RSA New Contemporaries 2015

Publication: The Times.   
March 2015

This annual exhibition brings together work by seventy-two artists and architects, selected from last year’s art college degree shows. As such, it is a highly privileged forum. It is also an indicator of future success. The increasingly professional approach by even the youngest artists is evidenced by the serious price tags ¾ ranging from a few hundred to several thousand pounds for an individual art work

Because this work is drawn form such a wide cross section it’s impossible to discern absolutely common concerns. However, it would be true to say that these emerging artists are politically and socially engaged. There’s also an air of ominous menace, offset by some colourful but nevertheless complex work. Moira Watson’s installation ‘Control. Money. Power’, for example,  is a series of five bomb-shaped objects, suspended from the ceiling. The presence of such threatening symbols acts as a metaphor for the forces that seek to manipulate our lives.

At the front portico Deb Marshall’s sound installation ‘Kairos I’ floods the area with thunder. Its companion piece, ‘Kairos II’, includes a classical, head-less cast of Venus Marina accompanied by Dido’s Lament, by Purcell, scored, recorded and performed in reverse. This is an immersive work, sensitively in tune with its surroundings, where ‘meaning’ is somehow less important than sensory experience.

Although Erin Fairley and Emma Smith are from different colleges (Dundee and Edinburgh, respectively) their works sit comfortably together. Fairley uses rope and thread ¾ here a red web defines the cupola above the sculpture court. She also works out-of-doors, in wild landscapes, combining  textiles with ceramics. Smith’s ‘Transposition’, a pair of inverted red velvet curtains, which may have protected some precious, but invented, museum object, indicate a sense of loss and memory.

It’s good to see the notion of craft returning to the way artists make art. Dominic McIvor’s ‘168’ incorporates drawing, embroidery and plaster while Robbie Hamilton’s wooden plinths and ramps explore the environment of skateboarding.  Seamus Killick’s series of 83 paintings, collectively entitled ‘Premium Fingernails’ is  labour-intensive and minutely detailed. David Fleck’s intricate, architectural constructions carved and shaped from wood are also inspiring.

Catherine Ross’s vast oil diptych ‘Passage’ depicts sea, ice and the vast rusting hulk of a ship. Ross grew up in Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories of Canada. Her work draws on this impressive, overwhelming landscape, which continues to provide her with a series of remembered images and feelings.  

Emma Jolly: ‘The Called’
Robbie Hamilton