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It's Show Time !!

It is undergraduate degree show season and I would urge all students who are pursuing an OCA degree to visit a couple of degree shows. Just google undergraduate degree show and your nearest art college or large town and see what’s on offer. Further to my request in my last blog for all level 3 students to upload folders onto the oca website – perhaps now is a good time to revisit the discussion of an oca degree show? When Christian raised the idea in his blog last year the consensus was generally that an online exhibition would suit the students. If that is the case then the first step would be an increase in the number of level 3 students participating on the website generally and we can take it from there. I have seen some excellent work during my time as an assessor and it would be great to showcase it during the show season.
The work for my own upcoming show is almost complete. As mentioned previously, funding from Creative Scotland proved elusive so I have had to seek out a partner agency, rather than my original plan to use an empty shop as a temporary gallery space. One interesting thing about working with a ‘proper’ gallery is the need to vocalise everything and formalise it into an exhibition proposal. I enjoyed writing the proposal as it was an opportunity to look at the work from a curatorial perspective –and talk about it in more practical terms. It also forced me to pin down details.

In this new work I plan to construct a small intimate space. The feel will be similar to a private side chapel in that it will be dominated by a piece of art work and have seating facing the art work directly.
A small disused shop would have created a feeling of a space both within and outside life. The gallery I am working with is very large, and even annexing off a section would not produce the same effect; the result would still be pictures on the wall of a gallery rather than giving the sense of entering a specific space. Therefore I think the solution is for a Mike Nelson style construction to be built in the main part of the main gallery with a small entrance door.
Inside the space will be white and smooth and the participant will be presented with a simple white bench facing 5 large portraits of very elderly dogs, framed. A Rachmaninov symphony would be piped in quite quietly. The symphony is well known and used often in film scores and at weddings and funerals. It is however a powerful piece of music about love – not simply the classical version of Robbie William’s ‘Angels’.
The dogs are misshapen with milky eyes and dodgy teeth, but they are very loved.  The exhibition encourages the participant to sit and reflect on these intimate portraits and the amount and type of love that has flowed between the dogs and their owners.
In this piece, I wanted to try to recreate the potency that art has had in the past, without buying into any of the power structures that were inevitable in it’s patronage. The context, the effect of the space, will be key to this. There is potency too still perceived by many viewers, particularly those without a specific interest in the development of visual arts, in technical skill. It is important therefore that these drawings are as well made as I can get them. To an extent the piece needs to be impressive, all the more so for it’s understated subject.
The love between a person and their elderly dog is even less complicated than love of a child. It is a unit of feeling that can be explored quite fully just in a gaze. One participant remarked that she had cried when her dog died but not when her father died. This emotion is real and powerful, the piece should go beyond any initial bathos and through into something genuinely moving. It is not patronizing or lighthearted. I will produce a sheet of information about the dogs, with their age and information about them that the owner feels is relevant.

Posted by author: Emma Drye
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2 thoughts on “It's Show Time !!

  • Well done Emma and good luckwith the exhibition.The set up is so imaginative. I have known old dogs with that loving look in their eyes, though I never had the good fortune for one of my have caught it perfectly, especially the spaniel. I can imagine sitting looking at them in your space. Dorothy

    • Thankyou Dorothy it really is a very enjoyable project. I too do not have a dog of my own but am hopeful life will settle down eventually so that I can. I forgot to mention in the blog that I will be putting a row of dog beds under the pictures to accentuate the physical presence, although I might change my mind if it looks a bit sad.

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