When it comes to the annual art school degree shows, there has been a seismic shift in how they are presented and if I was to gaze into my post-pandemic crystal ball, I'd say that judging by 2021's offering, the "blended" degree show model is here to stay.

This year, for the second year in a row, the Glasgow School of Art (GSA) has produced a digital version of its graduating students' final year Showcase. This Showcase will remain in the ether for the next year, with students being able to update it as and when they feel the need.

To complement it, more than 180 graduates from GSA's Fine Art disciplines of Sculpture and Environmental Art, Painting and Printmaking, and Photography staged and directed their own two-part Alternative Degree Show Festival in June and July at venues as varied as Skypark, Woodland Community Gardens and the St Enoch Centre.

Unlike last year's Showcase, which was produced at breakneck speed, the 2021 digital Showcase is much easier to navigate and has a more curated feel, with short filmed introductions from staff and students.

I particularly liked Painting and Printmaking's Joanna Holisz' jaunty and articulate overview of navigating her final academic year from her "studio" flat. It was she said with a trace of irony, "not without its challenges". Before I watched her film, I saw Holisz' large abstract and naive free-standing paintings in situ at South Block studios as part of the Alternative Degree Show Festival in Glasgow city centre and was intrigued. If puzzled.

When I watched her film later and heard her discuss treading a line between sincerity, irony and kitsch/bad taste, while channeling Dante's Divine Comedy, pieces of the jigsaw started to fit together. I could see where she was heading with these large ambiguous paintings with their odd doodle-like shapes and thin layers of paint.

Like a sizeable number of her graduating cohort from this year – and last – Holisz helped to curate the show at South Block as part of the Alternative Degree Show Festival.

This festival – now ended apart from one show at 16 Nicholson Street in Laurieston – was perfect for those who like a mosey around an actual degree show in all its brilliance/bonkers-ness/banality (delete as appropriate).

With only limited access to art school studios, students had to retreat en masse to public spaces, student flats, childhood bedrooms or, in the case of Salvatore Capuano, his father's workshop in Naples. Capuano is one of 106 undergraduates who emerged this year from the GSA's School of Fine Art across three courses; Painting and Printmaking, Fine Art Photography and Sculpture and Environmental Art.

Catapulted back to his home city, Capuano found himself trying to anchor himself mentally while trying to make art. Looking to the Italian-led Arte Povera (impoverished art) movement of the 1960s and 1970s, he worked in his dad's workshop incorporating the likes of grappling hooks, cuttlefish bone, coffee powder and rope into his sculptures.

Capuano's metaphor of anchoring oneself in a particular time, place or space, is echoed throughout the work of the graduating students. Several students reflect movingly on a year of grief and loss. Scott Pearce's Like Grandfather, Like Grandson series, saw him in Edinburgh using his late grandfather's old film camera to take photographs of areas in the city with which they both had an infinity, including Easter Road stadium, the home of Hibernian FC. This, despite the fact he died before Scott was born.

Tatiana Robb took objects from her late grandmothers' homes and made linoprint tiles with them which she then used to cover a bench in Woodlands Community Gardens. Daisy Weir has tenderly distilled the essence of her father's family home following the death of his parents. One wee pencil drawing of the rotary dial on an old-fashioned telephone stopped me in my tracks.

Kasia Tym's Lightbox is a physical recreation of an empty shop window she captured on 301 days into a year of taking a photograph a day. This one forlorn work, which she showed in the St Enoch Centre says much without trying too hard.

In the same space, I was taken with Paulina-Pawlik Barborka's figurative painting. Her slow burn oils depict quiet moments. The thinly painted patina on Dance with Me has a melancholy feel of a moment past but not forgotten.

Olivia Gough's gallus oil paintings and drawings also caught my eye. Self-Portrait III is a well-painted black bin bag tied up with a yellow ribbon while her garish series of selfies with a zesty, nay, phallic pickle are the stuff of Carry On films. No, Not In There Sharon, The Champagne’s In The Cellar is a class act. Check it out for yourself, dear reader. I'm not sure it's one for a family newspaper, but it's now seared on my synapses.

Daisy Isles' bold and brash oil paintings laced with collage will give you a spring in your step, while Geraldine McConachie's outsized Comfort Food sculptures brings it all back home. Yes, we have all been guilty of cramming in the pizzas on the sofa this past year to the point that we feel the two have morphed into one…

Playing and making is a theme which rises to the fore. Ella Josephine Campbell describes her work as being "at the crossroads of visual arts and puppetry" and I implore you to check out her short film, Wood Sprite, a worthy winner of the year's Steven Campbell Hunt Medal as well as the Chair's Medal for Fine Art 2021. The film, which uses video and stop motion, takes a wee wooden puppet on a mesmerising journey into a deep dark wood.

The playful yet pointed work of Another fed up art student A.K.A Eleanor Toft wins my #LOL award for, yes, you've guessed it, making me laugh out loud. This is the content I am here for… Toft has even created her own playfully serious font especially for the Showcase. There are many treats on offer, including Drawn Out: A GSA Boardgame and a drawing which reveals why bad art writing really is a bum deal.

I also loved Megan Dingwall's sassy sculptures of nightclub lady dolls; all big heads and eyelashes. In the same vein, Josie KO's large kitsch models play with the idea of the artist's black British experience in a white dominated environment, while also referencing William Dunbar's 16th century poem about an African woman, Of Ane Blak-Moir.

In a strange life-imitating-art parallel, I watched Bella Geldart's film, Hit Me Harder: The Final, as the Mens' Wimbledon Final played out in the background my television. Geldart and a cast of supporting actors, drill with humour into the ways in which sport can be a theatre of the absurd mired in nationalism. Hand-knitted but worth 11 minutes of your time.

It's been a really difficult few years for the GSA staff and students, what with two devastating fires in the Mackintosh Building and a pandemic. Julia Johnstone brings it all home with a large scale projection piece featuring recorded performances of her character The Fox sklimming along the dense scaffolding of the poor old Mack in the dead of night as a seagull squawks.

It sent shivers down my spine. As all good art shout do.

The Glasgow School of Art Graduate Showcase, School of Fine Art, https://gsashowcase.net/glasgow/school-of-fine-art/, open all hours. The Alternative Degree Show: https://www.thealternativedegreeshowfestival.com/home. Now ended, apart from 6 Nicholson Street Gallery, which ends tomorrow.

Critic's Choice

Art and beaches are contented bedfellows. From painted seascapes to sandcastles to love letter in the sand, beaches are places of freedom, where the mind empties and creativity flows.

As of yesterday, Irvine Beach is ramping up the artsy action by becoming the site of a brand new production from Glasgow-based art house Cryptic.

Signal-on-Sea is a large-scale immersive environmental sound installation on Irvine Beach presented for the first time in the UK by Dutch duo, Jeroen Strijbos and Rob van Rijswijk, who together form Strijbos & Van Rijswijk.

Using 24 long-throw speakers, Signal-on-Sea connects land and sea with a soundscape interwoven with operatic all-female voices beaming across the beach towards the distinctive peaks of Arran on the horizon. The event is free and a key part of Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters 2020/21.

Running concurrently with Signal-on-Sea, visual artist Heather Lander will present Nearer Future, with music by Robert Bentall, will be on show at the nearby Harbour Arts Centre. This immersive sonic light sculpture shows where technology has taken us – and asks us to question where we might go next. Symmetrical webs and weaves of light build into a crystalline cathedral of light as Bentall’s ambient composition Telian (played on the traditional Swedish nyckelharpa) provides the soundtrack.

Like Signal-on-Sea, Nearer Future is free to attend, but capacity will be restricted to allow for social distancing within Harbour Arts Centre and all visitors will be required to book a dedicated timeslot on the website below.

Signal-on-Sea, Coastwatch Scotland Unit, Irvine Beach, North Ayrshire, KA12 8PP, https://www.cryptic.org.uk/portfolio/signal/ and https://www.cryptic.org.uk/nearer-future, daily, 12pm – 10.30pm, until July 25. Free

Don't Miss

When he first saw Rowan Mace's sculpture catching the morning light in a beautiful art-filled house, Brian Robertson knew he wanted the Glasgow-based artist to show in his home gallery in The Borders. "It was like a little sun on a plinth activating and warming the room," he recalls.

Mace, in turn, describes her work as "painting that has become sculptural." She is exhibiting at Zembla until the end of the month. Well worth catching.

Slow Yellow by Rowan Mace, Zembla, Little Lindisfarne, Stirches Road, Hawick TD9 7HF, 07843 625232, https://www.instagram.com/zemblagallery/, by appointment only by calling Brian Robertson or emailing brianrobertson7011@gmail.com. Free. Until July 31.