This year’s Fine Art exhibits on the 5th floor of the Matthew Building showcase works by students remembering pasts, caring about environments, protesting against injustice, celebrating life and fearing mortality. Clustered together in groups representing connected themes or media, the coherence works well, though, on occasions, individuality is more appropriate and some work stands alone well.
Amber Sharkey’s touching personal display, arose from her love of green spaces and her radically altered childhood environment, expressed through mark-making and natural materials. Alongside this, Stevie Murdoch depicts the demolition of Dundee’s last operating jute-mill, and cardboard factory, William Halley & Sons, with cardboard frames surrounding personal statements, suggestive of an undervaluing of the city’s industrial heritage. Meanwhile, Catherine Paterson invites viewers to interact with wildlife images using her copper plates to create rubbings. Her subtle Scottish wildlife wall, contrasts with the bold and playful designs of Emma Goodwin’s, whose dream-inspired work creates a sense of fun, space and freedom from gravity itself.
I floated from Goodwin’s exhibit into a Grecian garden, created by Lynsey Chapman, with white ceramic female torsos housing plants like unique interpretations of nature, growth and change. Next to this ‘garden’ is the small living room of Bethany Farmer’s grandmother; the white-glazed central ceramic sculpture of granny’s empty armchair, complete with symbolic shawl. Tile pieces, litter the floor, like scattered memories but it was the telephone that called my attention, echoing the everyday, like the soundtrack of conversations, which accompany the visuals. Within the same studio, is the haunting work of Ragnar Lochhead. His exhibits of decaying bodies and stretched shrouds brought finality to the theme of life in a most powerful manner.
Xuxa Rettie’s soundscape, invites you to ‘… lounge in (her) discomfort’ as a lone voice expresses the day-to-day difficulties of dealing with mental health issues. Anxiety is also expressed in Off-course by Angharad Griffith, which sits alongside the multi-media squiggles of Saskia Singer, inspired by studies of psychoanalysis and play therapy. A visual installation by Naomi Kimber was not available on my visit but the simple display of the Sacred shapes of alchemy by Olivier Gustavson is a staggering vision ofbeautifully formed vessels which resemble past spiritual journeys.
Enter the next studio where an atmospheric space is created through landscapes and seascapes by Sam Renson and Jenni Kumpulainen with Heather McKay’s exhibit, fusing visual representations of water and a mass sculpture of plastic bottles, conjuring questions of the long term effects of plastic pollution on our oceans. An amble through Lauren Angus’ bark and suspended web sculptures, made from natural materials and plants, feels like a quiet stroll through a beach forest, enhancing environmental themes in this tactile display.
Paul McParland’s solo exhibit of faded charcoal portraits of people from the past, are emotive, begging questions of mortality, as fading eyes follow you through the corridor, but in the next studio, Arran Storey has a colour-wheel gallery of family and friends’ portraits, suggesting a celebration of life.
Themes began to extend to body image and more global issues as I progressed, with Lauren Hamill examining the art of tattooing and Ailish Danaher taking an artists’ impression of cult brands and stereotypical, gender specific marketing through printing and product models with her Core Care range. Finlay Hall and Lauren McIntyre showcase cultures of music,events, and body image, respectively. McIntyre’s scaled-up zombie-like collages of glossy magazine cuttings, representing perfect human forms are powerful reminders of the sensitivity of the young and vulnerable but the last word on the grotesque and macabre must go to Montesorrat Pearce Suarez, whose raw hanging garments and strings of fabric running from a Singer sewing machine are accompanied by scraps of protest (using very strong language), and a reclining, manikin, wrapped in white, eyes flashing, voice asking, ‘What does it feel like to have a boot in your face?’
An exhibition of family, memory, frankness and collective consciousness; this year’s Fine Art on the 5th Floor of the Matthew Building made me ponder over many issues as well as the amazing art itself.