Art review: Duncan of Jordanstone Degree Show 2018

Duncan of Jordanstone kicks off the degree show season in what promises to be an important year for culture in Dundee as the opening of the V&A draws near, and at least one student is taking a long hard look at the city's rebirth as a weekend break destination. In his installation / souvenir shop Costa del Prole, David McLeish asks some pertinent questions about how these cultural developments relate to working-class people, and the kind of jobs they are likely to create.

Work by Magan Goldie at the DoJ Degree Show 2018
Work by Magan Goldie at the DoJ Degree Show 2018

Art review: Duncan of Jordanstone Degree Show 2018, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, Dundee ****

Young artists graduating now are millennials who have grown up with social media, and several students are examining the implications of this. Laura Gray looks at work and life in a society which seems to demand that we are perpetually awake. Megan Goldie examines the phenomenon of obsessive documentation, setting the ephemeral against the permanent by publishing printed volumes of her tweets, while Kristina Pelehacs does something similar by turning internet memes into oil paintings.

Lorna Coyne draws out a more positive thread in her attractive mobiles and sculptures which encode relationships and communities using coloured beads, celebrating the things which connect us. Painter Ryan Gill creates fine portraits looking at the multi-layered selves we are required to present, showing fractured faces illuminated by light from old-fashioned television sets.

It is perhaps an indication of just how much pressure young people are under today that many of these artists are looking outside contemporary culture, to mythology, ancient traditions and the natural world. Johanna Tonner is interested in the pressures facing women but approaches her subject with a light touch, creating an installation of sculptures made from printed textiles which can be sat on or hugged. Sinead Creaney has collected the musings of her friends (often about the stress and difficulty of their lives) and turned them into a series of inventive collages and games. Ciara Neufeldt’s bright ceramics stand out not only for their quality and desirability (I’m drinking tea out of one as I write this) but because they reconnect with a handmade, craft aesthetic.

It’s no coincidence the majority of artists I’ve mentioned are women. In art schools, women now outnumber men two-to-one, but, with a rough calculation based on the Fine Art disciplines at DJCAD suggesting the figure could be more like four-to-one, I wonder if we need some positive discrimination in the other direction.

The replica guns made by Senyn (Sam Smith) look, at first glance, like boys’ toys, but in fact he manages to bring together an ambitious concept – his own army, fighting “to protect the values of the individual and individual liberty” – with a set of powerful, well-made objects.

James Fallan, interested in fake news, looks back to the “juglares” – disseminators of news in medieval Spain who carried boards on which ordinary people could draw their stories. He documents his journeys as a modern day equivalent, with a canvas on which passers-by can write.

Some of the most compelling work is that with a personal story. Caitlyn Vesey has recreated her late grandfather’s greenhouse, with plants, wheelbarrow and birdsong – a real labour of love. Keira Marshall’s work is an investigation into the life of the grandfather she never met, a soldier killed in Northern Ireland in 1977. Martha Howden’s work doesn’t name a specific loss, but is all the stronger for that, a delicate network of threads, objects and images which give absence a presence.

Mhairi Cormack’s work started with personal experience, but its strength comes from the fact that she has hit on the perfect medium – in this case, collage – for juxtaposing ideas which are sometimes contradictory. And Jo Hanning takes the history of the art school itself as her subject, in particular its easels. Her sculptures using easel-parts and links with past students via QR codes make a meaningful and moving set of connections as another cohort of artists move out into the world.