body-conscious’ but comfortable-looking designs with something of the 1980s about them, claiming ‘I wanted to make structures that can express dynamic movement.’

Product Design graduate Joe Hearty, who has spent his final year creating a range of public furniture that plays with dimension and perspective, has tracked the progress of his project on his blog at Hearty’s chairs and benches, to be placed in public spaces, appear either two or three dimensional depending on the angle you look at them from. While preparing the design process, Hearty set up light projections on disused factories in Stonewall, a village near Aberdeen. He is the recipient of a Cross Trust Award, with which he is moving on to an internship in New York after graduation.

The spectrum of work on display at Gray's reflects the breadth of disciplines the students are encouraged to try: not just painting, sculpture and textile design, but computer animation, geology, printmaking and product design. Other notable graduates this year include Kim Taylor, who has picked up on Scottish design graduates' long history of computer work and collaborated with local schools, creating intriguingly Luddite digital animations which encourage school children to build their confidence, and Jessica Crisp, winner of the John Kinross Award, who has created a series of prints inspired by her travels. They also include Edinburgh-born product designer David Ross who has designed a new kind of paving stone, woven through with steel threads patterned to mimic the contour lines of local geography, which become visible after the paving has worn down.

Glasgow School of Art, Renfrew Street, Glasgow Edinburgh College of Art, Lauriston Place, Edinburgh Gray’s School of Art, Garthdee Road, Aberdeen

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