Art Show- down

The 1992 Degree exhibitions may be over, but for the hundreds of art school students graduating this year, the show is just beginning. Simon Yuill compares offerings from Edinburgh and Glasgow.

‘Students are outgrowing their tutors‘. That seems to be the message from Glasgow School of Art, where students have produced a Degree Show that reflects the impact oftheir own recent initiatives. During the past year they have organised four public shows, invited artists and theorists like Terry Eagleton to talk to them. and created an atmosphere ofdebate that bridges the gap between their studios and the outside world.

Most of the Fourth Year students involved in this year‘s Glasgow show are clearly confident as well as talented. their work both distinctive and well-developed. This is most evident in Jenny Saville‘s nudes and portraits ofbrides. which have received a great deal of public interest. They deal with the

presentation of the female body, and the conflict between a woman’s perception of herself and society’s intrusive idea of what she should be. Saville‘s approach is very personal. steering clear of the alienating. pseudo-avant garde techniques that let down the postgraduate MA show. The theme of audience involvement is strong at Edinburgh. The Tapestry department installations and Simon James’s sculptures encourage a tactile response and make for a refreshing contrast to the rather stand-offish Glasgow installations. But in terms ofexecution and presentation. Glasgow leaves Edinbugh looking amateurish. Although there is some adventurous experimentation with slide. video and laser-work here, Edinburgh students seem to lack the technical assistance and experience which their counterparts at Glasgow can count on. The Painting Department is still dogged by an academic conservatism which favours big. macho. abstract work maybe it was exciting 30 years ago. but today it is irrelevant. That is not to say that exciting ideas are altogether absent. but just that they

Jenny Saville discussing her work at Glasgow School at Art

Iv; «iv ' 7a? 1 , f’ A Photography by Sara Cunningham at Edinburgh College of Art

have not been encouraged to

develop fully.

The best design show was at Edinburgh‘s Ceramics Department. where students triumphed over the unsympathetic space allocation that has been their lot since they lost the City Art Centre as an exhibition venue. In Photography, Sara Cunningham’s work with deaf children combined ‘real life’ with an adventurous installation that made similar works elsewhere seem too self-conscious by comparison.

In conversation. many Edinburgh students profess themselves let down by blinkered and unsympathetic

‘teaching— although there are several

exceptional tutors. whose encouragement is very much appreciated. But ifthe atmosphere at Glasgow is more confident and exciting, this is largely thanks to the students themselves. who have taken a greater part in creating the kind of college they feel they need. The end result is a body ofwork that is without question more fully realised. Edinburgh has fostered an environment that is too inward-looking for its own good and more should be done to bridge the gap between college and ouside. Edinburgh needs a shake-up if it is to produce a college worthy of its students.

:- No frontiers

‘li Leonardo da Vinci had been born this century, would he have used a camera?’ Discuss.

Photography has been used by many modern artists, trom Hockney’s polaroids to Man Ray’s ghostly portraits. So the answer to the question could arguably be, not ‘yes’ or ‘no’, but ‘how?’. Likewise, Pivot is not so much an exhibition of photography as the work oi seven artists who have chosen to use photography speciiically tor its symbolism and its aesthetic properties. All images are from an art exchange between artists in Wales and Philadelphia, but apart from the use of the same medium, the pieces share very little and include iigurative, abstract, and collage work.

8. A. Dachman takes kitsch 50s American advertisements, cuts them in two, and juxtaposes oversized, otten disturbing images, sometimes overlaid with text. In a similar vein, Caught, explores the role of women in society with a trlptych ot iemales: a Barbie doll, a classical nude and in the centre, an old lamin snapshot of a small girl caught mid-air as she is being thrown trom one adult male to

71M ., . .1 another—a bold, but tairly well-trodden statement.

While these works use straighttorward photographic images, Nancy Hellebrand creates huge abstract swirls and strokes by magnitying handwriting until it is unrecognisable. Peter Finniemore

up an extremely personal view at the Welsh landscape, by linking photographs which diiier in locus, depth and subject.

Most striking at all, however, are Susan Fenton’s portraits. In Wrapped Back, and Grey Satin Drape, the sharp

detail all


he photographic image is mixed with the smooth gloss oi oil paint, to create work reminiscent oi the

. Northern Renaissance. With averted

gazes and covered heads, her female

' sitters are both submissive and

secretive, and the subtle muted tones i oi the human body are conveyed as works in black and white and summons ?

beautitul yet cold.

The sheer diversity oi approach in this show is exciting, prooi positive that the continuing blurring at boundaries between artistic media heralds good things to come. (Beatrice Colin)

Pivot is at Street Level until Sat 11 July.

I l l

. inviting the viewer to look ' beyond the picture to the I. ‘visually unsayable‘.

I The year’s most tamous octogenarian. Ramsay poet Sorley MacLean, can add another birthday tribute to the five-hour party held for him at the Queen's Hall earlier in the year. Sabhal Mor Ostaig, the Gaelic College on the lsle of Skye has honoured him with a commissioned sculpture by Lyndsay Howicson. The sculpture is carved in sycamore and bears an extract, inscribed in Welsh slate, from Machan‘s early poem Multitude

I Jo Spence, a pioneering photographer who was not afraid to confront her audience with uncomfortable images, died on 24 June. aged 58. Spence first came to prominence with her work documenting the lives of women living in East London. but it is probably for her ‘photo-therapy‘ that she will be

remembered. On one hand she bravely

confronted her own cancer, photographing herself after an operation to remove a lump in her breast. On the other hand she investigated her own and other women‘s histories and sexuality,

David Darling’s creative photography, brought to you by Graphic Partners I Graphic Partners. the Edinburgh-based corporate and brand design consultancy company. has published Photographers in Scotland , a companion book to last year‘s book of illustrators and designed as a source book for creative services throughout the UK. Thirty—five photographers are included. showing a variety of works. although the list is notably short on female names. Anyone interested in getting a copy should contact Graphic Partners on ()3l 557 3558.

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