RSA New Contemporaries 2016 Royal Scottish Academy Edinburgh

Publication: The Times.   
March 2016

RSA New Contemporaries 2016
Royal Scottish Academy


This annual show brings together some of the top graduates from Scottish art schools in a prominent venue. In recent years art graduates have become increasingly professional, so final degree shows and, as a corollary, the present exhibition are career-launching platforms which attract the attention of a wide range of influential parties, as well as the viewing public.

In all, 61 graduates are represented and their work is spread across the entire exhibiting area of the RSA galleries. The capacious venue does full justice to the work, particularly sculpture and large pieces such as Jenni Murison’s extensive series of paintings and drawings, which have been presented as a kind of installation using a series of boxes, frames and plinths. The images themselves, small detailed still-lifes with enigmatic titles such as I’m hiding in the dark for my own surprise party, are interesting enough but it is their combined narrative force and the manner of their display that gives them an edge.

Hannah Murray’s work occupies the boundary between painting and sculpture. A link can be drawn between these compositions of paint, object and image and those of the Polish artist Tadeusz Kantor, whose emballages employed similar material and narrative techniques. In this case, however, the artist’s concerns are for the plight of women left alone in conflict zones around the world.

Yolanda McKean also employs a strong, vigorous painterly aesthetic. Her large oils — still-life and landscape –—are rooted in a Scottish tradition and could have been painted in the 1950s and 1960s were it not for their subtle contemporary resonance.

Lorna Syme’s large triptych references the work of Joseph Beuys in its use of materials such as beeswax. It is a bold, colourful work relating to nature and the pleasure of the garden.

Corey Reid has experimented with the tradition of the woodcut, by printing on polished whinstone. The imagery is bold, confident and abstract. Here, as is the fashion, the artist has created an installation by including a plan-chest, inlaid with stone, of their own making.

One of the most affecting, yet subtle and complex, pieces here is by Christine Halliday, an architecture graduate, whose project installation Consolations of the Landscape, a poetic imaginative construction, combines elements of photography, drawing and writing. Halliday’s work is rooted in the rife gender inequalities still prevalent in many parts of the world. Although her work is set in an Irish context, her concerns are universal. Halliday envisages a series of refuges, escapes and rehabilitative architecture, designed for the safety of women.

Again, this seminal show demonstrates the vigour and range of work being produced by the nation’s art schools.

Until March 30