Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design Degree Show 2015

Publication: The Times.   
May 2015

THIS annual showcase of some of the nation’s emerging artistic talents has become increasingly professionalised. As well as the artworks themselves, it’s now possible to find professionally produced books, cards, postcards and editioned prints – all for sale, at real prices. The title of the lavishly produced 300 page catalogue says it all: ‘Ones to Watch 2015’.

The show has been divided into eleven categories following the courses and disciplines and includes Animation, Textiles, Illustration, Jewellery, Fine Art, Time Based Art,  and Art & Philosophy. There’s a certain fluidity between these disciplines but, by and large, they remain intact.

There are a number of obviously eye-catching pieces here. Alexzandra Frances Moncrieff, for example, has made an exuberant, psychedelic environment peopled by beguiling but vaguely menacing mannequins. There’s also a fair deal of heavy, engineered, muscular pieces, created from wood. One – an ironic take on contemporary masculinity –  is a geodesic dome (originally the creation of designer and engineer Buckminster Fuller) which contains an oversize pair of testicles.  David Evan Mackay’s ‘Standing Reserve’ is a sculptural environment, with sound,  of a collapsed power pylon. Commenting on the ‘white noise’ of proliferating structures and networks, Mackay writes “As the volume increases we may buckle – over extended and overloaded.”

Fiona Powell has created a series of rituals, performances and objects which draw on Celtic and Scandinavian traditions; she mines archaeological and mythological sources while placing the female form at its centre. The results are both beautiful and moving. Maedhbh McNutt’s photographic portraits show their subjects ‘before’ and ‘after’, in identical poses  – a fencer before a two hour bout, and later, hot and exhausted; a pregnant mother before and after birth. Lorie Ballage explores the ocean environment as a mysterious, poetic and existential world. Six ceramic vessels, ‘Water Anamnesis,’ stand on a wooden shelf, as symbols of exploration.

Anna Olafsson is a fiddle player and an artist. She links both means of expression in her drawing and printmaking. The shapes of her bow-strokes are given visual form resulting in tonally delicate, arcing, semi-abstracted internal landscapes.

Kimberley Baxter paints detailed and absorbing miniature studies of objects such as an aged Nikon camera or a human arm emerging from an egg. Janie Stewart has embraced the tradition of Scottish urban realism recently espoused by the likes of Peter Howson and Ken Currie. Her studies of figures and faces, based on the harbour and boatbuilding yard in her home town of Arbroath, are powerful and remarkably accomplished.

One of the great successes of DJCAD are the graduates of Interior & Environmental Design. This year’s crop is no exception – there is a clear focus here on social awareness and how designers can greatly influence our quality of life. Marc Johnston has created a complex structure powered by a electric tricycle that encourages the user to engage critically in the way in which energy is used, and can be conserved. Tracy Smith’s work addresses the power, and empowerment, of women. She has designed a putative six chambered ‘temple’ which draws inspiration from ancient and modern buildings that engage with the Earth’s tidal and solar rhythms.

A scrap of paper taped to a studio door entitled ‘10 Rules for Students and Teachers From John Cage’ reads, under Rule 6: ‘Nothing is a mistake. There is no win and no fail. There is only make.’ It’s a fitting credo, which seems to encapsulate the optimistic and youthful energy that brims and bubbles from these walls.

Alexandra Frances Moncrieff
Kirsty Dalton
Joletta Thornburn