Four Pillar Award winners from Gray's School of Art
Image by: Martin Parker, The Gatehouse

Celebrating the Four Pillars of Gray's School of Art

By Jenny Frost - 22 June 2022

Gray’s Degree Show, ‘Welcome to the real world’ introduced a 'Special Recognition Award' and 'The Four Pillar Awards' to reflect the four pillars which guide Gray’s School of Art's practice and curriculum.

The awards were presented at a special networking event for the creative sector, held at the School's new state-of-the art, multi-functional studio and exhibition facility; the Design Haus. The awards centre around graduates who are socially engaged creatives, collaborative creatives, critically creative and enterprising creatives. 

The Collaborative Creative Award winner, 21 year old Carla Smith from Contemporary Art Practice, brings together multisensory experiences and collaborative practice in a unique and creative final year project that centres around the ‘Meal’. As lockdown restrictions eased, Carla was able to bring groups of people together to explore the simple act of having a meal and its role in forging moments of connection. Carla invites the audience to slow down and take a seat at the table as they ‘join her’ for a meal featuring ceramic cutlery and plates on the table. She creates a video installation with tender impractical, chocolate cutlery and playful knitting made out of sweets.

Carla said: “To have won the award is incredible.  The act of coming together and working with others is integral to my work. Through connecting to and understanding others we can learn so much. To have this recognition in my work through the Collaborative Creative Award is a real honour and I feel incredibly humbled.

“Showcasing my work at degree show was such an amazing experience, especially after Covid. It's been amazing to physically show my work and allow audiences to engage with art in the real world. It's been so wonderful to hear what people think if the work, especially after being so invested in what we have all been creating. It's lovely for the work to be as well received as it has been. Gray's is a wonderful place, and I am going to miss it a lot. The support from all the technicians and staff is incredible and Gray’s would not be the same without their positivity.”


The Socially Engaged Creative award was presented to Contemporary Art Practice graduate, Tracey Clarke Murray, in recognition of her graduate exhibition, that reflects her experience as a part-time carer for the elderly and infirm during Covid-19. Upon winning the award, Tracey, who is originally from Glasgow but now lives in Aberdeenshire,  said: “I am thrilled and enormously proud to be one of the first graduates to be presented with this ‘post covid’ Four Pillar award from Grays School of Art.

“This work has been a joy to create and witness as it formulated into this final piece. Working as a community carer in the initial lockdown of 2020, gave me the realisation that the clients I worked with, suffered from the consequences of isolation, brain fog, and depression until the end of their lives. The public grumbled after only three weeks of experiencing a similar lifestyle. This became a light bulb moment that rang through my body.

“The large Acrylic Panels are representative of our sanctuary, a hallway, and the walls, doors and windows of our home which can easily become our prison.  My starting point after witnessing true isolation was how to encourage inclusivity. While respecting the red tape of confidentiality held by the care company I worked for, I wanted to involve the clients I cared for. I created a simple exercise to help them break free from the monotony of their daily lives. I decided to go old school and back to basics. I produced a five-week exercise booklet and folders with everything they needed to complete a range of tasks. By doing this,  I created memories of clients attached to every piece in my space, from the Geranium plant (Robert) to the crochet pieces (Mary). Every piece was important to create the whole.”


Painting graduate Ian McFadzean, (21) is the winner of the Critically Creative Award. Having grown up on a working dairy farm in Ayrshire, Ian's work explores this relationship. He is fascinated by the intensive rituals that occur daily in order to sustain the farming practice in respect to land management and animal husbandry. He explores the act of weaving, a method of textile production in which two distinct sets of fabric are interlaced at right angles, a process of combining ‘warp’ and ‘weft’ components to make a woven structure through continuous repetition. The act of weaving is symbolic and quintessential to highlighting the process of farming and communicating the repetitive nature.

Fascinated by sustainability, Ian incorporates single use plastics sourced directly from the farm and reinvigorates these waste products within his work to discover systematic ways of making by recycling these biproducts. Ian explains more: “My work is much more about the ‘labour of love’ and the ‘act of doing’ with reflection on the monotonous nature and the day in day out relationship dairy farming has, filled with routine, constraints and the unpredictability of the animals, nature, and the farming economy.

“I’m still overwhelmed and so very grateful to be have been awarded the Critical Creative Pillar Award. It is a very proud moment that I will remember for the rest of my life. My experience at Gray’s School of Art has been a tumultuous one with extreme highs and lows. It has been such an amazing and enlightening part of my life, where I was able to work with and alongside so many like-minded creatives. With Covid-19 being so impactful and taking up almost half of our studies, absent from workshops and working remotely, I believe that this has only made our experience more meaningful as we made our way to our physical degree show.

“To be able to put on a show in person for the first time in two years was a breakthrough moment and showed there was the light at the end of the tunnel for so many of us. We would not have been able to put on a show without the support and guidance from our lecturers and course leaders who have continually gone out of their way to accommodate each student throughout the school year. To see my own work finally in my degree show space and in its final form was both emotional and also refreshing as I had spent so long bringing each element of my work together to make it interesting and personalised.”

Ian-McFadzean-JOOMLA-2-22nd-June-22 Ian-McFadzean-JOOMLA-1-22-June-22

Fashion & Textiles graduate, Beth Davidson from Edinburgh, is the winner of the Enterprising Creative. Her work merges the lines between traditional manufacturing processes with new digital innovation. She explores claustrophobia and the need to protect oneself due to the anxieties surrounding Covid-19, creating a textile collection called ‘Outer Shell’. She uses digital processes as a sustainability tool in order to reduce waste and explores fragility and futurism.

Speaking about her success, Beth, who also won the Principal’s Award for Design says: “It’s so rewarding and humbling to receive this award. It’s sometimes hard to have self confidence and it’s great to be recognised. Looking ahead I want to create digital fabrics that will help promote sustainability and allow people to browse online selections of digital clothes before ordering something they like.”


A Special Recognition Award was presented to Emmajane Kingaby, Contemporary Art Practice, from Aberdeenshire. Emmajane , who also won the Principle's Award for Fine Art, was recognised for helping the school through a very difficult period of time. She was part of Gray's senior management group who helped explore student difficulties and contributed to bettering student experience during Covid-19. 

Emmajane explains how the body of Gray's School of Art had been grieving the absence of interaction: "Both students and staff had to rapidly adapt to continual changes throughout. ‘Welcome to the real world’ has been our way of inviting everyone to explore the development of our creative practice in response to the limitations presented by COVID 19 throughout our education. Together we embarked on a journey; a journey unimagined and together, we are the voice of Grays. Our outcome;  a different generation of creatives emerging from Gray's School of Art."


Main image from left to right shows, Carla Smith, Ian McFadzean and Beth Davidson.



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