Edinburgh College of Art Degree Show 2014 (4 stars)

Edinburgh College of Art Degree Show 2014

Photo: Gareth Easton

Charlotte Nash, Theo Shields, Tiina Lilja and Jack Wrigley among the stand-out ECA 2014 graduates

The Glasgow School of Art fire has cast a plume of black smoke over this year’s degree show season. But even as the Mack burned, at the other end of the M8, Edinburgh College of Art was unveiling the work of more than 500 students in disciplines from painting to landscape architecture.

Interestingly, many of the standout students in fine art this year are working in traditional disciplines, finding new ways to make them surprising. Charlotte Nash pumps foam into lacey tights and lets it harden to form structures which resemble coral reefs. Theo Shields has a sculptor’s feel for materials and pulls off some impressively fragile work with glass, and Sophie Hopkinson paints on the edges of wallpaper to create three-dimensional patterns.

India Bunce makes big scenes small with her tiny but evocative oil paintings of city life, while Anna Coburn takes details from a derelict linen mill and explores them on a large scale. Tiina Lilja’s larger-than-life studies of cigarette packets and plastic dolls are so vibrant they almost jump off the wall, while Catriona Mackenzie’s photo-etchings inspired by religious art are quietly beautiful.

Sarah Sheard has a clever pop at the art market with ‘Donald Judd’s Cuboid Hotdogs’ and ‘Matisse’s Ready-Squeezed Sauces’. Sam Caldwell obsessively archives the traces of lost industry on a fictional archipelago. Jack Wrigley’s life-size puppets leer at us in the entrance hall, slump drunkenly on the balcony and canoodle in the back corridor.

Conceptual work dominates in the MFA show, but Eoin McCormack’s paintings are deceptively complex and thoughtful. Suzanne van der Lingen weaves together clips from 1950s Hollywood movies revealing some shockingly outdated attitudes, and I was sorry (I think) to miss Brian O’Shea’s performance of the intriguingly named ‘Edinburgh Nude Historical Re-enactment Society’.