Contemporary art residency culminates in new exhibition
Portraits which redefine their subject and work which aims to preserve and celebrate otherwise forgotten monuments of war will go on display at Gray’s School of Art this week, as part of a show by five young artists.
‘Only the Improvisation Remains Constant’ is the combined result of work by Claire Cooper (22), Laura Reilly (24), Caitlyn Main (22), Rebekah Hill (22) and Tako Taal (26) who have spent the last seven months as Contemporary Art Graduates in Residence (GiR) at Gray’s. The exhibition will open on Thursday, March 24, running until Friday, April 1.
The quintet will showcase a wide variety of work, from photography to drawing and printmaking.
Michael Agnew, Contemporary Art Practice (CAP) Course Leader at Gray’s, said: “The Graduate in Residence programme offers an invaluable incubation period of 12 months post-graduation to support recent graduates of excellence.
“At Gray’s we wish to halt the brain drain from our city to the central belt and beyond, not to extinguish larger cultural learning ambitions of graduates in other national and international centres of excellence, but to help our graduates enrich our visual and cultural community in Aberdeen.”
He added: “This exhibition demonstrates the tangible breadth of languages and philosophies that our CAP course celebrates and underpins – notions of speculative exploration, appropriate but challenging audience platforms, professional skills, graduate attributes and ultimately celebrating the shapes of research and values within contemporary fine art production from the north east.
“It demonstrates the strength of things we do in Aberdeen and focuses on idea nourishment through trial and error, intrinsically necessary philosophies to question concepts and develop forward thinking. I am positive that the methodologies explored and the substance of critical underpinning therein will challenge everyone experiencing this exhibition.”
Talking about the residency, Claire, who graduated from Gray’s last year and has a particular focus on photography, said: “The residency has definitely got me trying out new processes and equipment and with that, has brought new ideas and concepts which would have otherwise never existed.
“Being able to help with workshops and more recently teach my own darkroom class, has been incredibly rewarding, not to mention a lot of fun. It’s a great platform for helping current students and gratifying that we can now give advice rather than receiving it for a change.
“Being able to continue with making work is often difficult once you leave art school and having a studio space and the facilities to continue is great and something I have definitely been making the most of.”
Laura, a Sculpture graduate from 2013, said she was slightly nervous about returning to Gray’s for the position but has really valued the sense of community that exists at the art school.
“Having two years away made me nervous at coming back but the experience has been very different and very enjoyable,” she said. “Having the luxury of time to explore my practice and re-visit questions I was considering a student has just been great.
“It’s been so, so nice to get to know a group of Aberdeen based artists, who might not have met otherwise and simply talk together.”
Another of last year’s graduation cohort, Caitlyn, who specialises in printmaking said: “The residency has been a fantastic opportunity to use the facilities within Gray’s and continue to develop my practice within a stimulating and exciting environment.
“I think the GiR scheme is a great opportunity for recent graduates, because it bridges the gap between art school and the real world – offering the use of all the facilities and the support of Gray’s, whilst also having the freedom to pursue projects and opportunities out with the School.”
Fellow 2015 graduate and printmaker, Rebekah, added: “As a student I remember looking up to the previous GiRs and admiring their work.
“Having a studio and continuous access to a workshop is extremely useful. Gray’s offers that safe space to try out new ideas and get feedback so it’s good to still have that support.”
Contemporary Art Practice graduate Tako said: “It has been really great to have a studio and access all the workshops to continue to be a part of the community at Gray’s and have the ongoing support of the lecturers.
“I have spent most of my time in the workshops, welding and screenprinting. It’s great to be able to go from doing one thing in the morning and then to something completely different in the afternoon.”
Claire, who alongside the Gray’s residency is currently on a 12 month mentorship programme with Metro Imaging, says her current body of work is a continuation of her Degree Show exhibition.
“Portraits capture the person. Mine redefine them,” she said. “I have come to realise that working with portraiture relies a lot on the model you are working with to get the image you need. It’s a risk, but it’s a challenge and I think that’s why I stuck with it and will continue to do so.
“I am still very much coming to terms with my work and the reasoning behind it. I am interested in the intimidation created by the unfamiliar and how easily a replica of someone we once knew can be transformed in to an individual beyond our own recognition.”
Claire added: “With such a diverse group of people making up the Graduates in Residence this year, I think everyone’s work for the show will complement each other really well.”
Speaking about the work she has produced as part of the residency, Laura said: “My work is centred on drawing and how I use it as a device for exploring larger themes. For example, how I experience and record the passing of time through drawing and also, how drawing can be used to record my exploration of spaces, both familiar and unfamiliar.
“My work for this exhibition takes the form of 0.5cm grids which I mark out and draw onto sheets of cartridge or tracing paper. I then take a thin piece of charcoal and press the small end of it onto the first cross of the drawn grid, creating a mark or imprint of the charcoal on the paper. I repeat this process moving from left to right across the page, imitating the gesture of writing until I reach the bottom of the page.
“This repetitive process constantly fascinates me and no matter how many times I replicate this reduced gesture, I never create the same mark. Each one is slightly different because I perhaps held the charcoal another way, or the surface of the paper is different, or because the charcoal is constantly changing and reducing with each mark it makes. This futility continually draws me in and I aim to share this fascination with an audience.”
Caitlyn said: “My practise is primarily concerned with intimacy. The accumulated signs of wear and handling on the surface of an object, these beautiful, subtle traces of human contact that indicate the way the object has been used. It is highly important for the work to imply proximity of touch, without the actuality of human presence itself.
“I am deeply interested in attempting to render experiences physical and perceivable, both through objects and drawings. In my work I employ the use of objects (both found and made) as substitutes, as artefacts that bear traces of touch, of time, markers of the processes they have endured. I am specifically interested in familiar objects, often domestic or functional.
“I think the recognisable aspects of the material used within the work sets a context, referring to place outside the gallery whilst also fundamentally rejecting the intentions set for the object. I am intrigued by assertions of authentic or genuine objects.”
Rebekah, meanwhile, takes her inspiration from war monuments.
“My work aims to preserve and celebrate the otherwise forgotten monuments of war by recording location specific memories of my own upbringing around the defences in the area,” she said. “Each defence has a long arduous process of being made and I replicate that in the way I create my own work.
“My prints are controlled, multi-layered and tactile. I sew into my screen prints as a way of finishing them – stitching to add a raised texture to an otherwise flat image much like a military patch.
“I’m primarily a printmaker but I also make installations. I collect a lot of things like maps, patches and memorabilia, so I use installations to bring them out of the studio and act as a visual explanation of my research.”
Tako, whose work is currently on display at Edinburgh’s Royal Scottish Academy (RSA) as part of the annual New Contemporaries exhibition, said: “My practice explores notions of exchange, translation and the informal encounter. I work across media mainly with sculpture, printmaking and film. Previously I have made works that are interactive – inviting people to speak and consider the potential for their voices.”
Communications Officer | Design and Technology