It’s that time of year again: the month where the annual crop of art students show the public just what they’ve been doing for the last four years. From sculpture to silversmithing and from painting to pottery, hundreds of artworks are about to launch hundreds of careers. The List now takes a look at the
past, the present and the future for this year’s graduates.
‘I remember selling drawings for a ﬁver. We didn‘t have any dealers coming round with their cheque books and limos.‘ Ken Currie is currently in his studio painting furiously for a show in London. He graduated twelve years ago along with Steven Campbell and Adrian Wiszniewski and. despite making very little money at his degree show. he is now one of the few artists of his generation to ﬁnd fame and fortune.
‘When l graduated. there was no way I was going to get a job.‘ points out Currie. ‘I went through some difﬁcult times. but from 1985 l began to go for it seriously. sell my work and make a living. Out of my year only three of us are still painting professionally and that‘s very unusual. Before then there was usually none.‘
Those who bought Currie’s drawings are probably rubbing their hands in glee and revving themselves up for the Opening Night frenzy ofthis year‘s Degree shows. Cheque book in hand. they‘ll join the swarm to snap up the Next Big Thing.
Craig Mulholland sold everything at his degree show. He made a sum rumoured to be around £10.000 and was quickly signed up for his ﬁrst show at the Compass Gallery. 'Two galleries approached me at the show.‘ he remembers. ‘Later on in the year I was signed up by a London gallery and since then I‘ve made enough to live on and buy materials. l was lucky though. i think it‘s a total lottery. and
ﬁnancially l‘m still living from show to show. hoping each one will ﬁnance the next. l‘ve tried to stop myself from being over-hyped and stay away from London until l‘rn ready. l still need to experiment as l haven‘t found what 1 want to try and do yet.’
Only one in a hundred graduates will remain an artist after ﬁve years. The rest will ﬂoat into teaching or other ﬁelds. But. since the success ofthe Glasgow Boys in the early 80s. artists living in Scotland have seen that it is possible to make it as an artist. For most of those who choose to pursue the artistic route. however. life in a garret is still mandatory.
Rowan Mace recently had a show at the lnterrnedia Gallery and has been working as a painter since 1986. ‘After my degree show I felt very determined. Lots of people stopped working but I wanted to keep painting. I did stop working on and off but that was purely economical as i work on quite a large scale and use a lot of paint. l survive by getting odd teachingjobs and helping to set up exhibitions. But it‘s distracting to have to keep ﬁnding the money to buy paint and get studio time and it can be quite hard to clear your head and just work. You have to be fairly single- nﬁndedf
Toby Webster graduated last year with a ﬁrst in Environmental Art. Since then he has shown at Transmission twice and also in a group show in Copenhagen. Like many young artists. he has a much more professional
l’lrnperatrice, a detail of a huge photographic installation by liich Hardcastle (Photography).
This artist’s black and white portraits are hung in a series to suggest all the main grandiose thanatic themes such as love, death and loss.
attitude than his predecessors. ‘When I left, I approached everybody I knew and ended up working fora designer in London. in my course we were involved with the outside world and every year we did a public ans project and put together proposals for arts funding bodies and sponsors. Now l’rn not scared of contacting people and so much of the work i want to do is based around contacts. But you work at jobs for the experience rather than for the money. Now I want to start my own company doing architectural environments.‘
But ifartists wish to stay in Scotland
and make enough for an espresso and a Gauloise every day. the degree show is just the beginning. ‘We all signed up with a gallery.’ points out Ken Currie. ‘as we needed someone in London to show off our work and stimulate interest there and on an international level. And that‘s the only way to make a living up here. But there is a younger generation of artists who aren‘t doing that and are using different strategies. But what everybody needs is immense will-power and a dogged determination. it‘s not all rosy by any rneansf
Hotbed of talent
Cyril Gerber is an art school degree show veteran. For 26 years, he’s been trarnping through studies in Dundee, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow, talent-scouting for the annual llew Generation show. lleld in the Compass Gallery, the exhibition is Gerber’s pick of the student degree show work in Scotland and has featured the work of Alison Watt, Stephen Conroy, Adrian Wlszniewski and Craig Mulholland, all
of whom soon went on to the artistic big-time.
‘We look at absolutely everything,’ he points out. ‘What we’re looking for really is anyone who seems outstanding considering that they’re just out of college. You can’t expect totally original thoung from people who’ve just finished their four years of study. But you can sometimes discern the beginnings of real talent, either through new ideas or skill.
Most people glaze over after only several rooms of degree show work, yet Gerber knows exactly what he’s looking for. “We’re interested in good drawing ability and we’re really looking for people who seem to be a cut above the rest. When I saw Craig Mulholland, I knew he was an
outstanding talent. There’s also another young chap called Mark lanson who’s extraordinarily good. He finished last year from Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen and we’ve got him lined up for a solo show in September. He’s a very good draughtsman and has already won several awards. He’s having a very early show, as did Craig.’
Gerber’s selection seems to veer towards painting and although he does show sculpture, jewellery and some design, most of the artists he has championed such as lesley Banks and lleil MacPherson are figurative painters.
‘We see more and more figurative work and so we’re iudging more of it,’ he points out. ‘We’re still interested in
abstract painting but it didn’t catch on wholly in Britain and less so in Scotland. Luckily Scottish artists still learn to draw at art school whereas some English art schools have more or less cut down on drawing as a subject, so when figuration came back in vogue, young Scottish artists who could draw and who had ideas were in demand.’
But what happens if nothing catches his eye at any of the shows? ‘There have been years when that has happened,’ he sighs. ‘But we’re not just trying to fill the walls because there’s a degree show, we want to show that there is real, interesting, promising talent out there.’ (Beatrice Colin)
The List 17-30 June l994 55