City Walking – Glasgow School of Art Degree Show and MFA 2013

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With the work rapidly continuing on the new GSA Design building by architect Steven Holl, it is a pleasure to walk from the area around the Master of Fine Art exhibition at the Glue Factory, next to the Firth and Forth Canal, down into the city centre and uphill again to Garnethill, take in the Degree Show at the Mac and then head to the temporary Skypark design campus via the Clyde walkway (and through various infrastructure too).

Looking out from the Mackintosh School of Art we see straight over to the fantastic array of negative spaces and soon to be light-filled, glass clad interior of the new campus structure (replacing the old Newbery Tower which was a striking piece of Brutal British architecture) which Holl aims to make a contrast to the Charles Rennie Mackintosh masterpiece in a ‘complementary’ way. Inside the Mac the 2013 Degree Show highlights the next new wave of multi-talented and disciplined graduates who use a varied array of media to investigate their chosen themes rather than concentrate purely on the one art-form. In keeping with this the Mackintosh gallery space works are fairly quiet this year, with much of the interest being found along the corridors in the sensitive details of many of the artists’ works, and some quirky postmodern adventures too. The installation and painting/ printmaking pieces by David Farrar were particularly fascinating, with excellent compositions and colours in his paper works of sections of buildings and furniture reworked and contextualised anew into curved and linear blocks. Likewise there is an experimental crossover between painting and printmaking being picked up on by a good few others like A M Sutton, moving off the square and off grid totally with her varied vista of textures and more earthy colours and curious shapes floating over intricate landscape surfaces..

Generally you can see there is a greater influence of the digital world and its post Leeman shock vulnerability on the mindset and interests of the students, with nevertheless mature, comical and really creative takes on the post-modern urbanised world and fluorescent colours and atmosphere. This digital aspect is apparent even where the final works have used analogue devices, old TV monitors or Super 8, subverting the more commercial side of the whole digital experience perhaps. You can take a tongue in cheek excursion into the celebrity and service sector in the fun and games yet very clever performance and video (and their own lounge-installation which becomes yours too as you settle a bit too comfortably in the leather sofas) works of Justyna Ataman and Alexandra Roch. They are wittily photographed and filmed in various parts of the city with mesmerised bystanders, bus commuters and shoppers, posed in their bizarrely over the top costume/retail-air hostess uniform of lycra and blonde wigs.

Sculpturally, there is a lot of works fusing modernist and post-modern aspects which at the same time complement 2D works nearby. Louis Skehal’s wooden frame like construction of three large angular interconnecting shapes make for a skilful piece and ambitiously corresponds with the high ceilinged and bright windowed spaces of the studios. Reminiscent of artists like Serra and Gormley, steel rods, sheet metal and plaster and clay figurative excerpts of heads and hands come into the works, such as at the Master of Fine Art exhibition at the Glue Factory. Here one of the larger scale pieces that stands out is the overturned bulk of a broken filing cabinet with reverberating sound emanating from speakers inside, as well as tiny spinning tops whizzing above it. This is by Gabriel Leung, from a series of pieces related to the Tohoku Earthquake of Japan in 2011. There are several works in this show which challenge and interact with the strength of the charismatic old factory.

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