ECA School of Art Degree Show 2014

What a treat this show is. Seriously. I've been back a couple of times, purposely putting off seeing the whole thing in one go (and purchasing the excellent catalogue) just so that I would have a real excuse to return. Over the last couple of weeks I've come to recognize a lot of  names thanks to the degree show website, being in touch with several artists about their work, and anticipating the opening of the show (which is only up for a couple more days, so if you haven't yet, go!) so it was great to finally see all of this work up.

One thing that I'll admit straight-up is that it's really weird writing blog posts about things you haven't yet seen. There's a lot of work at Edinburgh College of Art at the moment, by a lot of artists. It's a lot to take in, and it's worth taking the time to absorb it all. Just about everything has to be seen in person to be appreciated, and even though I've been posting daily 'check-em-outs' on the blog leading up to and throughout the show, most of those works had to be left to the imagination; they simply look incredibly different in the exhibition space. Some are straightforward, like photographs or paintings, but how does one get a sense of an installation from a photograph? Well, you can't. So that's why actually going is imperative and, so it happens, absolutely delightful.

Overall, the show is marvelous. I can't say enough about the quality of the work, especially from some of the BAs who are clearly on top of the ball. I'll admit I key into painting right away because that's what my own short-lived studio art background was in (before I fell for art history and the rest is, well... history), and I'm really pleased to see some strong painted works on display. Perhaps my favorites are Eóin Francis McCormack's gutsy, textural wall-spanning canvases, and Mary MacKay's fluttering, large-scale works that gave the sensation of movement, like leaves in in a breeze. Margaret Anderson also impresses with her use of color and the delicate rendering of shapes on large canvases. The only realist painter I really enjoy, let alone even saw now that I think about it, was Tiina Lilja's object depictions in striking hues and scale juxtapositions.

Emily Lang has displayed some really finely crafted paintings influenced by knitting patterns, exploring the accordion book format for a couple of them, and as an art book fan, I think these were a great way to explore pattern. They are also something of a breath of fresh air after walking around several spaces in which the paintings are, generally speaking, bold and enormous.

Perhaps my favorite room of all is the darkened installation space that includes the works of Alison Buckle, Faith Elliott and Richard Phillips-Kerr. One of Alison Buckle's pieces had been a part of the Confessional Art-Art Confessions show a couple of months ago, and I think it works better as part of her larger installation. Richard Phillips-Kerr's life-size human sculpture onto which there is a moving projection to match is quite mesmerizing, playing into that eerie sense of portraits being alive. Faith Elliott's world-within-a-shed, one a few sheds and tents to be found around the show, is like a mysterious, dreamlike shrine.

Charlie Myatt also produced a number of really wonderful small-scale collages and mosaic-like pieces that explore sculpture and landscape. Fiona Beveridge's playful Day-Glo colored sculptures are unusual and enjoyable, and on the other side of that coin are Charlotte Nash's patterned tights through which pink synthetic filler oozed. They're certainly weird, but I couldn't help liking them.

As I mentioned, there is a sense of enormity to the show, partly because the show itself is gigantic and seems to encompass a little bit of everything, but it's also the nature of the degree show: go big or go home. It's the culmination of students' work; a mindbogglingly paradoxical sense of this-is-everything-and-that's-it as it sits in a white cube alongside the work of hundreds of other students. The enormity is good. It's risky, but risk is also good, and in the cases where it works, it reallyworks.

On through June 1!

Jessica Ramm

Andrea Chambers