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Glasgow School of Art Degree Show 2011

What does this year’s GSA Degree show bring to 2011?

Through the warren of rooms and corridors that scale the heights and depths of the Mack building, we’re given a diverse range of work that seem to consciously invite us to look, listen, smell, embrace and participate within immersive spaces more closely than usual.  Perhaps moving away from the tethered boundaries of their departmental disciplines, the graduates have ventured into considering all possibilities within their work – sometimes incorporating multiple techniques such as film, sculpture, performance and photography in their degree show pieces.

Starting off in painting,  Sam Derounian‘s minimal theatrical set comprises from a library of stark self-referential motifs, quoting the work of artist’s such as R B Kitaj and David Hockney to create a playful and colourful naivety. Bold Gothic text and carefully restrained fragments of bright colour appear on a large white background as if carefully copied and pasted fragments on a word document.

Walking past a fading silk screen printed with the Warner Bros slogan ‘That’s All Folks!’ we enter Claudia Nova‘s slightly surreal environment ‘Hollywood Forever’. Confronted with undefined, mountainous human forms that glisten and desperately search against the flickering of an ‘Applause’ neon sign, screams of manic fans elevate elements of Lynch’s Twin Peaks sense of escapism and longing for nostalgia.

Rachel Sharpe’s raised platform covered with the remnants of a car wreck almost invites us to experience Warhol’s notorious red and black car crash screenprint in a virtual space – a blood spilled arrangement of objects are overlooked by copious reflective sets of grinning teeth and looped 1950’s cigar commercials.

Carefully incorporating the Mackintosh buildings own design elements in her space, Zara Idelson‘s beautiful abstract figurative paintings are arranged on a waist level shelf, supported by reproduction copies of the colourful banister rails of the Mack library. It feels quite engaging in light of a building and art school that’s on the brink of a new start in its long term redevelopment and rebuild programme.

Taking centre stage in the Mack gallery, Alice Steffen-Essex’s sculptural lamps studded with white PVC stilettos and cigarettes beam with gold light as they accompany a bed that glows with a glaring intensity – brash, proud and definitely here to stay.

Romany Dear’s canary yellow cassette walkman and headphones bring forward that looking at art has been taken back into the hands of the artist as we’re personally guided through a tour of the Mack gallery. We are taught how to look and even become a piece of work ourselves in the space as we become more self aware  – go on and strike a pose.

What do you do when you see a big red button saying don’t push? You push of course. Euan Ogilvie‘s interactive and rather macabre sculpture toys with human curiosity and interactions as people turn a crank handle contraption, waiting for peoples squeals to begin as dead mice get severely mangled behind a glass pane in a side viewing room. Oooh urgh.

Looking to photography, Jonathan Cottrell’s large scale photographs bring the viewer to the centre of derelict environments, blanketed and dank spaces such as the St.Peter’s Seminary in Cardross are pierced by points of light that offer a lingering beauty and sense of the Sublime.

Departing from conventional photographs, the imaginative creation of Ellinor Forbes, ‘Peachland’, documents an unseen and lingering dream world. Seen only by pets and Ellinor herself, she encourages us to buy a ticket and engage with it – all with the possibility of dining on unicorn meat.

An enjoyable change from the Mack and end to our look round the degree show, Theresa McCafferty’s narrative-driven bespoke pieces conjure up a dark and repulsive vision of  macabre Victoriana. Through the use of uncanny materials such as human hair, found photographs and bound book covers, she bases her pieces on traditional items such as a gentleman’s pocket watch or a ladies’ locket.

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