Looking back on our experience studying at Gray’s School of Art

After some amazing years studying Contemporary Art Practice at RGU, students Emma, Rebecca and Alice say goodbye to Gray’s School of Art ahead of graduation. They look back fondly on their experience at Gray’s and share their plans for their art career in this blog.

Can you tell us more about the art practice that you have been working on at Gray’s School of Art?

Emma: My work involves sculptural pieces. I’ve built a laboratory-inspired space with a series of sculptures that I have been creating. Science has essentially been at the core of my studies. I’ve explored themes of evolution, changing bodies, the senses and prosthetics. I’m inspired by artists who have been collaborating with scientists and I’m eager to continue that myself following my graduation.

Rebecca: My practice involves a lot of light-hearted humour. It revolves around the idea of absurdism and observing the absurd within ordinary everyday life. Albert Camus defined the philosophy of absurdism by stating that life may be meaningless, but that we should carry on living it for the purpose of it being meaningless. This really appealed to me.

Rebecca’s work

I love this idea of having something exist for no purpose other than existing. For that reason, I’m really interested in taking away the purpose of everyday objects. But I thought I would bring comedy into it because I like looking at things in a light-hearted manner and create art that makes you question “is that actually art?”. It throws off the audience and makes them look twice at something that’s so easily overlooked. Tomfoolery in art is something I love exploring.

Alice: My work looks at appropriation and authenticity in mass production media. I use casting, screen print and digital manipulated photographs. I’m exploring what an authentic object is and if creating multiples makes an object less valuable or less authentic. I’ve been appropriating my mum’s work who graduated from Gray’s fourteen years ago. I have casts of her work on display, but I’ve put my own touch on them. They’ve become more relevant to me and my context.

I think appropriation in art is essential. To be able to have creative freedom is to have no rules. There is space for appropriation in art because it creates new contexts and opens conversations.

How was your experience studying at Gray’s School of Art?

Emma: My experience at Gray’s has felt like home. It’s a fantastic school and the facilities are amazing. It’s a great place to find out who you are as a creative and what you want to do. But the people are what make Gray’s what it is. The people you meet there challenge and inspire you. I don’t want to sound sappy, but I don’t really want to leave to be honest.

Rebecca: It was absolutely fantastic studying at Gray’s. I really wish I could just redo it all over again honestly. I’m very honoured that I got the chance to study here. It was so fantastic not only having lecturers and technicians but also students who felt the same way as I did. We’re all passionate about the same thing. It was such a great atmosphere until the end and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

Alice: Studying at Gray’s was eye-opening. I think I’ve found different elements of my practice that I didn’t think could be part of it. We had such a broad range of workshop access that lecturers encouraged us to try out new areas of our practice, even if it was not necessarily a fine art media. There is such a space for growth and nurturing within the school that it feels very homely. And it’s definitely broadened what I consider to be art. I think coming to Gray’s has really helped my practice. It almost completely dismantled what I was making and then built it back up in a very cohesive reasoning towards why I use certain medias.

How are you feeling about the experience drawing to an end and do you have any plans for the future?

Emma: For the moment, I am trying to process my experience. I don’t want to stop, I don’t want to let go of Gray’s. But I’m excited about the future. I’m excited about the opportunities that contemporary art has presented, where those opportunities will lead, how my practice will grow, and how I can help inspire others.

Rebecca: It’s quite a bittersweet feeling coming to the end of the degree. On one hand, it’s exciting to look towards the future. I’ve applied to residencies and other art opportunities to try and really push my practice from beyond the art school. On the other hand, it’s bitter in a way that I really enjoyed my time at Gray’s and I will definitely miss the community.

Alice: I’m sad for it to be over but I am excited for the future. I feel like Gray’s has helped prepare our next steps as we have received career advice. We’ve frequently had opportunities for volunteering that gave us access to a wider network within Aberdeen. All of this makes graduating a little less daunting. I’m just excited to see where life takes me.

Where do you see the industry going in the next few years?

Emma: As a contemporary artist, I would like to see more involvement with contemporary art. And also more collaboration between science and art. Most people consider science a core subject, but art is just as important. I think art is needed in terms of how we break down research and how we process it visually to help people understand more about science and what’s happening in the world.

Rebecca: I definitely see a move towards performance and public spaces. Performance is a great way to bring art outside of the galleries to people. I think the industry is slowly moving in a way that makes people feel more comfortable to approach art.

Alice: I think the industry is definitely going towards a more blended approach, or so I hope, of having things online as well as in person. This would give more of a worldwide accessibility to art and a platform to engage with a wider audience. A blended approach is what appeals to me the most because as someone who is about to graduate, I want my work to be able to go further than just Aberdeen. But I also don’t want to lose that crucial physical element. I think there will be space for both in the future.

Emmajane Kingaby, Rebecca Rae, Alice McDonald

Emmajane, Rebecca and Alice showcased their work at the Gray’s Degree Show, which ran for a week in June 2022. This year’s show entitled “Welcome to the real world” was back on campus for the first time after two years! The free event showcased the inspiring final year projects of students across different disciplines such as Painting, Contemporary Art Practice, Fashion and Textiles, Communication Design, Three Dimensional Design and Photography.

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