Art review: Gray’s School of Art Degree Show, Aberdeen

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GRAY’S School of Art in Aberdeen, now part of Robert Gordon University, is the smallest of Scotland’s four art schools, and the last to enter degree show season.

Gray’s School of Art


However, it punches well above its weight this year.

Aberdeen is one of the last art schools in the country to offer a dedicated degree in print-making and the strength of this is demonstrated in the quality and range of the work. One has to hope it is not diluted as the course gradually comes under the wider umbrella of Contemporary Art Practice.

Maggie Kelly has looked inside her own body through MRI and 3D laser scans and produced a series of beautiful and thought-provoking works.

Both Arianna Moran and Hannah Thornton use the insecurities and self-questioning of the young artist in clever, self-aware bodies of work. Natalie Kerr is interested in the connections and negotiations between people, and has worked with a local art history group to create a vast “painting” with their disco-dancing feet.

Paulina Wachowicz has created evocative photographs of remembered places using creased and stained paper while Alain Campbell’s interest in Gaelic culture informs his sensitive photographs of buildings and ruins with light sources placed inside them.

Robyn Boyle’s show pays tribute to her late grandmother by exploring the places she inhabited in a way which is innovative and unsentimental, while David McDiarmid’s scaffold-based structures explore architecture and power.

Recycling is another theme: Kyle Howie acquires discarded televisions and fridges in the street, applying a coat of paint and a dash of irony; Laura McGlinchey uses billboard posters and flyers built up in layers to create the base for her bright contemporary paintings.

Kirstyn Fordyce’s show is a homage to things easily thrown away, in particular the tea-bag, a witness to many a meeting, conversation, memory. Tomasz Wrobel uses the modern detritus of TV and computer parts as the basis for a strong body of painting where they are reborn in fantastical landscapes.

Catriona Gailey creates sculptures based on iconic works, adding an ingenious twist of her own. So, Dan Flavin’s sculptures are remade not with strip lights but with black plastic piping, and Carl Andre’s bricks are Lego blocks cast in plaster.

Mary-Ann Orr is concerned with the fate of the puffin, after hundreds of birds died in the severe weather at the end of March. Her pen and ink drawings and prints of their bodies are sad and beautiful.

Both Amber-Rose Naismith and Marina Burt became fascinated by wasps, after looking at them under a microscope. Burt then moved on to silk worms, which took their own hand in her degree show when they started to weave cocoons inside her delicate porcelain sculptures.