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Gray's School of Art Degree Show 2013 - Highlights # 1!

The highlight of Aberdeen's creative calendar has come and gone and many a student is now left with that deflated feeling. The Gray's School of Art Degree Show is always a pretty major event, the culmination of a ideas and theories, the final stop and end result for a years worth of blood, sweat and tears. 

But for many this isn't the end but the beginning as now the real work begins, the real struggle starts, whether is finding a new studio, keeping up your creative practice or finding enough money and time to keep pushing your ideas forward. Many a graduate has left with good intentions but few seem to keep it up, I guess that's the reality but creativity should never stop, even if its just an idea in a sketch book once a year or just supporting other creatives around you. 

As for the Degree Show I've come to expect the response of "its not that good" from many of my friends. However, trying to quantify such a massive body of work in such a short space of time is almost an impossible task and sometimes I think work is too quickly disregarded. I'm lucky in that I get to film the show every year and spend a fair bit of time looking at the work and then editing the clips for a month or so afterwards. Sometimes work which seemed boring or dull will become quite cool and well thought out, work I've liked will be unforgettable and sometimes the boring just stays boring. So remember every time you say someones work is crap an artist dies! Ok they don't. Anyway onto some artists who caught my eye and imagination this year!

Kate Fahey's work could be seen in the main foyer as you entered Gray's. The 9 prints were meticulously arranged on the wall to form one giant square of darkly printed squares. Each print was made up of different shapes and small motifs, some etched and some screen printed I believe. Kate's prints drew me in and I wasn't quite sure why. Upon closer inspection I began to notice the little subtleties of each piece, the use of geometric shapes and polensian maps seemed to be clues to something deeper. 

After speaking to Kate I was informed about her ideas, her deep interest in history and exploration along with a deep affinity with the printing techniques she used to produce the work. Another glance revealed the subtle layers of each print, almost unnoticeable until the light changed, revealing secret marks. All together Kate's prints formed a pretty strong body of work with an incredible level of thought and complexity behind them and like their maker, you need to scratch the surface and ask a few questions and you will be rewarded with wonderful answers. I'm looking forward to keeping an eye on Kate's work as she's off to London to continue her adventures!

Also in the foyer hung the work of Mary-Ann Orr. Giant drapes hung from the ceiling, 5 or 6 thin layers which created an almost ghost like set of images. Each piece featured almost decomposed skeletons of birds. A closer look revealed these birds to be Puffins. One wall featured beautifully arranged boxes, each one with its own decomposed Puffin inside. Feather and bone protruded, tangled with barbed wire and wood, their colourful beaks the only real give away to the origin of the once living creatures. 

Although these may sound cruel or distasteful they were in fact beautifully done and transported me well out of the Gray's foyer to some remote piece of the Scottish coast line where the birds would normally be found. Rounding off her show were a series of ink drawings of the various birds, each bone and feather brought into sharp focus by Mary-Ann's own hand. These works looked time consuming and meticulous and revealed the beauty and the sadness of these once living birds. You can read a little more about Mary's work and ideas via The Art Room Plant blog.

Maggie Kelly had a rather interesting display made up from projections of 3D mapped body parts and etched perspex plates revealing head scans. Her full size glitch portraits and 3D body emerging from the walls all led me to conclude she's interested in the human body and how it works but also in the many complex layers of both the 'inside' and 'outside' experience! The giant eyeball projection really caught my attention with its circular motions and the layered perspex heads with its intricate details really stood out. Some nice work!  

My first foray into the sculpture department brought me to a black curtained off room. Upon entering the room a massive blast of sound shook me and I noticed the bubbles coming up on the perspex floor. A TV screen in the center showed the artist submerged under water, not once coming up for breath. I can only assume the video is looped or she is a world record holder in holding your breath under water! A look through Laura's website reveals some of the experiments behind her piece and the rather laborious process she went through to make her piece but I think it paid off!

Also in Sculpture I liked Kyle Howie's shelved objects, the biggest portion of which gave me a strong sense of manliness and the engineers need to understand how things work. In between preparing for his degree show Kyle also carried out a week long performance in the 17 hub window, you can see some pics here!

Emma Rogers painted blue squares looked like the sweetest cake icing I have ever seen! I thought you could almost lick it off the canvas but later found out its not icing but in fact burnt origami shapes, carefully arranged and painted. It was only while filming that I got to see just how cool Emma's column's were, subtle shifts from side to side brought different frames into focus, all leading to the blue heaven at the end of the tunnel! (Photo by Bryan, check out his flickr for more grays pics).

And the last selection of work comes from David McDiarmid. I was initially not that interested in David's work, bare in mind this was a quick glance when trying to find stuff to film. Upon returning to Grays for a proper look I was amazed that I'd overlooked him first time round! His architectural structures, clean lines and interesting use of space all appealed to my senses second time round, I just wish I'd had the camera with me! You can see more of David's work via his web site.

So that's some of the artist's and work which caught my eye!

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