Last Sunday, before my pre-opening visit to the RSA New Contemporaries exhibition in Edinburgh, I spent an hour in the adjacent Scottish National Gallery road-testing a new app just launched by the National Galleries of Scotland (NGS) called ArtHunter.

The app works like a virtual treasure hunt. As you go around the various galleries under the NGS banner (Scottish National Gallery, Scottish National Portrait Gallery and Modern Art One and Two) you find an artwork with a four-digit ArtHunter code and tap it into your mobile phone. This in turn unlocks a host of information and imagery.

One of my "trophies" was a beautiful painting called A Girl With A Dead Canary by 18th-century French painter Jean-Baptiste Greuze. It shows a young girl grieving over her pet bird, vividly portraying the moment in which she faces up to the mortality of all living things.

Later, with this painting still dancing around in my mind, I found myself talking to Harriette Yarrington, who graduated last year from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art in Dundee. She is one of 55 recent art school graduates and five graduating architects taking part in the fifth annual RSA New Contemporaries, a curated exhibition that offers an opportunity to see the best of Scotland's emerging talent under one magnificent neo-classical roof. Step inside and you will see a giddy mix of painting, sculpture, filmmaking, photography, print-making, architecture and installation.

When I visited, Yarrington was installing her piece, a collection of objects and artworks like a personal museum. At its heart are delicate drawings and tiny, intricate sculptures which she has woven from fabric and thread of miniature skulls, insects, mammals and birds. One of the birds, a dead blue tit, is marooned in an antique hat box. The artist explained that she made it after her artist grandfather died. "He was the first person I knew who had died," she told me. "I dreamed about this bird and, when I woke up, I knew I had to make it."

Yarrington and Greuze are separated by 250 years of art theory, but getting to the heart of such universal truths is the essence of all creative acts.

The artists participating in New Contemporaries have been chosen by exhibition convenor Francis Convery RSA, aided by members of the Royal Scottish Academy and representatives from Scotland's five main colleges of art.

"The artists we selected this year were chosen because their degree shows were outstanding," Convery explains. "The panel responded mostly unanimously, where we could identify a combination of the visually compelling, the use of intelligent skills and materials; where there was a tangible contemporary relevance in the work – or its complete absence, in some cases; where there was ambition, energy, courage, humour and subtext, all essential elements of the best contemporary art.

"The selection was not about the 'most hip', the 'latest thing', the 'most shocking'. It was not about fitting any specific theme or agenda. It was primarily what visually interested us, what skilfully held our attention, made us curious."

The work here sits well in all 12 RSA galleries, where it has room to breathe. Sylvia Law, whose sound installation, Immersa, is one of the high points of the show, has received a Dewar Arts Award, while fellow DJCA graduate, printmaker Madeleine Mackay, scooped awards in last year's BBC Wildlife Artist of the Year Awards and the David Shepherd Wildlife Artist of the Year Awards.

The sculptural work is very strong this year. Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) graduate Lucinda Cook's Still Small Voice is one of the first artworks visitors will see and presents a large wall of whirring, coloured discs. As you approach, they slow down and you begin to see the detail and pattern in each disc. Cook has taken the biblical text Ezekiel 1:27-28, which describes a vision of the "glory of the Lord" as her starting point for this mesmerising and quite beautiful work.

Nearby, Eilidh McKay has created an interactive coracle, which we are invited to push and pull as it makes a circular artwork with an inbuilt pencil. Elsewhere, Tim Sandy's aesthetically pleasing yet gooey sculptures using petroleum jelly as a base ingredient have a touch of the Joesph Beuys about them. Sarah Louise Alexander has put herself in the frame as a cardboard cut-out character in a walk-through golden maze of makeshift rooms, with instructions on how to navigate them. Fellow ECA-ite William Darrell, currently known around the RSA building as "broccoli man" has created Crown Of Light – a spacey ensemble which features Darrell on two large screens as a futuristic explorer surrounded by shiny bits of plumbing with broccoli sprouting out of various orifices.

So far, so degree show ... But the ancient arts are also represented, with some fine printmaking, particularly from Ibraheem Adeyemi Adesina, a Gray's School of Art graduate. His etchings and linocuts are beautifully detailed and his titles clever, particularly Trumped, which shows a bewitching mix of bunnies, windfarms and a hotel plonked in the middle of a golf course. Heather Anderson's digital prints – used as the poster image for the show – pack a punch too.

As with all degree shows, there is too much going on and too many participants to mention in one review, but there is something here for everyone. Take a leap of faith and go see for yourself.

RSA New Contemporaries, RSA Building, The Mound, Edinburgh (0131 225 6671, www.royal until May 8