The show divided into a couple of broad areas: largely science and concept and not much in between. It seems that this group of makers had been unusually gifted in having parents who worked as molecular scientists, geologists, entomologists and more besides. Well-versed in the practice of chatting to anyone showing a vague interest in their work, I spent from 6pm to about 8.30pm in the show.
I started off by talking to the highly talented and motivated silversmith, Hamish Dobbie. I am really pleased to see that people are still taking to silverwares as a serious practice, rather than as an adjunct to jewellery, which it all-to-regularly seems to have become in the UK.
What makes this work all the more remarkable is that he only started silversmithing last year, having been a jeweller prior to that. He said that he was never comfortable with jewellery, which is rather surprising as he later said that his dad is a silversmith.
My chat to Hamish was briefly interrupted by stopping to talk to Jonathan Boyd, one of the tutors at the GSA who took me off to proudly show me their new "Solidscape" 3-d printer! I must apologise publicly to Jonathan for having called him "James" all night without him correcting me.
Before I go any further, I should explain that the Jewellery and Silversmithing is in a temporary space in the city while new workshops are built. This makes the exhibition space less-than-ideal and the problem is that the lighting is uneven generally and harsh in places and all the work is behind perspex, which makes photographing the exhibits really difficult... what follows is the best this amateur snapper can do.
The next person I spoke to was Mirka Janeckova who uses white, unglazed porcelain as a medium in which to explore her interest in surrealism. I was really taken with her work as I have used unglazed porcelain by my friend and colleague Lisa Stevens in some of my own works. The seeming fragility of this necklet is breathtaking:
I really enjoyed her comment on this, "It doesn't matter if it chips off" because of the raw edges!
Emma Campbell's work draws on the history of a Victorian Hospital, part still in use, part derelict, part converted to housing in Paisley. She has made series of medals, which are interesting but I much preferred her bracelets and pendants created from repeated elements of distressed, enamelled metals which struck me as very exciting:
So we come to the first of the scientists! Emma Stirling's work is based on lichen and she is using enamel to create surfaces which don't even look like metal.
Even her brightly-coloured works in enamel don't seem quite like metal.
Mairi Collins is making fantastically complex works based on molecular biology, using mixed metals, enamel and patination to create works which look "organic" in the regular sense of the word while being based on actually organic motifs from fundamental scientific principles:
With Karen Christina McShane's work, we return to fungi, this time from the point of view of an enthusiastic fungus-hunter. A vegetarian who doesn't like to eat mushrooms - poor woman! - she collects fungi for the pleasure of seeing their forms and her excitement and enthusiasm for the subject bubble over into her work which is subtle and earthy, as one might expect:
Ailsa Whittet Ritchie also turns to science and nature - her father was an entomologist - and her show comprised of some very charming pieces based on the forms and colours of beetles. Enamel turns up again - obviously there is a fine enamelling tutor at the school - and, once more, in a pleasingly understated way, almost looking distressed and faded:
I will not lie... when I glimpsed at Sophie Swinton's work from Ailsa's stand, I thought I was about to get work dealing with breast cancer. Let the photographs explain:
This is silver jewellery "set" with chewed bubble-gum! Sophie, at least, was amused by my thought and so it is safe to tell here. Her work is highly conceptual and is actually dealing with ideas of "preciousness" and repulsion. She also presented an amusing video in which she pastiches a television shopping channel selling jewellery made from chewed bubble-gum.
Probably the most exquisite work in the show was that of Yuru Huang, who analysed a single flower - Cosmos - and the seeds of the flower to create all of her beautiful works:
Emma M.F. Gregory may be interested in crystal lattices and metallurgy, but she is still the queen of the laser-welder, making these remarkable structures in stainless-steel, silver and gold. I especially like the chain made of "crystals" in varying sizes:
Lisa Mollins brings us back to conceptualism again and this time of an environmental nature. I enjoyed her collar made from her degree dissertation, pulped and cast!
Glasgow has always been known for generating a lot of "narrative" work. Perhaps unsurprisingly, since the departure of Jack Cunningham a few years ago, this thread has lessened, so in amongst the science and concept, it was nice to discover some very appealing narrative works by Lorna Annette Hay, who's mixed material and found-object pieces convey something of the nostalgia and melancholy of travel:
I'm still not quite sure what to make of Jennifer Glen's pieces based on dolls and her own childhood. Talking to her, they were fun and amusing but now that I am looking at them detached from that narrative element and her good humour, I am finding them somewhat sinister...
Katherine Duincan is obviously a very talented maker. Her work comprised of these resin and silver pieces, beautifully made and clearly thought out:
As well as this remarkable silver object (I am not actually sure what it is, but it is a beautiful piece of work):
Tucked away at the back of the room was the one-woman powerhouse of ideas, Stefanie Cheong. Science again: technology, geology, jewellery and silversmithing! I loved her whisky tumblers which are polished on the inside and have glass bottoms so that they function as kaleidoscopes when drinking out of them:
I was also really taken with her project to "democratise" contemporary jewellery, which you can read about and take part in here:
Then, as if that were not enough, she had her collection on display too, using electroformed and patinated copper to create geological collars, chains and other pieces:
Last - and in this case I can genuinely say - but no means least was Lara Whittaker. I am, I suppose, biassed: Lara was one of my own students some years ago and I am actually proud to see where she has taken the basic skills that I taught her. I am delighted to be able to say that I love her work and it is also really lovely to see how she has developed into a confident woman who is more than able to present and discuss her work with passion and humour. Even if it had not been made by Lara, this would be my favourite piece in the show:
Her work, in brass, resin and concrete, is all based on a meeting she had with an old man who had been a prisoner in Alcatraz: she met him on a visit to the island. I'm still unclear who broke this piece:
Which was apparently twice the size but broke during the hanging. Lara blames tutor, Michael Pell, who (in his dry, witty manner) claims that it was her fault. Whoever is to blame, it still looks great!
For me, this was not the end of the degree show. Some time ago, I was contacted by one of the students in Communications Design, Callum Rice. He had seen my work and my photography on Flickr and had realised that we both had similar views about the way in which modern society processes the past, about the decline of industry and the fall of philanthropy, about decay, flux and mutability. He asked if he could make a film about me, in which my words would form the narrative as I talk about the influences on my own work. He, too, graduated and his piece premièred last night.
The video work is made from many hundreds of digital images which have been printed by archaic processes such as cyanotype and which have then been animated together to create a video. The soundtrack is my voice and the ambient sounds of the environments in which he recorded the video and sound. My input to the project was a couple of afternoons. For three minutes' video, Callum spent weeks and weeks in the darkroom and studio. I am very pleased with the end result and hope to use it in my own presentations in future:
Callum discussing the work with a curator.
For more information about the individual makers, see the GSA Degree Show Portal.
More on student works in the next post!