On the 4 June, seven OCA students and I went round the Edinburgh College of Art Degree Shows. We had time only to see Performance Costume, Textiles, BA Painting and then we split up, some of us going to Jewellery and Silversmithing and others to MA Painting.
For those of you who do not know the building, there is a fabulous sculpture court with pillared arches supporting an upper gallery. This year, as in the previous few, Textiles, Fashion and Performance Costume took over the main court vying with the Elgin marble friezes and sculptures that most students take for granted.
There were several textiles students on hand to talk us through their work, much of which was suspended on the ceiling of the floor above and cascaded down to the ground. . We were impressed by the inventiveness of their approach, many of them combining the digital with hand-made. Textiles at Edinburgh is firmly within the Design School, with many students going on to work in industry later. OCA textiles seems to be more fine art based with a firm emphasis on sketchbooks.
As there is ongoing asbestos work in the college, the usual Painting studios are closed. All painting now takes place in what was the School of Architecture and the architects have moved out of the building to join the Edinburgh University Architecture School, thus forming one department. The architecture studios, with their floor to ceiling windows and impressive views over Edinburgh, are wonderful space to showcase painting. The day we went you almost needed sunglasses.
For the past decade or so, not much painting has gone on within the Painting School- students have crossed boundaries into three dimensional and digital media. Although there is still some mixed media, this year there was a definite return to actual painting. All sorts of painting from hard- edged abstraction to painterly figuration and everything inbetween was in evidence. Many of the students mixed their languages in bold and innovative ways. The OCA students found the interaction with the ECA students very useful and inspiring. They were able to ask them about their techniques and influences and a bit about what study was like in a bricks and mortar college. Amongst the things they found out was that these students also had to do a lot of research and writing, but after their first year, they did not have to work to briefs. Students forge their own path and work through it for three years.
It was also useful to talk to the students about what they proposed to do next. Many were looking into MAs, some finding work within the arts sector and others setting up studios and hoping to continue making work. All the students had professional looking catalogues and cards to promote themselves. One advantage they may have over OCA students is an actual Degree Show which attracts not only the public, but prize-giving organisations and buyers. Painting students at OCA now have to organise and publicise their own exhibition, although that will give them invaluable experience.
One obvious difference between our students and theirs is age. Intake at Edinburgh is now firmly focussed on the young. With the phasing out of the part-time degree which advantaged older students, there are not so many options open for mature students. Many of the students we spoke to were impressed by the serious and inquisitive nature of our students and keen to ask questions themselves.
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