RSA New Contemporaries: top picks from the prestigious exhibition
Scottish art graduates to watch, including Alice Chandler, Christine Halliday and Lydia McGinley
The RSA New Contemporaries exhibition showcases work from 61 graduates, carefully selected from the 2015 degree shows, covering everything from painting and sculpture to photography and architecture. Here, we pick some highlights from this year's array of emerging talent.
The exhibition opens on a high, with an impressive new sculptural work by Chandler. Inspired by what the artist terms ‘the humble yet iconic tea towel’, large rectangular sheets of fabric are draped over a glossy, black metal frame – creating layers of references and diversions through their various colours, patterns and materials. Chandler teases her audience, making subtle implications that she then disrupts, producing a compelling and challenging work out of simple, apparently accidental forms.
Positioned alongside Chandler, and benefiting from the sense of drama her work evokes, are canvas wrapped parcels covered in wax suspended from metal bars by Dumbleton – shaped and hung like bandaged meat. It suggests a violent event has occurred and we are the ones to discover it. It’s one of the most uncomfortable and harrowing works in the exhibition, though it’s far from gratuitous – Dumbleton induces as much drama from the information she chooses to hold back in this ambiguous, haunting work.
Andrews carves out her own a private, living room space within the vast classical interior of the RSA gallery, through an arrangement of etchings and digital prints and a stylish, hand tufted rug rolled out across the gallery floor. It’s a sophisticated arrangement of works – a showroom that reflects on the changing status of the object and its context, and the shifting value of works made using traditional or digital techniques.
Halliday’s architectural proposal ‘Consolations of the Landscape’ takes the Magdalene Laundries as its focus. Set up in Ireland effectively as work houses for unmarried mothers, these residential institutions were closed down only as recently as 1996 – and not because of the unethical nature of the practice, but because at home washing machines had made them redundant. Halliday’s proposals range from safe houses, observation points, meeting places – her plans address the needs of the vulnerable women left behind after the closure of the Laundries and are a damning critique of the normalization of abuse in their communities.
McGinley self-funded a residency in a Bothy on the Isle of Eigg and organized pottery classes with the local community. It’s clear from the documentation of the project that accompanies the exhibit that the pots were vessels for communication and engagement, a means for McGinley to understand a new place and become part of that community. Each pot tells its own story and reflects its maker. McGinley emphasizes the uniqueness of each piece and its charming fragility by placing the works on their own heavy, wooden plinths– creating a brilliant sculptural work.
William Spendlove & Bros (Painters and Decorators)
Spendlove already seems exhausted at the art world, an impressive feat in itself for such a recent graduate. Even his audience is met with distain. His ‘high brows’ – which are exactly that, are placed at the top of the gallery’s palatial walls, looking down on us like a strange, religious icon – and placed well out of reach, because Spendlove is sick of asking people not to touch his work. Of course, there is much more to the work than this – dispelling any myths or aura around his practice relies on a litany of art-historical references and a deeply considered approach – it helps that it’s hilarious too.
Titterington works in sequences – a collection of photographs of a tired-out blind in an office window, rustled by Titterington; yellow resin sculptures, with randomly cut shapes and two beds of layered screenprints. Together they resemble a series of experiments, with the slight variations in shape, material and composition becoming more pronounced. The most intriguing works are the human-sized screenprints, covered in ink with marks of the artist’s hands all over them. They are contained within two handmade, acrylic beds. From a fascination with man-made materials, Titterington manages to create something that feels human.
Royal Scottish Academy, until Wed 30 Mar.