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  • Caroline Thirlwell

Pursuit: Showcasing Artist Development

Edinburgh Gallery Society is a University of Edinburgh society in its first year dedicated to promoting upcoming student artists. Their latest student lead exhibition ‘Pursuit’ was a showcase of artist development, displaying the work of 60 artists. The focus of the exhibition was artists’ research and their creative process. This exhibition was not only an impressive display of the work of up-and-coming student artists, but also an opportunity for their voices to be heard and their creative process to be shared with art lovers. I found many of the pieces on display to be especially emotive due to the thought processes and inspirations expressed in the artists’ own words. The organisers of the event, the committee of the Gallery Society, explained that artists' research is often overlooked, so this exhibition aimed to put the artists’ voices at the forefront.

Artwork by Kate Granholm (IG: @Katesartthings).

The selection process of artwork for the exhibition was highly competitive with 107 applicants. The high standard of work on display is therefore no surprise; it is clear that Edinburgh University is not short of artistic talent. The exhibition itself was particularly impressive, considering the work which must’ve gone into curating a body of work which came together so coherently in the small gallery space at Patriothall in Stockbridge. All of the work was selected based, not only on its quality, but also on the meaning behind it. There were particular works in the exhibition which really struck me due to their process and how their meaning was expressed in the piece.

One particularly striking piece was ‘The shared experience’ by Sophie Pywell, a large banner of calico hand embroidered with words expressing the shared female experience of day to day sexism. Not only did the words relate to my own experience of sexism, but the painstaking detail of each embroidered red letter evokes the importance of these words to the artist, mirroring the struggle of every-day sexism for women. Her reasoning for hand stitching the words - medium traditionally seen as ‘women’s work’ - also gives the piece a deeper meaning. The piece subverts this female gender role by using it to express women’s frustration in a patriarchal society.

The array of different forms of art on display allowed for a range of processes to be explored. One piece by Esther Force was particularly interesting in its depiction of architectural spaces as well as its attention to detail. The four small canvases, she explains, can be part of a larger series or landscapes or dreamscapes, allowing for different configurations to be formed depending on how they are displayed. The canvases on display at the exhibition all portrayed architectural features, some very recognisable such as the Hunter Building at ECA, and others presenting more anonymous features such as a fire exit.

Other paintings also represented recognisable scenes, not only showcasing Edinburgh artists, but the city itself. For example, ‘Jemima’s Tree Triptych’ by Jemima Jenkins which consists of 3 A6 colourful drawings in watercolour pastel, portrays scenes in Edinburgh. She explains that her exploration with colour to portray the changing seasons in the city have allowed her to create a personal connection with Edinburgh.

The exhibition also included an interesting array of sculptures, from interactive displays to glass work. A particularly emotive and empowering sculpture was ‘Bessie Bracelet’ by Catrina Clark. The large sculpture made with spray and enamel paint on PLA and rope uses friendship bracelets to portray a narrative of Queer intimacy. The event which sparked the creation of the piece was the police raid on 25 Fitzroy Square in 1927 in which letters between queer friends were seized. The poster accompanying the piece tells how some of the recipients and writers of the letters were sent to hard labour, discontinuing the contact between queer friends. The piece therefore stands for the right of queer people to take up space, celebrating bonds between queer friends and healing their separation.

Of course, there were many other noteworthy works in the exhibition, from oil paintings to tapestries to sculptures, all with thought provoking processes. But this exhibition was especially significant due to the opportunity it created for Edinburgh students and beyond to showcase their work in a professional art environment. The Gallery Society allows people to see the work of emerging creatives, and I will certainly be excitedly anticipating their next exhibition.


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