Sunday, 22 May 2011

Degree show 2011 review

Ross Fleming

Duncan of Jordanstone Degree Show 2011

Degree show time rolls around to Dundee once more, and the class of 2011 pitches up to offer the world its wares. 300 students, 11 undergraduate programmes, fourteen floors across two buildings. It’s quite an itinerary, and the Fine Art course is waiting for the yearly casting of thousands of critical eyes. The diversity of work in the Scottish art scene just now is its very strength, and trying to spot trends is probably a fool’s errand. Better just to grab a map on the way in and to simply get on with it.

The Cooper Gallery at the front of the Crawford Building makes an apt setting for the minimal sculptures of Julie Duffy, whose stark wooden planes, edged with insulation foam, command the space with some authority. Their spare, angular forms seem quite at home here against the classicist architecture. Next door, by way of contrast, we see an installation by Beth Savage from the Art, Philosophy and Contemporary Practice course. A video plays of the artist sat under a tree wearing a pair of big felt bunny ears on her head, and over on a nearby table there’s an arrangement of teacups full of egg yolks. The Bataille references are duly checked on the artist’s gallery handout, but it’s all done in such a way as to feel more like having fun than homework. Sculptures by Raluca Iancu are sort of fun too, and sort of traumatic at the same time, with wrecked cars and mangled planes depicted using soft, tactile materials in bright friendly colours.

Upstairs on Level 5 is a room painted top to bottom in black gloss, the setting for a hexagonal structure clambered over by an apelike celebrant of some unspecified esoteric rite. Phantom by Ross Fleming is a visceral telling of a secreted ritual, an act that’s all the more thrilling for being concealed behind a veil of darkness. Coming to it from the bright, airy Crawford corridors is much like stumbling into a black metal fan’s bedroom during a museum tour, and makes for a startling discovery. Walking further along the way, Katie Morrison shows delicately rendered paintings featuring tessellations of machine guns, hand grenades and fishnet patterns.

Deep in the basement of the Matthew Building, the graduates of the Time Based Art programme make an annual showcase of the college’s renowned technical facilities. The short films of Rose Hendry certainly delivered in this regard. Realised to an acutely professional standard in terms of both camerawork and sound editing, her witty wordless vignettes were viscerally thrilling and gave good joke too. The vivid pink of lipstick smoking on a cigarette, the bright red of tomato ketchup, the glamorous lady blowing a whistle amid the suds in Bird Bath, all these sights and sounds were indelibly branded onto the audience’s central nervous system. The shot of a cigarette, stubbed out on the yolk of a fried egg, will live long in the memory.

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