Online, summer 2020
Edinburgh College of Art’s degree show is usually an event full of joy, celebration, and discovery; artists, families, friends, and the public all come together and share their love of both the art and its creators. Alas, this year, owing to the current global pandemic, ECA has moved its presentation online, in common with other graduate degree shows. The rush to digitise is a sad side-effect of the situation; however, regardless of how the work is being showcased, the quality of work on show remains unaffected.
Across the board, there is an abundance of talent, far too much to properly appreciate across a screen. Through navigating the website and discovering each artist’s page, one discovers a mix of videos, photographs, and information. Rather than having wall labels, the information is instead available in a PDF which can be downloaded, although the text included is more for the course than the show. Reading through these files provides a greater understanding of the creative processes behind the works. A benefit of the digital nature of the show is that your viewing time is unrestricted – you can take all the time you like to visit and revisit the artwork, without getting lost in the Edinburgh College of Art building.
Throughout the showcase, there is a mixture of digital, installation, and more traditional painting exhibited. Some artists have really invested in their online curation, and rendered 3D walkthroughs of the exhibition spaces, often to great effect. All the artists involved in the show deserve the upmost credit for their adaptability during this tumultuous time; many have indeed referenced the COVID-19 pandemic, exploring its effects in their work.
Breaking the show up into respective degree programmes offers a chance to view how differently the courses are interpreted. Some highlights of the Sculpture course include Cal McCormack’s selection of sculptures and videos, with his Strawberry Lace Kiss being particularly eye-catching, Hannah Lim’s examination of Chinoiseries and its appropriation, a bright and delicate selection of sculptures, and Gwyneth Machin’s mock-ups and models, which offer a thoughtful examination of the natural world and society’s relationship to it. Additionally, the feminist craft exhibited by Meredith Mack shows a very personal insight into her own lived experiences.
In Contemporary Art Practice, Daphne Jiyeon Jang creates an incredible digital re-evaluation of the Elgin marbles, bringing into question the debates surrounding their ownership. Aisling Browne’s uses of a bright, dreamlike palette highlights the beauty of nature, and the work necessary to maintain that beauty. In a similarly dream-like escape, Cat and Éiméar McClay’s installations and videos showcase a modern, technologically aware investigation into contemporary art’s society, celebrating many different aspects of queerness.
In Painting, there was a huge variety of media, ranging from the soft play items seen in Beccy Nipps’ work, through to the imaginative recycled landscapes seen in Kiera Saunders’ films. More traditional works on canvas were well represented with highlights such as the bright horticultural works of Emily Wenman, the surrealist compositions of Jack Whitelock, and the contemporary critiquing works of Kyoka Abe.
The Photography students showcased the variety of impacts which images can have, most notably in Amber Brown’s dramatic and hauntingly beautiful works about the coal mining landscape, which are starkly contrasted with Louise Burns’ reflections on contemporary dating. Thought-provoking images were aplenty, with the post-colonial statements of Tayo Adekunle’s work, alongside the humanitarian insights offered by Isobel Budler’s revealing works of Calais.
Fine Art offers up a similarly fantastic collection of artists, with a concordant selection of mature works. Fabi Fabi’s A-I collaborative works showcase the potential future of art, with aspects of the works left to the will of the computer. Jody Mulvey’s Ants + Other Friends showed a fun, engaging look into how joyful art can be, whilst Sam Macinnes brings forth a masculine critique of contemporary society, addressing the issue of toxic masculinity through cartoon drawings. Natasha Viosna Moody’s huge tent-like sculpture follows-on from a series aiming to highlight the sanctity of nature in an urban setting. Evie Edwards and her Post Disney works offer an interesting look into how an entire generation has grown up with augmented reality and examines historical artworks through this medium.
Overall, the show can appear arduous to navigate, but do not allow this to dissuade you from exploring the talent of the class of 2020. There is much to be enjoyed and taken away from this year’s degree show, all of which is accessible at any time, and from anywhere.
With thanks to Leo Sartain for this review.
Image: Cal McCormack – Strawberry Lace Kiss