After being a virtual online event for the past two years, the Edinburgh College of Art Graduate Show is back on campus with more than 400 students showcasing an eclectic range of paintings, drawings, digital animation, film, photography, textiles, jewellery, architecture and interior design et al. The work covers topical influences and themes including the pandemic lockdown, climate change, cities of the future, identity, myth and fantasy.
The best place to start your tour around is the majestic Sculpture Court on the ground floor, a ballroom of a venue filled with light due to the open mezzanine gallery above. At one end is an extensive painting by Fyfe Daly, which on closer inspection is split into four panels. Untitled, it represents with vivacity and vivid colour this central Court with a Venus de Milo figure, students (one in a Harlequin costume), a quartet of musicians, an artist with a paint brush. It all sums up the creative life at work and play at the ECA. As he explains, ‘I reference artists like Pablo Picasso and George Braque in their cubist work, and Joan Mirò symbolism.’
Nearby is a quaint wee wigwam, entitled Realm of the Birds, created by Kat Stanley – her cosy private hideaway is surrounded by painted twigs and branches to reflect the woodland setting. She is influenced by Irish folktales – folklore is the art of the people – and her imaginative, conceptual work is based on ancient legends passed down the generations through oral storytelling.
Upstairs, a stunning collection of abstract collage paintings by Agnes Brook-Sulman catches the eye and time is needed to study the intricate detail of the strips and scraps of paper, smothered in bright yellow, red and blue paint. There’s a marvellous sense of movement and spontaneity through randomly placed shapes with jagged, geometric edges. Her aim in abstract composition is to give the viewer permission to feel instead of understanding a meaning behind the work.
Next, a series of theatrical photographs by Ella Moore Hughes, portraying quiet domestic scenes during the lockdown. With friends and herself acting various roles, here is a 21st Birthday party with no friends to share the fizz and cake, and a lonely unromantic, solo Valentine’s day. The sharply focused clarity of light, shade and shadow is most impressive. These fictional yet truthful narrative photographs ‘focus on emotions, feelings, and experiences to reflect the strange, surreal and eerie lockdown period’.
For those in Edinburgh who love walking along the tranquil Water of Leith, Mhairi Maxwell has created four large paintings which link together following the river from Balerno to the sea port. This is a detailed botanical study – woodland crocus, primroses, willow and beech trees, Japanese cherry, hawthorn et al. She began to explore plant life as an investigation into colour and her palette of rich, vibrant pigments explodes across the canvas.
Also inspired by nature in the wild is Amelia Morgan, who collects plants, dead animals and bird skulls on walks in the Pentland hills and beaches around Edinburgh. Fascinated by country sports, Amelia’s paintings depict jumping hares, birds and a clutch of dead pheasants – After the Hunt – with surreal, dreamlike fantasy. The dark and dramatic skull head is reminiscent of the Celtic mythology and Calvinist-themed paintings by John Bellany.
The soft, tactile feel of beautiful fabrics, silk and satin is experienced with the stunning textile designs of Hope Holmes. Her project, Kaleidoscopic Rhapsody, reflects her love of music, colour and fashion, through which she adapts, paints and jazzes up old wedding dresses: ‘This is a celebration full of energy and dramatic effect. This is a collection of beautiful things. This is life in full bloom.’
From the beautiful and decorative to the wonderful, wacky world of installations and Pop Art sculpture. Artists are always seeking unusual materials and media to express their stories and ideas. Hannah Grist uses found household objects to comment on the nature of the home, comforting objects such as vintage baths and radiators engrained with dirt, stains, rust and signs of neglect. By salvaging abandoned domestic items, she explores topics such as climate crisis and personal anxiety.
This is just a snapshot of a few of the most inspiring, inventive and creative works by these young talented artists. Booking is essential – visitors can book a slot on the Edinburgh College of Art website (see panel).
With thanks to Vivien Devlin for this review.