Duncan of Jordanstone
The Duncan of Jordanstone School of Art happens to be my old college and I wouldn’t want anyone to think that my review was to be a biased one. However, I’ve tried to keep to the positive without losing the objective. I realise that the freedom that the students get while in college would bear no relation to working around a client’s input/agenda. To them, I’d say, enjoy the freedom while you can.
That said, in the graphic design department I was struck by how similar all the students approaches to the given briefs were. Virtually all looking like a by-product of the ‘how to do contemporary design’ cookie-cutter’. For instance, initially the experimental interactive interface for the new Wembley Stadium Museum looked promising, but the minimalist approach left me cold. The thing that Wembley Stadium has/had that you would think you would be able to draw inspiration from are its decades of sporting history, the colours, the atmosphere and, of course, the action. Although it was supposed to be showing the heritage and culture I felt disappointment that it didn’t seem to show enough of either.
One of the most interesting pieces, however, was a personal project from Jessie Zhang, an overseas student, who had put together three, predominately one colour, hanging banners, each explaining the definition of a colour using terrific typography and shape. Additionally the display featured an interesting take on familiar British/Scottish design viewed by someone who, admittedly, usually lives and studies in a completely different culture.
Another of the displays that I liked was a self-motivated brief by Gillian Blayney who had put together an exhibition of spectacles using well-known bin-wearing personalities as the main ‘focal’ point. This also featured a contemporary illustration style, the portraits of famous wearers of the Gregory’s – Dame Edna, Harry Hill, Elton John – all had their style of spectacles superimposed over their likeness complimented with a bold use of colour and typography. Perhaps, to some, an obvious approach, but would you recognise any of these celebs without their frames?
Other highlights included a British Gas direct mail by Rebecca Robinson, which featured a graphic representation of an energy saving light bulb bunny which resembled an abstract style worthy of De Stijhl, and I did agree completely with the philosophy of Richie Lambs’ self-motivated brief for Touch Industries, which displayed a fine range promotional posters using a great range of type and paper stock.
Moving into fine art. This year BIG was beautiful, and the standout piece for me was the award-winning effort from Rosie McGurn, which completely dominated one whole wall of the gallery. It was a combination/collage piece made up from wild sketches, scribbled notes, scraps of ideas and mixed media, set off with a variety of papier mÃ¢chÃ© sculptures. To me it reflected anger and frustration, perhaps with the notion of fine art itself?
It was lewd, rude and crude. I loved it. Hats off too to Steven Burke, a fine painter using a realistic approach to (self?) portraiture, and a special mention to whoever put the Wallace ‘Land O’ Cakes’ installation together. Cheers. It brought back many memories of the time I lived across from said bakery, and ‘raised’ a smile.
On to illustration where at last the lines between fine art, illustration and graphic design are somewhat blurred, which to me is a good thing. I was impressed with the exhibits from James Klinge, which seemed to combine all three disciplines without trying too hard to fit into the ‘illustration’ only category. I was also impressed with the work of Sean McIroy who had executed an original approach to printmaking with hundreds of miniature alien-like creatures guarding his artwork around the wall – and also from the air in the form of mobiles.
Last but not least I ventured into the animation department, something that I know nothing about, but would love to be involved in. The majority of character design was excellent and standouts for me were Christopher Marshall’s Time Comes To Pass, featuring a top cartoon Grim Reaper, and Too Little Too Late by Sam Rowan, with some great ‘jaw-jutting’ cowboy characters. Admittedly I didn’t watch everything as I was time-constrained, but looking round the studio at the prep work and storyboards did give me the feeling that for every bit of homogenised graphic design familiarity it was counteracted with a strong liberating sign of individuality flowing from within the animation department.
Review by Craig McGregor, designer, DJS
Gray’s School of Art
The Gray’s show is titled ‘creative energies’ – and there certainly would appear to have been a considerable amount of energy expended over the last four years. The show features the work of 130 graduating students in sculpture, printmaking, painting, textiles, 3-D design, visual communications, product design and digital media.
When I attended, many of the students were still there sitting in their exhibition space. But each one was by then surrounded by the debris of camping out with their work for over a week – a bit high-brow meets homelessness. It sort of turned the whole thing on its head – it can be a little unnerving being watched by a person whose soul you’re looking in to. There were some real highlights. In fact, the standard of the work was good – with only a few so-what-is-that-all-about eyebrows being raised here and there. Painting, digital media and visual communication all had some standout pieces of work (more of which later). Sculpture, unfortunately, we never actually found (again, more of which later), so I can’t really comment. Product design seemed a little below par, but textiles was very interesting – in particular the ‘urban armour’ work of Jennifer McHardy, which RGU has seen fit to purchase for its permanent collection.
Personal highlights included the stunning figurative painting of Stuart Allan and the huge life-sized graffiti-inspired stencils produced by Mohammed Qasim Ashfaq. The work of Patricia Doyle, which looked at abusive relationships of victim, perpetrator and voyeur was disturbing, but also moving. The installations created by Julie Hawkey using leaves and Perspex were very powerful. And I particularly liked the thinking behind the work of Tracy Ramaszkicwicz, who used a small image of a caravan in a psychedelic landscape to represent the place where the music was hiding out in Brian Wilson’s drug-addled brain.
In digital media, both Gabrielle Hollis, with her creation Zoe the gothic teenager, and Arran Brown, with his short film about a writer distracted by a noisy neighbourhood, were worth the visit. And in visual communication, the work of Lindsay Wood in response to ‘live’ ad briefs was well executed, if, from my perspective, a little safe for art school.
One point on making the best use of time spent at the show: some signage would have helped. The workings of the building were still dominant, and while I like being as close to the living school as that, the result was a little bit about wandering through the school stumbling upon what we could find. Of course, we did find things – many great – but perhaps information graphics is an area for development next year.
Review by Neil Urquhart, creative director,
The Big Picture