New Contemporaries is in its 12th year now, an annual showing of the Royal Scottish Academy’s pick of graduates from the previous year’s degree shows. A wonderful opportunity for the young artists themselves – this is a prestigious exhibition and a prestigious venue to put on one’s CV – it is also a handy shortcut for anyone who wants to get a snapshot of the kind of work coming out of our art colleges at the moment.

Trawling through the many corridors and anterooms of Scotland’s degree shows – no small task, as anyone who has tried to go round even the smallest subsection of any of our college’s shows will know – the choice is made by a number of Academicians, under Convenor Lennox Dunbar RSA, and representatives from the art colleges in question. Fine Art is here, as is Architecture, but not Design – which is not to say that you won’t find textiles, ceramics or furniture here, but all through the prism of Fine Art.

Sixty two graduates made the cut, chosen proportionately from amongst their peers. It sometimes feels like much more, but that’s due in no small part to the mammoth size of the RSA itself, which here is filled both in its capacious upstairs galleries and the lower floor (and much lower ceilinged) galleries, hidden behind the main staircase in a way that makes one think that they are perhaps only there if you truly believe they are.

Certainly, sometimes the lower floor galleries feel like the short straw, although there’s some interesting work downstairs. Yet whilst Alex Hayward’s lovely and often amusing film about finding the first sparks of love at Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella is still as fresh as it was last year, and perfectly at home at its end of the corridor gallery, fellow Edinburgh College of Art graduate Magdelena Gunkowska is cramped into a corner of the backroom, her billowy black drapes losing the impact they had in the large room at the college in which she was able to stage her degree show.

Architecture too, feels somewhat cramped, despite having one of the airy rooms upstairs, although ECA graduates Andrew Chavett and Kate le Masurier are possibly partially responsible, their intricate and delicate investigative sculptural/architectural model of Kolkatta, as part of a conservation research project “Crafting the Liminal”, seeming to take up a city-sized space alongside Sarah Broadhurst’s (Scott Sutherland School of Architecture) imagined creation of a floating “Mini Orkney” in the Bay of Kirkwall, this latter to divert the archaeology-crushing tide of cruise ship passengers with recreations of the bits they spend most of their four hours on shore bussing between. I also liked the miniature world of Glasgow graduate Nicholas Hubin’s pink boxed “Mac”, in his alternative vision of the future.

Elsewhere upstairs, the work looks fine indeed hung about the vast Georgian walls of Playfair’s art temple, and there’s much to enjoy individually, although there is some work, of course, that at this stage is still a little derivative, wearing its associations rather too heavily. You can spot, too, a certain sense of the art colleges themselves, not so much a “house style” as a “tendency towards”. All these students, if they continue as practising artists, will develop as they go along, and there is much promising, thoughtful, inspired work here.

I still like the slung-togetherness of Suzanne Anthony’s large scale mixed media sculptures, which simply and playfully as their title (the Discipline of Play) suggests, find material and put it together in a way that seems to fit its matter. No need for lengthy philosophy – it just holds its place, as does Stromness-based Brandon Logan’s (ECA) “woven” abstract oils, looking fine hung high here, with bright colour sense and balance, and a suggestion of anything, as is the way with abstracts, from fields to buildings, the repetitions of nature.

At Grays School of Art (Aberdeen), Leila Kleineidam sews curious hybrid dolls and corals, cyclopian figures with their insides out. On a larger scale, Jin Wei (GSA) makes his own textile creations, alongside giant battle props and elaborate doodles. GSA graduate Ruby Pluhar’s photography of her red-headed friend Ella and the Earth is a striking juxtaposition of landscapes close-up and distant, and the person within them, whilst Duncan of Jordanstone graduate, Katherine Fay Alan, reflects on mortality using a hospital bed full of plants.

The tiny works well too, in Grays’ graduate Erica Paterson’s evocative, minimal prints of elements of her father’s parents’ life – farming features large, humour too. Rather nicely, this new work created for New Contemporaries – one of the many benefits of the show is that artists are encouraged to create new work – is a complement to the prints she did on her mother’s parents’ life for her degree show. Which is a rather lovely thing, really.

New Contemporaries, Royal Scottish Academy, The Mound, Edinburgh, 0131 225 6671, Until 11 Mar, Mon – Sat, 10am – 5pm, Sun 12pm – 5pm, £6/£4

Don't Miss

After years of sharing both their books (as artist illustrators of many award-winning non-fiction books for children) and their top-floor home studio, Brita Granstrom and Mick Manning are now sharing an exhibition. Desire Paths, opening today in Peebles, a large scale collection of works that chart the landscapes and wildlife of the Tweed valley and beyond.

The title comes from the eponymous large scale painting by Granstrom, an image of criss-crossing paths through dunes on an east coast beach. From this beginning the pair expanded the concept, loosely collecting the work around the Tweed and their lakeside summer house in Sweden. Woven between Granstrom's landscapes, Manning's detailed salmon chart their own “desire path” up the Tweed, alongside illustrations from his stunning recent “ABC” book “Near the Bear North,” filled with animals that inhabit the Scottish and Scandinavian wilderness.

Desire Paths: Paintings by Brita Granstrom and Mick Manning. Tweeddale Museum and Art Gallery, Chambers Institution, High Street, Peebles, 01721 724820 Feb - 27 Jun, Mon - Fri, 10.30am - 4pm; Sat 9.30am - 12.30pm

Critic's Choice

There are an awful lot of benefits – necessities in fact – to being an artist in the Highlands, Islands and other lands outside our main cities, but promoting one's work outside of one's local area can be an issue. Founded in part of deal with this, the Bridge Collective, a group of ten artists from Skye and the surrounding area, open their latest exhibition today in the Lomond Gallery, way down south in Glasgow. Founded last year by Rupert Copping, Sarah Longley and Greg Dobson as a place for artists who were producing art not for the tourist or commercial market (although all welcome a sale, of course) but for its own sake, the cooperative - a diverse bunch of like-minded, if not like-styled, artists, from the newly graduated to the recently (but not artistically) retired - grew and is now on its third exhibition, this its first in the Central Belt.

Copping, who'd retired as a gallery owner the previous year, tells me he felt “a little isolated” in his studio six miles out of Broadford, and so got together with Longley and Dobson in a pub to discuss the possibility of a collective. They gelled around the idea of both helping each other with their careers and social action – taking art out into the community – and meet every few months to discuss plans. They also realized that a lot of artists were coming home from art college and wanting to be able to continue their work in a community of working, thinking artists. The latest to join the group is Gray's graduate Isabel McLeish, who is interested, amongst other things, in how we reconnect to wild places. Other work from this diverse group ranges from landscapes to abstracts, performance art to metalwork.

The Bridge Collective, The Lemond Gallery, 4 Thom Road, Bearsden, Glasgow, 0141 942 4683 Sat 29th – sun 8th Daily, 11am – 5pm