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Degree show with a twist will be bittersweet for students

Three weeks ago, they watched in horror and disbelief as their beloved art school, and much of their prized degree show art work, was devastated in an afternoon of fire, smoke and water.

Artists who lost work in the Glasgow Art School fire will stage a display of digital prints in the city's McLellan Galleries.
Artists who lost work in the Glasgow Art School fire will stage a display of digital prints in the city's McLellan Galleries.

Now the more than 100 ­graduating Fine Art students of the Glasgow School of Art, whose Mackintosh Building was seriously damaged by a calamitous fire, can finally show some of their work in a special new exhibition in Glasgow.

Not a traditional degree show, where students show an array of work that caps four years of study and practice, the show at the McLellan Galleries in Glasgow features the 102 Fine Art students each displaying one digital print of their work.

Graduating students were yesterday informed of their degree grades and will graduate next week.

But with a special limited-edition book of the prints being sold to raise money for special Phoenix Bursaries to provide further support for the affected artists, the students were painfully aware this is an atypical year for both graduates and school.

Yesterday Fine Art graduates had a bittersweet morning. They were eager to praise the special show and the efforts of the GSA to acknowledge their work, but also spoke with their minds firmly on the catastrophe that engulfed the Mackintosh Building not long ago.

Professor Tom Inns, director of the school, said they were now awaiting a report on the fire from the Fire Service and were preparing a "substantial" ­insurance claim.

He said the cost of repairing and rebuilding the Mackintosh and its interiors would cost "in the tens of millions of pounds".

A Mackintosh Building Fire Fund will be launched next week, and money is being raised to supply the Fine Arts students with bursaries so they can continue their practice in the coming year.

The GSA degree shows ­elsewhere in the school are going ahead - work by more than 500 graduating students from Schools of Architecture, Design and Fine Art alongside the annual Master of Fine Art exhibition are on display.

The fate of the students' work varied - some had lost nearly everything, others had items saved by firefighters or ­fortuitously placed within the Mackintosh Building meaning they survived the blaze.

Rosie Dahlstrom, 21, who ­studied painting, said: "It doesn't feel like a degree show, but we think it is a fair solution to the circumstances.

"A degree show is like a wedding day, it is a day that you have been planning for four years - and now that is all gone.

"I don't think this show is as much about our individual work as everyone in the year sticking together. I think everyone is still in shock."

Samuel Hailey-Watts, 23, who studied photography, said: "Even for students who did not lose their work, the whole situation is a big symbolic loss.

"A lot of students lost work which can never be made again."

Joe Hannah, 37, who studied sculpture and environmental art, received a First yesterday, but added: "I cannot celebrate and I won't be jumping for joy.

"We are a tough year and we are very creative and we are dealing with it, but it is a strange day. I think there will probably be some tears later."

Hannah Hamill, 23, who also received a First, in painting, said: "It is all bittersweet. It has been a surreal month."

The GSA Degree shows run from tomorrow until June 21.

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