Degree shows, for example, come around like clockwork at the tail end of spring. However, the reality is that, while undergraduates toil feverishly around the clock for the first six months of the year, there are pockets of postgraduate art students who are working towards their degree shows in the autumn.
At Glasgow School of Art's elegant Mackintosh Building, 20 of these have been working for an intense 12-month period towards gaining an MLitt in fine art practice. This Masters of Letters course is described as a "practice-based taught programme, with four specialist pathways in painting, photography, printmaking and sculpture". For those uninitiated in the lingo of art-speak, this means they have been able to raise their game by moving between different mediums. Students who previously worked purely in painting, for example, have been able to explore film or sculpture.
Until last week, the Master of Letters degree show was sited at the Mackintosh Building for assessors to view, but it has now moved to The Lighthouse in Glasgow city centre, where it opens to the public today. When it closes at the end of the month, it will transfer to the Bermondsey Project Space in London, before heading to Helsinki. This gallery tour has been organised by the enterprising students on the course who produced and exhibited 20 boxes of limited-edition prints – and sold the lot – during the degree shows in June. The proceeds have allowed them to tour with this show.
The Master of Letters students are not the only ones to have their work at The Lighthouse. The Graduate Degree Show is being staged over two floors of the building, and includes final projects by students completing the MArch course in the fifth-floor gallery. Designers from the MDes courses in Design Innovation, Interior Design, Textiles + Fashion, Communication Design, Sound And The Moving Image, Animation and Graphics/Illustration And Photography are also showing their projects in the first floor gallery and tower room. The eagerly anticipated annual Textiles + Fashion Promenades will be staged in the first floor gallery at 7pm, 8pm and 9pm on September 27.
I took a promenade of the Master of Letters degree show while it was still in the "Mack" building last week. To set the scene for my visit: it was a lovely autumn day, crisp and fresh. Andy Murray had just won the US Open and I was feeling quite chipper about the world.
The first room I entered was Studio 30, where I sat on a low stool and became quickly immersed in Nadege Druzkowski's film, Circular Madness, an elegant, thoughtful short about the way in which memory can play tricks on your subconscious. The old box-style monitor was perched on packing cases, as if it was ready to move on. The surrounding walls had Nadege's atmospheric abstract paintings enfolding the scene. Shot in and around Glasgow, the film combined music, voice and a sustained narrative in a concise, well-rounded way. I came away from it thinking about how we all make our own fictions.
This was a thought to hold on to as I pulled back a curtain and stepped into the next film, made by photography student Nuntanat Duangtisarn. Earphones on, I stepped into In Memory Of Glasgow midway through and, over images of the city, saw a telephone conversation between a man and a woman which centred around whether the man would get a prison sentence.
Then it moved on to what became obvious was a rape scene, although the imagery was of the surroundings. Stark and bare. The man and the woman spoke in a foreign language and none of it was subtitled. It didn't need to be. I had to take the earphones off and leave after a few minutes because the sound was so graphic. Enough is enough. Did I need to hear a woman being raped? I don't think so, and I'd question anyone's motives who did. Even though I didn't "see" it, the scene has now lodged in my brain and won't leave.
Does that mean, as an artwork, it has done its job? I don't know enough about "art practice" to tell you, but I can tell you that I now wish it wasn't in my head.
I then stumbled into Samantha Madonik's See Yourself Blind installation and her short film about speed dating – much lighter in comparison. Elsewhere in this show, you'll find thoughtful and well-thought-through work. Philippe Murphy's film Continuum 2 of "dancers" in public places, unobserved except by the camera, was clever and good-looking.
Stephanie Gaumond's poetic etchings drew me in too, and I also liked Sung Hyeon Hong's series of digital colour prints, reverse-mounted on to perspex. The theme is people as dots, and, when viewed from above, her figures – cut-out head and shoulders on a black background – do indeed look like that. I guess when all is said and done, as human beings, we're all dots on the landscape. Has an artist done his or her job when they help us to navigate that landscape? After seeing this degree show, the jury is still out.
GSA Postgraduate Degree Show, The Lighthouse, Mitchell Lane, Glasgow (www.gsa.ac.uk), September 15–29
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