North Highland College Art Exhibition 2010

May 2010

Publication: Northings

North Highland College Art Exhibition 2010

Caithness Horizons




Setting out for a career in the arts – particularly visual art – can be a brave and difficult decision: there is no firmly established career path and structure and very few artists actually make a living from their work.


Teaching art is also fraught with complexities and pitfalls and the type of teaching students gain at college or art school can have a profound effect on their later development and career.


So, it is encouraging to see here the substantial number and diversity of students who have embarked on such a route and that they have been guided and tutored thoughtfully.


There's ample evidence from this show of full- and part-time students of all ages and background that they have explored a number of techniques, media and approaches.


Much of the work, although patchy in places, shows promise and there is also some real talent. 


The full-time National Certificate students - Shane Udall, Murray Cameron, Scott Spence, Vikki Sinclair, Shirley Gwillim, Errin Miller, Zoe Mackenzie, Gemma Conway, Sarah Newton and  Aileen Paton – use a range of media including charcoal, gouache, monoprinting, digital imaging and a variety of textiles.



Gemma Conway and Zoe Mackenzie, in particular, have used a variety of means of expression the most successful of which are their prints (although not stipulated these appear to be screenprints) – Conway's 'Flower Print', an abstracted study in three colours, has good compositional and colour sense and is sufficiently bold to hold its own among the other competing and sometimes confusedly hung works which line the walls. 


Similarly, Gemma Conway's 'Sunrise' is a bold, joyful, uncompromising combination of print and collage; it's vigorous and gutsy enough to hold its own in most company. Her 'Art of Winter' – comprising a number of individual pieces – conveys a sense and feeling of winter's cold while celebrating its ice-clad beauty. The work is let down only by its lack of proper presentation (a criticism which can be levelled at the entire show – although, one suspects, it has been mounted on less than a shoe-string budget).


Certainly – if they have not already done so – it would repay these young artists to study the print works and techniques of the German Expressionists and that great Norwegian master, Edvard Munch.


There is ample evidence here that a number of students have embraced digital media with gusto although, at the basis of successful digital photography there still requires to be an acute eye and keen compositional sense. Both of these qualities can be seen in the work of Nicola Sutherland and Eswyl Fell – the former's carefully observed detail of 'Walking Stick' is both sensitive and affectionate without being intrusive.  Fell's 'Boy at the Window', although posed and carefully composed, conveys a sense of his subject (a young boy) and demonstrates the photographer's understanding of what comprises an image which holds the viewer's attention.


There is the promise of a good number of  substantially talented artists here; their work deserves to be praised, discussed – and seen.