Gray's School of Art graphic showing 'The Staff Outing' graphic
Image by: Gray's School of Art

Gray's talent shines at the 'Staff Outing II'

By Jon Blackwood, Reader (Contemporary Art) & Research Lead at Gray's School of Art - 13 October 2022

A new exhibition showcasing Fine Art from staff and Artists in Residence at Gray's School of Art takes centre stage at the Look Again Project Space on Friday 14 October. Reader in Contemporary Art & Research Lead at Gray's, Jon Blackwood, tells RG View more about 'The Staff Outing II'.

It’s been just over three years since the inaugural Staff Outing exhibition at the Look Again space, which featured staff from the Contemporary Art Practice programme, and Graduates-in-Residence. So much has happened in the intervening time that that show seems from another world, even if it was in the same city and the same space. This time, the CAP staff are joined by colleagues from Painting, and some Critical & Contextual Studies staff, making this a more rounded exhibition showing of current Fine Art practices at Gray’s School of Art.

Staffs at art schools are layered; many new talents have joined us in recent times, building on the experience of senior colleagues who can remember earlier versions of Gray’s from thirty years ago, and who have long years of professional experience behind them. But this is a show which focuses not so much on us as a collective of educators- how our students encounter us on a daily basis- but as a very wide spectrum of creative practitioners and thinkers, who engage actively locally, nationally and internationally.

At the core of the show is a deep commitment to, and understanding of, materials, and their metaphorical and humorous potential. Regular attenders of the annual RSA exhibition will immediately recognise the works of Michael Agnew, Head of Painting, Derrick Guild, and Lyndsey Gilmour. Michael’s work deals with Scottish folklore and colloquial humour; Derrick’s is steeped in the history of painting and delights in tricking us into seeing the familiar as unfamiliar again; Lyndsey invites us to see more in her abstract, organic patterns in a delicately chosen palette. The painters are also represented by Peter Chalmers who has shown new work both here and in Edinburgh in the past year, Marcus Murison, and Hannah Gibson. Marcus and Hannah are recent Gray’s graduates whose practice develops again through seductive abstraction and expanded painterly installation.

From the Contemporary Art Practice grouping we find a strong commitment to materiality through varied installations and performance. Jim Buckley’s long career has taken place against the backdrop of sculpture’s re-definition away from carving in stone or wood, or casting in bronze, to installations in light. In the same space, Jim Hamlyn through his installation explores the sculptural potential of the readymade using the minimalist means of the power socket; the viewer is left to either find subtle humour, intellectual stimulation, or both from the work.  Maja Zećo’s visceral and overwhelming durational performance reflects on the artist’s Bosnian identity and the painful echoes of past conflict in present times. Back upstairs, there is a nice visual pun between the balaclava drawings of Craig Ellis, and the remarkable sculpted black headpiece by Craig Barrowman.

David Blyth, head of CAP, once again intrigues us and encourages us to peel back the layers of meaning with his fascinating sculptural objects, whilst new member of staff Caitlyn Main presents an interesting wall based work, combining drawing, painting and organic materials, reflecting on body parts and focusing on disconnected parts of the anatomy, referencing literature and stagecraft in an intriguing conversation between disciplines and ideas. Helen Scarlett O’Neill, meanwhile, presents work from her recent involvement in the Story Trails project, providing a window into the world of Augmented Reality and virtual story telling.

At Gray’s we are pushing hard to integrate studio and theoretical learning ever more, and this is reflected in the interventions made by our CCS staff. Jen Clarke’s concrete poem and associated brightly coloured images draw out of a series of lecture performances in recent times and deal with a range of ideas related to ecosystems, birth, the life cycle and the parasite, growing out of her background in Art & Anthropology.

Chris Fremantle, meanwhile produces an installation deriving from his interest in the work of the conceptual artist John Latham (1921-2006) and his work in the West Lothian bings, and Chris’ own take on the “mental furniture industry”. Judith Winter delves deep into her extensive art historical knowledge and interest in showing two very rare student magazines from the 1960s, with contributions from William Tucker and Lawrence Alloway. Finally, my own contribution relates to recent curatorial projects here in Scotland, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Belarus and North Macedonia, my ongoing work on activism, art & football, and some music. You can take time to read some of our work too, in the dedicated reading area.

An art school often reflects the character of the city that it is based in. In the past six years Aberdeen has undergone a perfect storm of change that normally takes quarter of a century, and there is no sign of this process slowing down. Whilst it follows that Gray’s is changing quickly, too, in our engagement with the city and in our offer to our students, there are constants. These are seen here in the integrity of making, a desire to confront and take risks, to be socially aware and engaged, not being afraid to being wrong interestingly, and a selflessness in sharing ideas with others. It’s these qualities which we do our best to pass onto those who study with us.

We really hope that you will enjoy our show and that it provokes you to ask more questions of us, and of each other.

'Staff Outing II' opens at the Look Again Project Street, St.Andrews Street, with a launch event on Friday 14 October. It opens fully to the public on Saturday 15 October until Sunday 13 November. Find out more:

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