Following on from a series of successful independently organised shows including Four Days x Four Years, Translations (Generator) and New Realms: Myths and Mysticism (WASPs) this year’s degree show artists have already shown the strength of their work. The real question was: can the Degree Show deliver the same punch?
The attraction and uniqueness of the Art & Media courses at DJCAD is the way students are able to move between media so easily. Defining and selecting what comes under the heading ‘sculpture’ is invariably difficult. The exhibition variety is huge. However, if the water is as wide as it is deep, it is also inviting.
Despite the furious buzz that is opening night, what really defines this show is its genuine sense of fun and play. Throughout so many of the works, we are invited to touch, to play, to explore, with a similar furtive determination as children. We stop becoming viewers and become participants, and it is enchanting.
What I predict will be one of the most popular works is Nicole Landels’ A Second Childishness. A fully working see-saw, this is the ultimate crowd pleaser except for the fact that on this one you can’t see anything. The two halves of the see-saw jut out from opposite sides of a white wall. You’re blind to your playmate beyond it. It’s a game of trust, and peculiarly isolating. You are playfully reminded of your past, and shown the melancholy of what could be your future.
Heather Fulton’s work seems equally playground-based. Originally functional items, her objects can be enjoyed through play. The central piece, For Johnny Gray, is a working hand cart. She has collected saltwater to make her own salt (using her own homemade and portable device), and sourced her own clay behind her house to make into pots and marbles, thus making thing, out of other things in order to perform other functions.
In the sheds, Alice Maselnikova tackles motherhood rather than childhood. She has built Womb, a large hanging egg that you can climb inside; from within you can change the lighting to create an atmosphere of your choice. It is an irresistibly comforting space, which draws you back – like a soothing mother – time and time again.
Spanning the floors, the work continues to connect with the viewer’s natural curiosity. Even the more traditional larger than life figurative plasterwork of Alexander Coll has signs inviting you to “Please touch the sculptures”! It connects you with the work more intimately and is a gift rarely given to art enthusiasts.
In the Crawford building, it’s easy to lose yourself as well as your sense of direction. The exploratory excitement continues: stand inside the web of Erin Fairley’s Orange Rope, or yearn to furtively climb into Steven Peebles’ tree house (even though you never will), plunge yourself into the stark dark spaces and down narrow tunnels; be confronted with surprising and nostalgic smells, or take a walk on a floor of mud. There is so much to see and almost too much to take in at once. The beauty of that is, you can keep going back, and there’s always something which escaped your notice before.
It is always hard to follow such big footsteps; Brownlee Brothers and Johnny Lyons may have set the bar for the students following them, but that standard is now much higher because of them. It is clear though that this year’s students have stepped up. They have each outdone themselves and they too will make their mark.