Glasgow School of Art Degree Shows 2015 (4 stars)

Degree Show highlights include figurative painting, a houseplant and a waiting room

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Glasgow School of Art Degree Shows 2015

If Glasgow School of Art is a fun factory, as John Byrne commented earlier this year, then it is one at odds with the seriousness of many of the artists it produces. The site for this year’s degree show, the Tontine Building, is packed with a spectacle of wondrous and inventive art. But there is plenty of skillfully crafted ‘traditional’ work too – many of these graduates of Fine Art could knock up a realistic oil painting if it made sense for them to do so – it just often doesn’t.

Figurative painting does make sense for talented artists Rebecca Snow, Tom Heap, Maria Cesa, Elinor Stanley, Karen Harkness, and James Frew among many others. Snow and Harkness produce personal works that indulge the slowness of the painting process, Cesa and Stanley test the boundaries of figuration and abstraction, and Frew interrogates the very role of painting with menacing, existentially charged large-scale canvases.

From two-dimensional to immersive, a number of works are intent on swallowing us into simulated environments. Lucas Ferguson-Sharp has constructed a minutely detailed antique room complete with reappropriated decorative prints and paintings you might find on your grandparents' walls. Charlotte June Sammons presents us with a waiting room so realistic, it is a concern that exhibition-goers might fail to register it as part of the degree show. Less realistic, but equally engrossing is Freya Fullarton’s humorously distorted domestic scene: a houseplant – a peculiarly recurring trope recently – is subverted with its garish fluffy pink and blue foliage and plastic covering.

Multi-media art is at the fore this year with a concentration of works in one dark area of the building – something easily accommodated in the enormous new venue. The contrasting sounds and visions oddly compliment, rather than detract from, the individual works as you weave through the corridors. Natalie Doyle’s work is projected on all four walls, surrounding you with an inescapable encounter; a dismal and embarrassing stand-up routine succeeds in creating a sort of social experiment where viewers are forced to feel self-aware and awkward.

As is to be expected, GSA students have pulled off a joyous and fantastically eclectic feast for the senses – commendable given the turbulent conditions in which they reached their final year.

Glasgow School of Art, Tontine Building until Sat 20 Jun.

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