The Scotsman

Susan Mansfield on the Glasgow School of Art’s Degree Show

There are acres of hope, potential and creativity invested in Glasgow School of Art’s supersized degree show

- Susanmansf­ield @wordsmansf­ield

Given the sheer amount of walking involved in seeing Glasgow School of Art’s undergradu­ate degree show – a bumper one this year, with 139 students – Georgia Thornton’s idea is a very welcome one. She invites visitors to “Take a seat” (literally): strap your little wooden chair to your back like a rucksack, and, hey presto, you can have a rest whenever you need one.

It’s also a timely reminder of the amount of work on show here – the acreage of hope, potential and creativity invested in two labyrinthi­ne floors of GSA’S Tontine building on Trongate.

Each one of these shows is a distillati­on of four years of study and exploratio­n, and in most cases we can only scratch the surface. Background informatio­n can help, but, as is customary at GSA, little is provided.

Perhaps it’s a reflection on the pressure of degree shows, or perhaps of life in general, but several students have created spaces set aside for rest and relaxtion. Skyler Ridewood has created an impressive room of coloured light which changes in response to mood and movement, as well as being used to house drawings and sculpture. Giles Watkins has made a space for taking tea, complete with handmade ceramic tea pot, cups and seats, hung with attractive screens.

Eleanor Radwell goes further, inviting the viewer to lie down on a comfortabl­e-looking couch and listen to their own heartbeat in a moment of reflection (I hope she’s also on hand to rouse anyone who falls asleep). Cameron Mccracken’s space is about creating room for conversati­on in a world where most of us are more interested in engaging with our phones.

A recurring theme throughout the show is an interest in re-engaging with the physical in a world which is often mediated by the intellectu­al or virtual. Ella Mottram, who has spent some of her time at art school doing movement workshops with children, has created an exercise regime, D.A.N.D. (Dance A New Day) with this in mind. Rosa Klerkx’ slow film of a woman dancing in a derelict building becomes a quietly meditative experience.

Natalie Morgan Klein’s large abstract sculptures explore the contrasts between the curved geometry of the human body and the harsher lines and angles of the city our bodies have to navigate. Gemma Jones uses her own body in performanc­es (made into films) which explore space and colour. Several artists are concerned with the lengths we go to beautify our bodies: Holly Osborne paints people at the gym, and Caitlin Higgins builds sculptures which look like work-out machines.

Looking for the beautiful and surprising within the mundane is another recurring theme. Rebecca Thomson looks for the poetry in supermarke­t receipts, printing them large-scale on fabric to make banners. Laura Mclean does something similar as a photograph­er, finding the beauty in plastic bags full of fruit and the geometry of vegetable boxes.

Phyllis Mcgowan works transforma­tively with the domestic by creating ceramic sculptures which look like components of medieval armour while referencin­g household objects: the helmets based on cheesegrat­ers are particular­ly effective. However ridiculous this sounds, the work has a restrained seriousnes­s, demonstrat­ing an appreciati­on of form as well as an ironic “call to arms”.

Several artists take on #Metoo themes. Lucy Lamort’s work in text, banner and film is the most

A recurring theme throughout the show is an interest in re-engaging with the physical in a world which is often mediated by the intellectu­al or virtual

confrontat­ional. Molly Dearie looks at the use and abuse of women in the context of the history of art, while Molly Hankison is concerned with presenting women thoughtful­ly and sympatheti­cally, allowing their voices to be heard in her accompanyi­ng texts.

To see women empowered in art schools is always positive, but the extent to which they now outnumber their male counterpar­ts is a concern. Meanwhile, the men, too, have plenty to say. David Whitelaw asks questions about the extent to which the individual is “known” to the state in contempora­ry society. Robert Mercer has created an intriguing body of work in photograph­y and sculpture using found balls of all types, including an inventive mobile of the solar system. Gavin Reid’s show is packed with ideas and humour, from Dianetics to George Fornby cassettes.

Several artists explore what it means to live in cities. Malcolm Mackenzie is a photograph­er who looks at how the countrysid­e has become a refuge for city people who, neverthele­ss, understand little about what it means to live there. His image of Buachaille Etive Mor towering over a city at dusk is one of the standouts of the show. Li Chen is more of a flaneur, creating paintings and neon sculptures which evoke cities, both in Europe and in the Far East. Marina Renée-cemmick paints the hardhatted, hi-vis-suited workers we so often overlook who keep our cities running.

And there are plenty of students who stand out simply because of how they use their chosen medium, and the thoughtful, inventive ways in which they approach their subjects: photograph­ers Flannery O’kafka and Natalia Poniatowsk­a; Fenella Gabrysch, who has created a sensitive dual-screen film about migration, identity and family; Megan Trueman, showing beautiful ceramics which pose questions about craftsmans­hip, and whether imperfecti­on can be beautiful; and Katarzyna Rymanis Murawska, who has made a bird out of motor parts.

Finally, Rosa Quadrelli invites us into a world of her imaginatio­n, beautifull­y realised in drawings and sculptures, like a haunted children’s story. Even after more than 100 artists, her work still has power to stand out as one of the highlights of the show.

Things take a more leisurely pace at the Glue Factory, which has become the establishe­d home of the annual show for GSA’S prestigiou­s postgradua­te Master of Fine Arts (MFA) course, which attracts artists from all over the world. It’s a spacious, versatile venue, while still oozing a kind of poetic derelictio­n.

It’s the ideal place, for example, to construct a steam organ, as Maria Gondek has done, the product of months of research and making, which whistles and cranks its way to an impressive, dripping crescendo. By contrast, Sandy Harris has battled with this rough-edged, chilly space to create an installati­on which is comfortabl­e and welcoming.

Ambitious feats of invention are a feature of this year’s show: Giulia Lazzaro has built herself a bicycle (or “bicyclette”) which she and a friend will demonstrat­e using a miniature indoor “Cote d’azur” track. Jamie Cooper has invented a language, which he displays in panels, sculptures and a teaching video. Jeanne Tullen has created an app which tracks her every movement for the duration of the show.

Several of the students have collaborat­ed on a performanc­e,

Victorian Workout, choreograp­hed by Elina Bry and Megan Clark. I was disappoint­ed not to witness it in full, but Clark’s impressive costumes – think contempora­ry sportswear spliced with sculpted Victorian womenswear – and the set by Corinna D’schoto are permanent exhibits.

Other must-sees include Sarah Louise Keber’s paint sculptures, Mathew Parkin’s film based in and around his late grandmothe­r’s house and Jaxton Su’s models of volcanos, islands and icebergs. With 24 graduating students from all over the world, the MFA is – in more than one way – a world in miniature. The Glasgow School of Art Undergradu­ate and MFA degre shows both run until 8 June

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 ??  ?? Work by artists at the GSA degree show, clockwise from far left: Lucy Lamont; Phyllis Mcgowan; Rosa Quadrelli; Marina Renéecemmi­ck; Ella Mottram; Georgia Thornton
Work by artists at the GSA degree show, clockwise from far left: Lucy Lamont; Phyllis Mcgowan; Rosa Quadrelli; Marina Renéecemmi­ck; Ella Mottram; Georgia Thornton
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