Young, female and Scottish ... new artists emerge

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IT MIGHT not please the art purists, but papier-mâché pants and Michelangelo’s David in a kilt are the way forward, according to a new exhibition that showcases the best young female Scottish talent.

The show - simply called Young, Female and Scottish - opens today in London and was put together by Cynthia Corbett, a former investment banker who was inspired by the 2003 art-school degree shows in Scotland.

"I came up to see the degree shows and was blown away with the talent here," said US-born Ms Corbett. "There were so many amazing artists that when I came back to London I suddenly realised they were all female and thought we should put them all together. I believe there is a space for nurturing young and emerging artists working with innovative and experimental art forms."

Some of the work is already being snapped up by collectors including Eileen Gallagher, the Scots-born producer of the Footballers’ Wives TV series.

Although they have only recently graduated from Scottish art schools, the six artists have received widespread recognition for their work in a variety of media including painting, sculptural installation, photography, video and painted papier-mch.

Ms Corbett, who left her job with the US finance giant Bankers Trust to study art history with Christie’s in London, said: "It’s a very different type of exhibition and each artist is very individual. Lois Carson only went to art college after her children reached their teens because she has spent the last ten years living abroad with her husband who works in oil."

In 2003, Ms Carson completed her degree at Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen and won a place as the artist in residence with the distiller Glenfiddich, followed by a Royal Scottish Academy fellowship to spend six weeks studying in Florence. In her latest series, Ms Carson explores how Michelangelo’s David - the personification of high Renaissance art - has been hijacked for commercial purposes and "dresses" him in contemporary clothing.

"It was daunting going to art school because I never went into further education after leaving school," Ms Carson said. "I didn’t think I would be capable of completing a degree, never mind having the marvellous experience of studying in Florence. I’m keeping busy now and my work is selling in a gallery in Aberdeen. I love painting too, but I don’t think I could concentrate forever on two-dimensional work, so sculpture suits me now."

Alex Cooper, a North Berwick-born painter and sculptor, won the 2002 residency at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. In her work, she uses a burning process to create a three-dimensional effect and experiments with a range of organic substances and the effects of burning on wood.

"When I was living in Edinburgh, I could leave the wood once I’d carved it outside to allow it to weather, but the process of burning the wood involves burning various varnishes which change into different colours," she said. "Luckily, I haven’t had any disasters yet."

Ms Cooper has now moved to York, but she hopes to return to Scotland. "The art scene in Scotland is strong. I actually studied at Strathclyde University with marketing and German, and like most people, didn’t follow my dream. I am glad I did do it this way because, unfortunately, art school does not give any business training."

Another Edinburgh artist, Sarah Barnes, is a 2003 graduate of Edinburgh College of Art and works with painted papier-mch installations. Everyday objects, including clothing, books and CDs, are copied in papier-mch and are presented as either painting installations or, in the case of clothing, as individual objects or part of a series. Her pants installations are already popular.

"We want the exhibition to be fun," said Ms Corbett. "David in kilts and pants on the wall etc. We’ve invited the great and good from Scotland, Scots in London and many private Scottish collectors, such as the Flemings Collection and the Royal Scottish Corporation, have been invited alongside prominent Scottish celebrities. With our proximity to the Tate Britain, we are also expecting people to come from there."

Contemporary photographs are another part of the exhibition, with Glasgow-trained artist Jet showing images of the city’s infamous rave scene in the early 1990s that she documented for music magazine M8.

The rave scene in Scotland was such a phenomenon at the time that the images now have a cultural and historical resonance to them and Jet said it was a fantastic experience to be part of: "When I left college I was looking for work and ended up working for M8 on a regular basis. There were some images they didn’t want, as they preferred happy ravers, but some of the images I captured on camera were gruesome. I would take off to raves all over the country, some legal and some illegal, and it was a whole different world, a real eye-opener," she said.

All the work at the exhibition is for sale, at prices from 30 to 1,500. "I am positive we have not heard the last of these emerging artists and that the talent coming out of Scotland will continue," said Ms Corbett.

• Young Female and Scottish runs until 28 January at the arts hotel CiTYINN in Westminster, next to the Tate Britain. It is opened today by MP Anne Begg.


Sarah Barnes, Painting Installations

A graduate of Edinburgh College of Art whose work consists of painted papier-mch installations, executed in meticulous detail. Everyday objects are replicated in papier-mch and are presented as a kind of self-portrait of the artist’s own possessions.

Lois Carson, sculptor

Lois Carson completed a BA (Hons) in Fine Art at Gray’s School of Art Aberdeen, was artist in residence at Glenfiddich and received a fellowship from the Royal Scottish Academy to study in Florence.The materials Carson uses in her sculptures vary from the traditional stone or bronze to Perspex and digitally generated images. Her latest works feature Michelangelo’s David wearing kilts.

Alex Cooper, painter, sculptor

A graduate of Edinburgh College of Art and a recipient of the 2002 residency at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Cooper, above, uses a burning process to create a three-dimensional effect to her work. The layering, covering, exposing and burying mix, which is achieved through heavy use of varnishes, allows for a unique effect.

Vanessa Wenwieser, photographer

A Fine Art Photography graduate from Glasgow School of Art, she has already had several exhibitions in Glasgow and London, including the Atrium Gallery and Westbourne Studios. Her images are about travelling and being immersed in different cultures, as well as how the city changes.

Elaine Woo, painter

Another Glasgow School of Fine Arts graduate, Woo was born in Edinburgh and has already won numerous awards, including the 2002 Royal Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts Torrance Memorial Award. Painted in rich earthy colours, the works have a cinematic mood. Other works focus on the relationship between women’s poses and their spaces.

Jet, photographer

With an MA in Fine Art from Glasgow School of Art, photography remains Jet’s passion. For her series called Ravers, Jet, right, was living in Glasgow and commissioned by magazine M8 to document the Scottish rave scene. Currently living in London, she is photographing the Routemaster Buses and the staff of numbers 19 and 38.