In the swift realisation that today was the last day of the Masters Degree Show I hurried through the doors of the Cooper Gallery this afternoon. It has been nearly four whole months since i’ve stepped into the building (five since i’ve been studying) and wow how i’ve missed it. It was like returning home again after a long holiday.
First up was MFA, Society and Publics. I walk into the large upper gallery and see a giant blown up image of a picture-perfect postcard featuring children sitting on a grassy mound in what looks like Switzerland or somewhere. Above this are large print words saying – “WE ARE GOING TO LIVE SUCH LIVES.” At the adjacent wall I see the same image except it has been painted and altered. In the middle of the gallery lies what looks like a mound of astro-turf facing a tv which people are watching a film on. It doesn’t take me long to realise that the mound corresponds to that which is in the postcard. A woman in her sixties with red-rimmed glasses is lying on the mound quite nonchalantly in a jumpsuit. However, the jumpsuit fabric is made up of the postcard image. I smile and realise that this must be the artist, Kate Clayton. She says hello and I end up lying on the grassy mound which I learn is made from styrofoam. I take my shoes off and after a brief chat with the artist about her work, I put the headphones on and settle down to watch the film. The film shows the progress of the painting (postcard imitation) by a group of around five artists. It shows just what goes into a painting – they discuss themes and compositions they would like, as well as the overall goal. The image changes and morphs into something the same, yet different. I take the headphones off and thank Kate, who wishes me luck for my degree show in a couple of years time.
Next I move onto the MSc Forensic Art and MSc Medical Art. This section has always amazed me. I can’t even begin to understand the work that goes into these final outcomes. MSc Forensic Art consists of facial reconstructions using state of the art equipment. The final images give us an idea of what the person looked like when they were alive. I was particularly impressed by the work of Callum Reid . He constructed a skull from ca 7600-6600 BP, and he results were surprisingly modern. It makes such a difference to be able to relate to that era. MSc Medical art featured a wide range of work, from anatomy models to paintings of surgery.
Up the stairs then, to my favourite part of the Masters show – MFA Art & Humanities. Here, I am not disappointed. There is an exhibition by Issy Valentine which catches my eye. Upon entering the room I was greeted with two large storage chests with about 15 long drawers in each with a large print on the top of each. On the left wall were several small doors with handles. “Alright” I think – minimalist. Issy explained her inspiration for the exhibition to another couple while I wander around with my camera. She explains that the objects were all designed to be interactive. The aim of the exhibition was to display objects that had been handed down in her family over generations – objects that would otherwise have been forgotten. To reconnect the past and the present. I see someone be brave and tug on one of the small doors and to my delight you can open them. Behind each of the doors lie different objects – pianolo sheets, chairs, a gramophone. To my delight, the drawers can be opened also and I am greeted with old documents, books, specimens in jars and other forgotten wonders. I end up talking to Issy about the old photograph restoration I have done, and we both agree that these methods of presenting information allow us to relate to the past easier.
Up some more stairs to more MFA Art & Humanities exhibitions. The degree shows never fail to provide new sensory experiences – these are my favourite type – and this year was no exception. One of the exhibitions featured a dark room into which you walked and carefully stepped onto a small bridge. The room was pitch black of course, with only small lights to help you up the steps so although I knew there was ground underneath me, it completely disorientated me. Behind me sounds were playing from several of the main ‘Suicide bridges’ in Scotland. I guess it is what a person would feel if they were in that situation. it makes me feel rather queasy so I move on to another exhibition. Across the corridor is an exhibition by Benjamin Whitney. I end up spending a good fifteen minutes here because it is truly amazing. In the middle is a small working mill. This is connected up to various mechanical sculptures around the room which in turn make the next sculpture move and so on. This continues around the whole room and I end up mesmerised by the mad-scientist aspect of it all. Very clever. I am reminded of this cleverness when I walk into another exhibition further down the corridor by a different artist. The room was dark and had been covered with bark (woodchips) which made it feel very strange, like i’d wandered into Narnia. Motion sensors triggered certain lights when I walk about, illuminating the pitch black room. It makes me feel like I am under the sea and in the woods at the same time.
There was also the MSc Animation & Visualisation exhibition which to be honest with you, I forgot to go to. I was so taken in with the sensory experiences I ended up walking out of the back door and down to the car park somewhat bewildered.
Overall though, I left feeling refreshed- like you might feel if you have a cool shower on a very hot day. I can’t wait until September when I get to start my Second Year as a Fine Art student. Needless to say, I feel very privileged.
Don’t worry if you missed this year’s show – you can do it all again next year!